Mama Melissa and baby Sienna read together.
Essay by Charlotte V. Seawell | WorldMark Sundance, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Prize: 10,000 non-renewable WorldMark vacation credits,
good for one year
The Magic of Shared Stories
A mother sits in a rocking chair with twin girls in her arms, slowly turning the pages. “Are you my mother?”
reads in a small, animal-like voice as the children hover over each word, hungry for resolution for the lost baby. Wrapped in the warmth of their small bodies, that mother glowed with the awakening joy of what treasures lurked behind the words… the journeys possible when a child begins to see that words make stories, and stories have the power to transform the world.
Once that young mother—and now in my fifties—I search online one day for a last-minute trip to Whistler, B.C., hungry to reconnect with those once-young girls, now nearing thirty; and my first granddaughter, now six months. When an opening is found, we embark on our first “all-girl road trip”—a chance to rekindle the joys of childhood travel adventures for us, and the first road trip for tiny Sienna, who has never ventured from the small town of Snohomish, Wash., since her birth in January 2006.
Time has erased most childhood memories from these young women: my daughters, once small enough to wrap in two arms. So when tiny Sienna gets restless or bored, I teach them again the songs of their childhood: The Itsy Bitsy Spider, The Turtle Song; and they teach me new songs created just for this precious new addition to the family clan whose nickname is “Bug.” “It’s a Buggy Buggy day in a Buggy Buggy world… how do we start our day?” Their voices are meek at first, almost embarrassed, but the calmness the sounds bring to Sienna encourages us all to raise full voice.
The trip produces a record number of “firsts” for us: Aunt Ali’s first Bungee Trampoline ride, after which she immediately validates my decision to watch and encourage from the sidelines; Sienna’s first meal in an Italian restaurant, through which she sleeps peacefully while Italian arias play in the background; Mama Melissa’s first time away with baby on her own.
But the “first” that will remain etched forever in my heart’s memories happened the last night. Standing over the stove to cook our supper, I turned to the sound of voices. Stretched out on the carpet lay my own daughter, a mother now, with her daughter tucked under her arm, as they “read” their first book together, Sienna Bug clutching the pages and helping mommy turn them as they read.
Wrapped in the warmth of my own memory, I heard the echo of that first story, “Are you my mother?” as I soaked in the sweetness of their discovery together. And as the drizzle settled over the alpine lake viewed from our front window, gratitude flowed in at the knowledge of what this trip had given—not just a bed to sleep in, or activities to encounter, but a quiet moment of connection between three generations of women through the power of words shared and stories told.
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Nathan shows he's king of the jump.
Essay by Tallene Smith | WorldMark Bear Lake, Utah
Prize: 8,000 non-renewable WorldMark vacation credits,
good for one year
One Wild Ride
A thin moon hung in the sky as we pulled into WorldMark’s Bear Lake resort. It was a cold February night, and the snow reflected the purple sky. As we drove around we spotted a steep hill right behind the units. “That hill is huge!” 5-year-old Taylor declared. We all agreed that sledding all the way from the top would be a wild ride.
The next morning dawned bright and clear. The turquoise waters of the “Caribbean of the Rockies” were hidden under ice and snow. We had not come to play on the lake this time; it was just a relaxing getaway, and a giant hill to conquer.
The sleds were soon in the eager hands of Nathan, 11; Kimberly, 14; and Taylor. Nathan stared up the steep hill. The snow had been polished to a glassy surface by the many sleds that had challenged its slope.
The day began with an easy ride, not too high. Slowly, Nathan worked his way up the hillside. Finally, he reached the top. Nathan climbed on his sled and paused with his heels dug into the snow. He lifted his feet and the sled took off flying down the hill. He reached the bottom and zoomed past us, across the street, and into a snow bank. Nathan smiled: “That was awesome; now for the jump!” The height of the hill was not the only Goliath to be defeated—50 feet up the hill, a pile of snow had been packed into a jump.
Nathan quickly conquered the jump and was having a blast. Taylor was playing it safe, but not for long. Nathan asked her to go over the jump with him. Terror filled her face. He insisted that she would be safe and have fun. After much persuasion she agreed. Slowly she trudged up the hill. Nathan climbed onto the sled and scooted back so Taylor could get on.
She hesitated. “It’s so high,” she called down the hill. Words of encouragement coaxed her onto the sled. Nathan gripped the rope in his hands and lifted his feet. The sled picked up speed as it hurtled in a direct line to the jump. Taylor’s eyes got bigger and bigger as the jump drew near. They hit dead on and for a few seconds the sled and its occupants seemed to hang in the air. Thud! The sled hit the ground and zipped down the rest of the hill.
