Who doesn’t appreciate a sign? Not just the roadway version, but a quick life-guide that’s handy in times of great decision but also good for those little issues that tend to trip us up.
I found one on vacation.
At home, there’s an exit sign I often drive past: Merge Later. No stop sign, no red light, the exit lane simply continues for a while before a move is necessary. I read it as, look ahead but don’t live in the future; deal with what you must now and face what’s coming up when it does.
But at some point you merge, then what?
Speed bumps ahead.
Speed bumps don’t stop traffic, they slow it down. Always for the greater good, although it doesn’t feel like it.
My mother and I have a tradition: We take my kids on vacation to an island where she took us when we were young. We rent a cottage, go to the beach, putter around charming towns, and fill the rest of our days with seafood, reading, biking and long walks on roads and bike paths shaded by short, coastal trees. My husband, who doesn’t take vacations as a rule and isn’t a big fan of seafood or the ocean, never comes but my brother and his family have a house on this island and a trip to visit Mom turns into a bigger family event.
We booked the cottage in January, bought our airfare in March...the first speed bump hit in May: My eldest son had a mandatory week-long event before his freshman year of college that would cost him a scholarship if he missed it. The week? You’re smart, I don’t need to tell you.
Ever try to get a refund from a non-refundable airline ticket? It’s the bumpy part of a speed bump: several customer service reps, document collection, form filling, and waiting for responses; repeat. It seemed I was the only one who felt that losing his scholarship was remotely catastrophic.
In speed bump fashion, it worked for the best. He began to experience college life a little early, I saved quite a bit of dining-out cash and did, eventually, get a full refund.
There were other speed bumps: The weather was chillier and wetter than we expected, beach days disappeared in rain clouds, bike rides were limited to short distances, sunny walks past historic houses and down quiet back roads became dashes between raindrops and “I’m just going to stay in today.”
One thing Mom and I refused to skip: our annual stroll through a neighborhood of colorful, Victorian cottages.
I wasn’t moping that day, exactly, I was on vacation after all, but “meh” explains my mood. Large tour groups crowded the village paths, the usual refreshingly dappled sunshine was replaced by chill and clouds, and there were more homes in need of paint than recently freshened-up ones.
That’s when I saw the sign.
On a day that had weather and crowd disappointments; during a week that didn’t look exactly like the weeks of past years and had us wondering what to do next instead of choosing from a long list, I saw a sign that literally made me stop in my tracks.
Speed Bumps Ahead.
Vacation speed bumps made me appreciate the hydrangeas that cover the island more than I ever had, my youngest son fished with his uncle every single day, my daughter discovered a graveyard with Revolutionary War vet markers, and an annual four-wheeling beach day was made more precious by the unusual-for-the-week perfect weather.
Speed bumps are always ahead. On vacation, in life…we can’t plan for them but we’re forced to slowly deal with them for the greater good before resuming our usual pace and plans.