A stereotypical teenage girl would probably dread a vacation with her mother. Denver, Colorado, a beautiful but unassuming city, would not call out to this clichéd adolescent the way a bikini-clad trip to Cancun may. For me, however, last summer’s vacation to Denver allowed me to explore a new city, my capabilities, and my relationship with my mother.
â–º quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
My mom and I embarked from Lambert Airport in St. Louis at 6:00 a.m., an early flight for two inexperienced flyers. Both comically anxious, my mother and I have been known to avoid driving if there is a hint of a thundercloud, so flying with the threat of a Midwest tornado on the horizon reduced us to a horrified delirium. In the airport lobby, we bandied back and forth increasingly unlikely terror scenarios (What if the world ends when we are on vacation? What if the pilot gets lost and we end up in Laos?) until it was time to board.
Two hours and three ibuprofen later, we had arrived in Denver. My mom’s best friend, for whom we had made the trip, was set to meet us in the lobby. My mother and I, sharing a laughable directional disability, wandered around Denver’s crisp airport for an hour, taking shuttle buses and stairways until we finally found my Mom’s friend. Relieved, we rode in her car, admiring the arid, mountain scenery that was so different from our humid, corn-fed home.
After a spicy southwestern breakfast at Table Mountain Inn, a restaurant in quaint Golden, Colorado, we arrived at the loft that my mother’s friend had secured for us. It was perfect: the décor a contrast of stark, industrial efficiency and artsy, hipster luxuries. We flopped down on the twin beds in our room and rested before preparing for that night’s entertainment: a student rendition of The Taming of the Shrew at The University of Boulder. Shocked at the play’s blatant sexism, we took a moment to appreciate the independence afforded to women today.
The next morning, my mother and I took advantage of our independence when we ventured out into Denver by ourselves. This feat may seem ordinary to some, but given our aforementioned navigational deficiencies, we considered ourselves champions. We ate a healthy breakfast (everything is healthy in Denver!) at Dixon’s, a sweet café, and then spent hours reading in The Tattered Bookstore. On our way back to the loft, we encountered a man holding bags full of fresh produce. He directed us to the farmer’s market from which he had purchased his organic goodies, so we walked about a mile and returned with the makings for dinner.
That night, we ate homemade fettucine alfredo and watched a slew of eighties movies which were new for me but beloved by my mother and her friend. The awkwardness of Fast Times at Ridgemont High applies to all generations.
In the morning, we drove a few miles to a Renaissance fair where I got my waist-length hair braided into a medieval style. My mother and her best friend bought outlandish hair accessories so that we could all feel silly together. After a few hours there, we went to Denver Botanic Gardens. The desert flora beckoned to my mother the gardener, and I sat peacefully on a bench.
After we arrived home the next morning, my mom and I recounted our vacation. From facing our fear of flying to getting lost in the airport to traversing an unknown city alone, we had encountered many intimidating situations, but we had gotten through them together.
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