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By Owen Patterson
I don't have a favorite childhood vacation memory. Although, one vacation does stand out.
In the mid '70s...
I was 9 or 10 years old. We vacationed in Orlando, Florida.
Not long after checking into our hotel, we traveled an hour to Daytona Beach. I rented an inflated rubber raft and proceeded out into the water. I lay on the raft, paddled out with my hands, and rode numerous waves back to the shore. I was having a grand ole time! But, at some point, I fell asleep; faced down, back to the sun.
I don't actually know how long I was floating in the open ocean; several hours, for certain. I had drifted out, far from the shore. I remember waking to intense pain. I remember the large swells; up and then down. The shoreline visible and then obscured... The people were like tiny insects. I wasn't afraid. I was too exhausted to be afraid. The sun had taken my energy and I was likely dehydrated.
I began to paddle back to shore. It took what seemed like hours. I don't really know how long it took. I think that I passed out a few times. Considering my state, it's a wonder that I survived.
When I finally made it to shore, I collapsed. Someone helped me to my feet and asked about my parents. I suppose that I passed out again. My next recollection is that of the hotel room. The lights were dimmed and the hotel doctor had put me into the tub; filled with ice. I literally woke up in a dark room, in a tub of ice. The doctor gave me a liquid syrupy medicine and some pills. There was a muffled conversation between the doctor and my mother. I went back to sleep.
I don't remember much of the following days. I don't remember talking to anyone. I don't remember going to the airport. I don't remember the flight home. I do remember the fatigue. I remember the peeling skin. And I remember the pain.
My mother and I never spoke of this incident. It didn't occur to me until many years later, but why hadn't she looked for me?
This writing prompt initially brought to mind a terrible vacation experience. I have since remembered a few good times.
I thoroughly enjoyed the times I spent at apple orchards in Wauconda, IL. I would wander off, by myself. I was so happy when I would find a tree with branches that could support my weight. I would climb up and hide out for a time.
The apples were delicious! I ate what seemed like an impossible amount.
If I could return to my childhood for a day, I'd go apple picking in Wauconda, IL.
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