Taylor’s eyes were the size of pancakes. “Did you see that?” she yelled. “We flew in the air!” She sat motionless for a moment, then she began to laugh. Her laughter was contagious, and soon all of us were laughing.
The sound of merry laughter floating on the frosty air immortalized that magical moment in my heart. That’s when I knew: Toys break, clothes are outgrown, and things get thrown away, but the memories I make with my children will last forever. And that is what WorldMark is all about.
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Carol and her mom in New Zealand's Aranui Caves.
Essay by Carol Ross | WorldMark Rotorua, New Zealand
Prize: 6,000 non-renewable WorldMark vacation credits,
good for one year
One Moment in Rotorua
The best vacations are made up of a series of seemingly endless moments filled with one thrill and adventure after another (interspersed with plenty of good food, and an ample amount of relaxing recovery time). But the truly magical moments, the ones that fill the heart with joy and satisfy the soul, are often much simpler than that—and so much more special.
Growing up in a house full of five children—plus stray cousins, friends, and the occasional bachelor uncle—was a mix of chaos and fun. It was also a lot of work for my mother. But she handled it like she does most things in life: with a kind heart, a commanding presence, and a loud voice when needed. My dad was a self-employed logging contractor, which meant insanely long hours for both him and my mother.
Needless to say, my parents took very few vacations. And those that we did manage were usually trips to my granddad’s ranch in Idaho, where dad would spend his days working the cattle or putting up hay. My parents always managed to make it an adventure for us kids, but I realize now that it certainly wasn’t a “vacation” for them—especially for my mom.
But she never complained. OK, she rarely complained. My mom is the kind of person who takes her happiness from the simple things in life—her grandchildren, spending time with family, and playing bridge with friends. She’s never wanted a fancy home, expensive clothes, jewelry, or new cars. No, the only decadent thing that we kids ever heard her wish for was a trip to New Zealand.
My parents talked about finally taking that trip for their 40th wedding anniversary, but then my grandmother became ill and planning ceased. My grandma eventually passed away, and Mom didn’t mention it much after that. I think that the sadness of losing her mother and the disappointment of a dashed dream just took the wind out of her sails.
So imagine the first big trip that my husband and I planned with our WorldMark vacation credits: New Zealand. And then we invited Mom and Dad.
We based our trip around the WorldMark resort perched on the edge of gorgeous Lake Rotorua. We explored the geothermal wonderlands, took hikes through the kauri forest, toured the glowworm caves, visited a deer farm, went whale and dolphin watching, and took a jet boat ride. We gawked at majestic waterfalls, breathtaking mountains, and fabulous beaches.
But the very best moment didn’t occur in any of those places; it happened one morning near the end of our trip while sitting outside, sipping our morning coffee. I noticed my mom’s contented smile, and realized in that instance that I had done it. I had helped make my mom’s lifelong dream come true. It was not only the best part of the trip, it was one of the best moments of my life—a truly and utterly magical moment.
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A Hero in Hawaii
Essay by Richard Chiolero | WorldMark Kihei, Maui, Hawaii
Prize: $50 USD gift card
Marriage is not for amateurs. It’s expensive, emotional, and encompasses your entire life. Some of our friends even said that our marriage would be virtually guaranteed if we could actually plan everything together without killing each other. We persevered through the wedding and the one thing that kept us going was knowing that we were going on a beautiful, relaxing honeymoon at WorldMark Resort, Kihei.
After proving my mettle to my new bride by traversing the Hana Highway four times (once in the dark), we decided to be the adventurous couple and head out to the Olivine Pools in West Maui. We arrived at a mesa-like formation of lava dotted with calm pools of ocean water and surrounded on three sides by the pounding, azure waves. It was a grey, windy day, but it didn’t keep us from heading to the pool at the tip of the mesa. After slipping and sliding through several murky pools, we realized that we had left our newly purchased snorkeling gear in the trunk of the car. Discovering that my role as “loving husband” meant hiking back up the cliff-face in flip-flops, I left my bride to relax in the warm water, promising that I would come quickly back.
I reached the car and found that someone had broken into the trunk and helped themselves to our snorkeling gear. At the same time, my wife, who had been relaxing in the calm pool near the increasingly stormy ocean, was knocked over by a large wave (she wasn’t hurt). Shortly after, while we were exchanging stories about our experiences, I noticed that her wedding ring was missing. She started to cry and surmised that the same wave that knocked her over must have slipped her ring off. It was surely lost forever.
