Sometimes summer reports need stretch

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers

I stumbled upon a school report by my older sister Becky in elementary school titled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” and was shocked. According to the report, she went to Disneyland and Six Flags.

Funny, I didn’t remember going to those places that summer. I just remembered riding in the green pickle bus from the summer recreation program at Lindsey Park to Muleshoe, Roswell and Carlsbad Caverns.

That’s when Becky let me in on her dirty little secret. She had started embellishing her school reports to make them sound more impressive. Judging by this report, we were Chevy Chase’s Griswold family riding around the country in a brown station wagon.

I have to admit, I thought that was clever of Becky and I tried this tactic once. After all, I thought back to all of my painfully honest and boring “What I did this summer” reports. We went to Lubbock to visit Grandma Chaya and Grandpa Chico. We went to Fort Sumner Lake, and then the big one, we went to President’s Park in Carlsbad and walked all the way down the caverns, the whole way, without taking the elevator.


It was almost as exciting as the infamous Cheech & Chong scenario: On the first day of my summer vacation, I woke up. Then I went downtown to look for a job. Then I hung out in front of the drugstore. On the second day of my summer vacation, I woke up. Then I went downtown to look for a job. Then I hung out in front of the drugstore. On the third day of summer vacation ….

So other than a few memorable camping trips to the Sangre de Cristo mountains near Santa Fe with my parents, and one Fourth of July in which we actually spent a weekend in a hotel in Vegas — Las Vegas, New Mexico, that is — we weren’t exactly globetrotters.

During my grade school years, I’d listen with fascination as other kids stood in front of the class and talked about their trips to the Grand Canyon or as teachers showed us slides of their trips overseas.

I’m still not a highly cosmopolitan person, but I’ve been able to make up for some of these lost years in travel during my adulthood. One of the most memorable times was a road trip I took with some New Mexico State University students while working on my bachelor’s degree at Eastern New Mexico University. Six of us drove from Las Cruces to San Francisco in a white station wagon. It got cramped and sweaty, but I had some memorable times and saw some breathtaking sights as we drove through national forests and along the Pacific Ocean on the Scenic Highway.

In college, I also went to Denver and Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz. After college, I flew for the first time to Huntsville, Ala., to visit Becky, who now lives in Albuquerque. As a journalist, I also went to the real Vegas, and last summer I want to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

As for my daughter, Laura, she won’t have to stretch her “What I did this summer” reports as much as Becky and I did to make them interesting. Last summer for her 15th birthday, Laura and I were on a tropical Mexican island in the middle of the Caribbean. This summer, just the opposite, we will spend her 16th birthday in the hot desert of Tucson, Ariz., as we attend National Youth Day with our church.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: