Olivia Newport kids at canyonMy kids don’t look like this. Not any more. Not for a long time.

They grew up. I know! How did that happen?

We haven’t taken a family vacation in quite a few years actually. Recently, I got to talking with my daughter, 22, about what she remembered about a major trip we took, pulling a pop-up camper, to the west coast. On that trip we:

• went to San Francisco and saw the wharf and Chinatown and the whole bit

• went to the Oregon coast so my Colorado kids could get their feet in an actual ocean

• went to Seattle and did all kinds of cool stuff, including playing with cousins

• came home via Yellowstone, which was awesome

But my daughter remembers little of that trip. Or the Grand Canyon. Or the sand dunes in Michigan that I grew up camping on. Or the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore.

Mall of America she remembers.

I could flip through old photo albums, from the days before digital photos, and make a long list of the national and state parks we took our kids to. I thought we were creating memories, among other things. Bonding. Sharing.

And I suppose we were. I just get blown away when I ask, “Do you remember … ?” and the response is, “Was that the trip where … ” followed by some random minutia that I had to dig deep to remember. Really? That’s what she remembers? The kid she met on the playground at the campground but not walking along the rim of the Grand Canyon?

We also used to schlep from Colorado to Illinois twice a year to keep connected to the family core there. My kids knew the names of the rest stops along I-80. And had their favorites that they begged to stop at. (That’s the freaky part to me.)

November stirs up thoughts of Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. Some of you are already listening to Christmas music. (Not me. I love the music, just not yet.) Most families have some traditions—gatherings, foods, gifts, crafts. Some of my kids’ favorite memories come from those long car trips (which I, frankly, was just trying to survive), and I suppose we had our traditions even in the way we traveled.

Perhaps I used to work too hard at creating memorable trips and missed the most memorable moments of connections and laughter and the simple beauty of time together. As you move through your family’s traditions, I encourage you to be present in the moment. Look around and take a deep breath. Something is happening, even if it’s not what you thought it would be.

• What are some of your unexpected favorite family memories?