Without stopping to think, I rushed down to a friendly-looking group of people who had masks and fins. A nice woman loaned me her mask and two men jumped up to help me look. I paddled around for twenty minutes knowing that somehow I was going to save the day. Realizing that there were other pools to look in, and hoping that the ring didn’t fall in to one of the murky pools, I climbed out onto the weed-covered rocks, scraped and bleeding. I didn’t give up.
Standing in ankle-deep water on soft, weed-covered rocks, I saw a gleaming circle of metal. I reached down, picked up the ring and held it high. The friendly group of people cheered and shouted. My wife started crying again clasping her hands over her mouth. I returned to her victorious, the hero in a Greek fable accomplishing an impossible task in order to win the heart of a beautiful woman.
There were a lot of other wonderful things that happened to us during our honeymoon stay in Kihei. However, the most wondrous thing was not plucking my wife’s wedding band from the sea, but winning over her heart a second time.
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The Waterfall Line
Essay by Angela Halpin | WorldMark Kihei, Maui, Hawaii
Prize: $50 USD gift card
“Momma, when can we go back to Hawaii?” I look across the table at my three-year-old son, Dillon, peanut butter spread across his cheek.
“In two years, love,” I reply, I hope, and we instantly begin sharing favorite stories from our week-long vacation at the WorldMark in Kihei, Maui. During that vacation, Dillon taught me a new way to see.
Six a.m., Hawaii-time, my husband and I hear it begin–the donning of bathing suits, gathering of Boogie boards, and then the bedroom door in our unit swings open to present our three young boys, begging, “The sun is up! Let’s go to the beach!” Five minutes later, suits on, teeth brushed, we parade out the door and walk across the street to beautiful Kamaole Beach.
One morning, after a bit of sand-castle building, Dillon began to splash in the ocean. Seventy-five-degree water at 7 in the morning is something that, in itself, is magical, and I stopped, looked around, determined to soak up my surroundings. The cloudless sky, warm sun, smell of sunblock on Dillon’s baby-skin–I was loving this little boy, my baby, and wanted the moment to stay in my head forever. We waded deeper in the waves until he needed me to raise him up to keep his head above water. We bounced in circles, singing “Ring Around The Rosey,” over and over.
He needs a haircut, I thought–the wet curls were in his eyes–he’s so beautiful. Don’t forget this. Don’t forget how he looks. Don’t forget how he sounds. Don’t forget how he smells. Hold him closer.
“Dillon, do you want to go deeper?”
“Some more deeper, Momma, but not to the line.”
“The line? What line?”
“Your know that line–the waterfall line, where all the water falls off and goes down below. I don’t want to go all the way out there.” And he points.
I follow his finger; he’s pointing straight out to the horizon line. My eyes are two feet above his, so I drop to my knees in the water, hold our heads even and look straight out at the horizon. Now I see it. When you’re three and your eyes are only a foot above the water, the horizon line is a drop-off line–there’s a huge waterfall out there.
I stood up, picked him up higher, held him tighter, “No worries, Dillon–we won’t go out to the line–it’s perfect right here.”
“Ring around the rosey, pocket full of posies … .”
Thank you, Hawaii. Now, even in the midst of a full day, I sometimes think to stop and bring my eyes to Dillon’s level, to really look at what he sees. I know in a few years’ time he’ll know it’s not a waterfall, and that the earth rotates on its axis, that gravity holds us here, but for now, it’s a waterfall line and we’re not going there.
We’re perfect right here.
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We Made It!
Essay by Harold and Joan Mather | WorldMark Pinetop, Arizona
Prize: $50 USD gift card
We had our most magical vacation ever at Pinetop, Ariz. What a wonderful setting for WorldMark–quiet, miles of hiking paths, wild critters, and crisp, clean mountain air, all nestled in the tall pine trees.
We made this our “base” for 10 days while we got ready for our “goal” of riding up Mt. Baldy (11,590 ft., near Springerville) by horseback. Why? Well, we did the same thing 50 years ago on our honeymoon and we wanted to retrace our steps. (Of course, WorldMark wasn’t there then!) It was truly a magical moment when we stood on the top of the mountain as we did 50 years ago! This picture, “We made it!,” has more than one meaning. We spent over an hour there reminiscing over our 50-year journey and particularly remembering that Mt. Baldy trip we took so long ago. Who would think we would ever do that again, or could do that again 50 years later! Our ride was a total of eight and a half hours; and it’s funny, we didn’t remember all those aches and pains 50 years ago!
We took a picture and put it side by side with our identical 1956 black-and-white snapshot. And now it is framed on our wall, causing many more magical memories. For those who ask--no, we didn’t ride the same horses!
We love WorldMark and are so happy that they were part of our celebration. Maybe we’ll make it back on our 60th. Who knows?
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