What I did on my summer vacation

August 07, 2007

Armed and dangerous? More like relaxed


This summer I'll be turning 16, which means I'll be driving myself soon. But I remember the long trips to distant places in the car with my family when I was younger.

My brother and I would fight. Oh, how we would fight. And my parents would aim their "parental arm," as we like to call it these days. The parental arm was a random limb, cast at us from either one of the parents in the front seat. This sign of irritation would always shut me and my brother up instantly. But on the off chance that we didn't notice the arm flopping at us, the parent to whom the limb was attached might grunt or use some other form of noise to get our attention.

This strange phenomenon occurred on a regular basis whenever we had to drive anywhere more then 30 minutes away, and we never questioned it.


But now, when I look back, it seems so strange.

When my brother and I recalled this "parental arm" to my mom, she laughed for so long I thought she would turn blue.

This summer, I've spent most of my time at Greenbrier State Park, swimming in its waters and eating the park's surprisingly delicious hot dogs. I also went to Horn Point Laboratory, a scientific research lab on the Eastern Shore, and learned about animal life and habitats.

Then, the next week I was shipped off with 100 pounds of camping supplies to "Not-Back-To-School Camp." The name was a colorful way to say, "Come here to escape the normal camps your parents usually send you to." It's basically a week of sitting around, playing card games and eating. But I'll take that over camps with counselors wearing shorts about five years too young for them.

The sign outside of Bester Elementary School in Hagerstown says, "Have a safe and relaxing summer." Who really wants that? Most teenagers would rather be having explosive summers full of action.

Still, a "safe and relaxing summer" is exactly what I've had. And with no parental limb to keep me in line.

A museum visit that wasn't fun, but powerful


WASHINGTON - The Holocaust is a difficult subject to discuss. In my experience, it's not something people normally want to talk about. However, I learned how important it is to talk about, to understand and to remember this time in our history.

By the age of 13, most kids know something about the Holocaust and World War II. However, it is one thing to learn about it in school and another to see artifacts, pictures and film footage from the Nazi concentration camps and hear about the Holocaust from the lives of people who were so deeply affected by it.

It is hard to grasp, but most of us can agree that we need to understand.

This summer, I visited the National Holocaust Museum in Washington. I had wanted to go there after my sixth-grade year, when I had learned a bit about it in English class. We did not delve too deeply into the details. But the teacher urged us to visit the museum when we were older.

I don't know what I expected, but what I saw wasn't it. I had known there would be some pictures and film footage, but I didn't know about the personal artifacts. There were drawings from the children, shoes taken from thousands of people, and more photographs than I can count of people who had died. I learned about the Nazis, the camps and the torture those people endured.

But I also learned about the rest of the world and why it took so long to react. I had never heard this part of the history. I was interested in what the rest of the world thought of this.

Upon entering the museum, you receive a pamphlet with information about a real person who had lived during the Holocaust. You follow the events of this person's life as you move through the museum. At the end of the pamphlet you find the fate of that person, whether they lived or died. This caused me to connect a bit more with what I was learning about.

In more than one place in the Holocaust museum you are told that it is important to remember these things. It is important to remember even the worst times of the world's history so that they will never be repeated. By visiting the Holocaust Museum, I have gained more knowledge and a new understanding of this time.

This visit wasn't exactly fun, in the sense that it wasn't enjoyable to see the pictures and movie footage of the Holocaust and World War II. It was sad and a little frightening to see these things. But in spite of this, I'm glad that I saw it. I feel this is important and necessary to my education.

Go west, young sports fan. Go west.


CHICAGO - How far west have you been? This summer, I pushed my personal frontier all the way to Chicago.

My mom, dad, brother and I packed the car on the last Saturday in June. Our first stop was South Bend, Ind., to see Notre Dame University and its football stadium. We drove from Hagerstown through the night so that we could avoid traffic and get to Illinois sometime in the afternoon.

The Herald-Mail Articles