Friday, June 26, 2015
So Much Depends On a Green Ice Chest
The picture above is of a retro green Coleman ice chest (this is no mere cooler, folks) that my wife and I purchased right after our wedding. I bought it in emulation of the one my family had going back to my earliest memories, a wonder of high-quality engineering that lasted my parents from the early 1970s into the 21st century. When my father would take it out of the garage and hose it clean in the driveway I knew we were about to take a road trip.
Those road trips and vacations were some of the biggest highlights of my childhood. My father especially cherished them as an escape from work and a chance to enjoy the open road and great outdoors, the two places he'd most like to be. No matter how tight money was or how many balls my dad had to juggle at work, my parents made sure that each summer we took a bona fide vacation. Since we lived in the middle of rural Nebraska and were heading for the mountains or desert anyways, we always drove and never flew.
My parents could be called cheap, but they would prefer "thrifty." For example, we almost never ate out for lunch on vacations, but went to a park, rest area, or picnic area and ate lunch out of the big green ice chest. This usually meant one slice of Oscar Meyer bologna with store brand mayo on supermarket bread so thin and light you could ball of a whole loaf in your fist. Sometimes even the evening meal would be improvised in this fashion. One of my earliest memories is of being in a motel room in Colorado Springs with my dad using a camp stove to warm up a can of pork and beans. (Sounds like something out of a Tom Waits song, doesn't it?)
Now that I am older I realize that cutting corners like this allowed my family to afford to go to some beautiful destinations, from the mountains of Colorado to the wide visas of the Grand Canyon to the breezy shores of Lake Winnipeg. I'm a little freer in my spending, so we won't be staying at dingy motels with shag carpeting full of toast crumbs from 1974, nor will I bar my children from drinking anything but tap water when we eat out. When we do eat sandwiches they'll be with bread from an Italian bakery and top shelf lunch meat. They'll still come out of a big green ice chest, though.