One day, when I was about eight or nine, I overheard my mom's parents talking to my parents. The conversation went something like this:
Grandma: When were you thinking your children would be old enough to stay home alone without a babysitter?
Mom: Oh I don't know. Ten, maybe?
Grandma: Wonderful. Dad and I were thinking that when they were old enough, we'd love to have our grandchildren each take a trip to spend a month or so with us during the summer.
Being the strong-willed child I was, I took this to mean that the summer I was ten, I would get to go to my grandparent's home for a month. I was the oldest; I'd get to go first. Nevermind the fact that we were living in Texas and they lived in Washington. No one could convince me otherwise. I was going.
And so my parents and grandparents struck a deal. They would split the cost of the plane ticket, if I raised $50 of my own money to help pay for it and therefore earn the trip rather than it just be gifted to me. $50 to a child is a LOT of money, but I did it! I saved $25 of my allowance money and gave my parents the $25 mall gift certificate I won by selling the most tickets to our children's theatre play that summer.
The scary part was flying there by myself. My mom packed me a carry-on with Wild Cherry Lifesavers (something I still associate with this trip), gum (because Grandpa likes to chew gum on flights to help his ears pop), word search puzzle books, and other goodies. Fortunately, these were still the days that anyone could go all the way to the gate, so my family saw me off, my mom's aunt Donna met me in the SLC airport for lunch (a kid's meal from Burger King!), and my grandparents were waiting for me. I wasn't alone for long.
It was a wonderful month. I made a little-while friend and we rode bikes to the community swimming pool almost every day. I sometimes visited Grandma at work, and spent time with both grandparents at home each evening. It was this summer I was taught how to embroider, and I had almost all my Christmas presents for my family complete by the time I went home.
As part of Grandpa's work with the state, he was also a volunteer forest firefighter. My third week, he was called away to fight a fire, and it was just me and Grandma for awhile. We had hoped to go camping that week, but we postponed that trip until I was 21 (seriously, it was 11 years before we could get our schedules to work). Fortunately, he came home in time for us to drive to Utah for my last week. We were meeting Mom there so she and Grandma (who were both seminary teachers) could attend the Seminary Symposium at BYU while Grandpa and I stayed with Aunt Donna and played in Utah. Not so fortunately, I challenged a boy from their ward we were taking to his grandparents' to a foot race somewhere in Idaho - rest stop footraces are family tradition, probably to get us tired and make us fall asleep - and I fell, spraining my wrist and scraping up my arm and face. I had to tone down some of my energy, but we still played miniature golf and went hiking. I got to fly home with my mom, just the two of us.
It's still one of my favorite summers. My siblings and some of my cousins have followed suit had spent their summers in Washington. I'm so fortunate to have and still be making such fond memories with my amazing grandparents - in multiple states and countries! (On my dad's side, my grandfather passed away when I was nine, but my grandmother and I are still in touch, she's also wonderful, just not very active.)
I also enjoy making my parents start pricey family traditions they never expected. Eavesdropping is totally worth it.