People Watching Abroad: A Story of Parents and Teens

No matter where in the world writer Bobbi Lerman travels, she has only to give herself time to sit and watch to find a story. During a trip to the Isle of Skye, it was an overheard conversation between an errant Scottish teen and her father that served as the inspiration behind this delightfully universal tale of parental love and aggravation.

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Borscht, Blintzes, Ballerinas, and a Near-Death Experience

by Dina Lyuber

     My husband Roman and I were both born in the former Soviet Union. I moved to Canada when I was still in diapers; he spent his childhood in Leningrad before moving to the States. Neither of us had been back since, but after we’d met and married, we decided to go back to the USSR (as the song goes) – though the Soviet Union no longer existed, and neither did Leningrad. We were returning to St. Petersburg in Russia, and name changes aside, that meant a return to our roots, our long-ago home.

My in-laws still had contacts in the country, and we were offered free accommodation in a private medical clinic just off of the Fontanka Canal, across from the Summer Garden and minutes away from the bustling Nevsky Prospect. The clinic was housed in a Baroque-style building decorated with reliefs and statues of winged angels. Inside, the corridor was dim and narrow, permeated by a medicinal smell. A large kindly woman showed us to the spare room in the basement. There was a modest bathroom in the hallway. The water running from the taps had a brownish tint. There was a fold-out couch to sleep on and a good-sized kitchen. It wasn’t a bad space, but it was cold. It was August, and I was freezing. 

We spent the first days of our two-week trip rambling through the city. We never took taxis or buses, but padded down the wet sidewalks and absorbed the fresh-air smell wafting from the Neva river.

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Thorns are gonna eat'em alive

by Melani Alexander Fuchs


History repeated itself today. Two sisters came to pick blackberries on the farm. They told stories of picking as little girls and headed to the patches, basket in hand, containers at the ready, arms and legs bare. “Thorns are gonna eat’em alive,” I thought.

As stories go, berries have been picked on this farm since the 20’s. My grandfather bought this acreage just after the war and even though at that time it was a cow farm, and there was no undergrowth in the fields, there must have been berries in the hedgerows. Now that the fields have islands of undergrowth which surround mature trees, (looks like a park now,) the berries are everywhere. Out the back door, off the back porch and within 100 feet I am having breakfast any time of the day-by the handful. This lasts through August and into September. We eat all we can, and put quart bags full in the big freezer. In January, pulling them out is a delightful treat, especially on vanilla ice cream with hot fudge.

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Up, Up and Away: Lessons Learned in the Clouds

by Stacey Marcus

The genesis of the idea was as sweet and breezy as the day we drove up from Boston to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu by way of Burlington, Vermont. My husband, Mitch, had always dreamed of floating in the clouds on a hot air balloon and serendipitously stumbled across  the International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu  near Montreal. An extended weekend in Canada seemed a great idea for an end of the summer family trip.

We were invited to ride in the VIP specialty balloons and excitedly anticipated floating in the clouds and seeing the world from an aerial perspective. As we drove into Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, we saw the colorful balloons dot the skies, a rainbow of colors and sea of shapes  delighting spectators lining highways and fields.

As we stood in the VIP section watching 150 balloons travel to the heavens, we were introduced to our pilots who explained that the specialty balloon protocol. After all the balloons were launched, they would evaluate whether our balloons could travel to the sky as the weather conditions were not ideal for the specialty balloons and time was running out. A spontaneous surge of stress spilled onto the field as we awaited the pilots decision.

The long-awaited ride to the sky quickly went south as time ticked by, the balloons sat on the ground, one daughter went to the ladies room and the other began to spiral. Out of nowhere the pilots announced we were leaving and everyone sprang into action. Emily and I went up in one bee-shaped balloon and Mitch and Rachel tumbled into the other.

