27: RV Summer

27: RV Summer

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

RV Summer

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour.

~Author Unknown

In 1985, when we were living in Tennessee with our three teenage children, the oldest about to become a high school senior, my husband was let go from his job. As a family who was already living paycheck to paycheck, we were blind-sided by the event.

My husband, Don, searched for a new job, but there was very little available in his field of plastics. I remember being very homesick for my siblings back in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and wishing I were closer to them to benefit from their support at this difficult time. My parents had passed away by this time, but my husband’s mother still lived in Delaware and offered her help if we needed it.

There were lengthy discussions regarding our options and whether or not the children would acquiesce to moving away from friends and schoolmates if he took a job in another state. We put our house on the market with the idea of returning to family in Delaware. After the house sold, we took some of the money and purchased a large recreational vehicle to take to his mother’s home. We knew that we could live in the RV parked in her backyard, if necessary, while my husband found a new job in that area.

Suddenly, the job loss turned into a new adventure for our eighteen-year-old son, Steve, our fifteen-year-old son, Donnie, and thirteen-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Julie. What a fun summer it was as we stopped at various parks along the way, where they could swim and enjoy nature as they never had before!

Things changed, however, when we arrived in Delaware. Steve had begun a relationship with a girl in Tennessee that year, and he seemed so sad most of the time. The three children seemed restless and unhappy. I know they missed the south and their friends and familiar surroundings, and so did my husband and I. Reuniting with my siblings and sharing enjoyable times with them was great, but there was an emptiness inside me that only my beloved South could fill. We all wanted to go back.

When Steve’s closest high school friend in Tennessee offered to let him stay with his family and finish his last year of high school there, we allowed him to return. That was when I knew I could not be away from him, living in another state. I was so sad after he was “missing” from our family.

We stayed long enough for Don to check out some job opportunities, and exhaust the options in Delaware. Then we decided in a “family meeting” that we would head back to Tennessee in our RV. The first goal was for Don and me to find jobs—no matter how much of an income reduction we had to accept—get an apartment for a while and save our money, and sell the RV in hopes of getting a house again one day.

We were happy again and hopeful. And we realized we had to enjoy that RV while we owned it. We made trips to the Atlantic Ocean and let the children see it for their very first time! I will never forget the image of Donnie in the water, jumping the waves hour after hour. It was so hard to get him out of that water because he was in absolute ecstasy! He truly loved the ocean. Julie enjoyed just sitting on the beach, soaking up the sun and sounds of the surf. The ocean was my very favorite place to be, and I was so pleased my children could finally experience that in their lives!

We traveled south and stayed at RV parks in Virginia and North Carolina. The beautiful Smoky Mountains soothed our anxieties about the future, and I gathered grapevine at one woodsy park and made wreaths. Our children swam in campsite pools, hiked the woods, built fires at night, and absolutely loved every minute of our vagabond existence that summer. We watched hang gliders dive from a mountainside at one campground, but were all too chicken to try it!

I know if it were not for the RV summer we enjoyed, the whole “out of work” ordeal would have been much more traumatic for the children. The difficulties of feeling unsettled and uprooted were appeased by the perpetual “vacation” atmosphere in the RV.

Needless to say, the story has a happy ending! We lived in an apartment in Tennessee for approximately a year with our two younger children. Because the apartment had just two bedrooms, our older son stayed in the home of his closest high school buddy just a few blocks away, and they graduated from high school together. We were blessed to have such generous and helpful friends during an unsettling time. The RV eventually sold, and the money from the RV was our down payment for a house the following summer.

It was truly a blessing that we were able to again reside in our beloved state of Tennessee, with many wonderful memories of our RV summer!

~Beverly F. Walker

More stories from our partners