I was eight years old when I received the largest Christmas present of my life. In literal terms, the largest. Housed in an imposing cardboard box, dwarfing the tree it sat adjacent to—a merry mystery in the making.
I must’ve stared at that box for a month. Wondering, dreaming, imaging what could possibly be hiding within those corrugated walls of cardboard. I gave it a few nudges—in passing—to get an idea of the weight, and that bad boy was heavy. Time was my albatross and I’d just have to wait it out. To make matters worse, my sister had an equally handsome Christmas carton waiting for her. Lame.
And then it arrived: the morning of the great unboxing. I was down the stairs so quickly that my pajama pants nearly burnt off upon re-entry to the family room atmosphere. Smack in the middle of my “no shirts ever” phase, I had woken up ready for action.
My dad made us open our Bertha-boxes last, simultaneously. My sister and I raced into those boxes, hoping to secure an extra second of joy that the other could never regain—and we were met with an awkward, anti-surprise. We opened boxes full of our own clothes. Summer clothes.
I was miffed. How could this happen? Why would dad do this? How did I not notice my clothes were missing? Dad cut through the confusion by telling us the gift came with an explanation. We decided to hear him out before we reported him to the Better Business Bureau.
Dad killed it. The boxes were packed with our summer clothes, because we’d need them for our first family trip to sunny, fantastic Florida! What had seemed like a nosedive into a Christmas disaster was quickly turned around by this unexpectedly awesome opportunity.
A new clock had been set: the countdown to my very first spring break, my first flight—and my first visit to my grandparents’ condo in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. We started prepping for the trip almost immediately; shopping, packing, planning—I distinctly remember going through a punch-card-amount of tanning bed visits.
Shortly before the trip a couple of boxes arrived in the mail. This was the early 1990s, so a package in the mail was a treat, it meant a mail order was coming to fruition. These identical boxes were markedly smaller than the boxes opened months prior, but they didn’t disappoint. Each box contained a KOSS cassette player and a pair of headphones—entertainment for our flights. I went to work recording songs off the radio, curating the perfect mix for my upcoming expedition.
For whatever reason, those three hours in the sky felt like a week. The excitement provided by my in-flight meal and soda was no competition for the show provided by the oval window I sat next to. I sank into my playlist; nose firmly pressed against that plastic portal to the world.
We stepped off the plane and into a new world. Palm trees, geckos, the ocean! Florida might as well have been another planet; I was blown away for a week straight. My dad had been to the island countless times before, so he was in his element. He enthusiastically chauffeured us around the island, sharing this magical place with us—I could tell it was important to him. It marked my first visit to restaurants and stores that I’d visit in subsequent trips.
That trip cemented the concept of spring break into my brain. We certainly didn’t go to Florida every year, but we did do something. A few days at the Holidome an hour away, A road trip to see relatives in Brainerd—something to break up the monotony of winter. On a couple of occasions, I’ve used Spring Break to double-down on winter, heading to the mountains with my snowboard.
Whatever it is, it’s something to look forward to. We’re experiencing a strange reality but surely there are safe, realistic ways to satisfy our want to wander. Adventure begins at gas stations as often as airports—it’s out there waiting.