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Are We There Yet?

by Barbara Radcliffe Rogers

It comes from the back seat, in varying tones of voice. Sometimes it’s said with anticipation, as when we’re on the way to the White Mountains and Mary is primed for a day at Story Land -- or when it’s that ice cream time of the afternoon. Mary’s always primed for that. Sometimes it’s said with a yawn, when we’re headed home after a day’s skiing at Gunstock Mountain. In our car it’s never a whine, because everyone knows what happens to whiners – no one can hear anything they say.

photo courtesy Stillman Rogers PhotographyBetween the two of us, my husband and I have developed quite a repertoire of responses. Some are met with a few moments of puzzled silence as the layers of implication sink into an 8-year-old mind. Some are met with immediate protests of disbelief, others with a long series of giggles. We are heartened by the latter, because we can’t imagine traveling with anyone who doesn’t have a sense of humor.

This isn’t actually all 110 of the answers we have come up with, but enough to get you started. Once you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless.

“Yes, that’s why I have stopped the car here by the side of the road under these pine trees next to a swamp, without a house in sight. Be sure to tell me when you want to go somewhere else.”

“Not quite yet. I expect it will be only 16 more hours, 26 minutes and 43 seconds. Too bad there’s no place to stop for food on the way.”

“I have no idea, because we aren’t actually aiming for any place.”

“I’m completely lost. I think we’re actually heading away from there right now.”

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by Jules Older

On our first trip to Hawaii, our twin daughters were two-and-a-half.

Max in Hawaii. Photos by Effin OlderOn this trip, our grandson Max was two-and-a-half. Max’s mother, Willow, and her sister, Amber, were now 35. And his young sibling, Babybrotherben, just turned eight months.

On the first trip, we four — Effin and I and our twin daughters — stayed in a cottage at Puunalu on the (then) largely undiscovered north side of Oahu. This time we eight (add Willow’s husband Leroy and our dear friend Barbara) stayed in a slightly bigger cottage on the south side of Kauai.

Travel with Kids

In some ways travel with kids is harder today. If you intend to drive, you have to lug along awkward, heavy car seats. You have to make your way with kids and car seats and fold-down strollers and disposable diapers through airport security. On the plane, there's much less legroom and even less food.

On the other hand, these days you can rent a van, and you can rent or bring along a portable DVD to keep the kids amused.

Max did pretty well through the taxi to SFO, the airport wait, the five-hour flight to Honolulu, the Wiki Wiki bus to the other part of the airport, the two-hour wait for the next flight, the next flight, and half the mini-van ride to our cottage. We made a big deal of driving in a “brand new blue mini-van.”

Hawaiian Meltdown

At precisely the halfway point between airport and cottage, Max went into meltdown. His lower lip quivered ominously. “I w-w-want to go h-h-home.”

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Summer at Moon Palace

by Bethany Ball

Most people associate North Michigan with snow, ice and long difficult winters.  But for me, the area is associated with Moon Palace, the summer cottage of my parents' best friends, where we spent nearly every weekend of my childhood. We passed the four-hour Friday-night drive listening to music – show tunes, folk songs, and NPR– until I’d finally drop off to sleep.

To me, coming from the city, it was as remote as the moon itself. First and foremost there were no other children—most parents waiting until real summer when the pool opens—and I am an only child. I spent my days reading Frank Baum's Oz series, which I was obsessed with, or listening to Neil Diamond tapes on my Walkman. This tiny tape deck with black headphones was, to me, probably the greatest invention ever.

When the weather was warm, I would prowl around the dense virgin forests that surrounded the cottage;  I knew every inch of them. I dragged a large section of nailed-together two-by-fours  together into a thicket of bushes and ferns. This was my house. If it rained, I would hide under the overturned canoe that was dragged up from Moon Lake. Once underneath the canoe, I imagined I could live there, though the ground was icy, and I'd have to wear my winter snowmobile boots ( great big ugly boots that I wouldn't be caught dead in if I were in the city but which kept my feet warm and dry in the forest).  I caught frogs and named  them: Fred, Franny, Frank, and Fran. Even though it was summer, ice formed in the night and early morning, before the sun had time to melt it. I walked along the ice’s edge, my feet breaking through to the shallow water below, the snowmobile boots surprisingly effective at keeping my feet dry.

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