816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: Paradoxical moments of a summer vacation

That moment of surreal actualization.

The tactile turning of a vague idea into a solid plan began in the coldest, darkest part of winter.

Bundled in blankets and fuzzy tights, I laboriously searched vacation home rental sites. Being a dreamer I virtually toured the houses that we couldn’t afford. But dreams begin big, like a huge log that is eventually is whittled into sculpture.

In this case, a six-bedroom beach house with a pool whittled down to a slightly-off-the-beach, three-bedroom with a nice deck. My fingers then turned to the arduous project of finding reasonable airfares.

I screamed at my computer a lot during this project.

Fares dipped, then raised then dipped again-sold! To combat a nagging feeling of distrust in the digital system, I printed out our itinerary — paper made it real.

That’s when the kids got involved and we seasoned our everyday life with dreamy plans for a future adventure.

And then future arrived. With over-packed luggage we bungled our way through security. When we “ooofed” into our plane seats we all reached it simultaneously: the moment when the dreamed about became a reality.

That moment of surreal actualization.

That moment of foreignly familiar.

You know the saying you can’t go home again? Well, you can. Sorta.

When our last plane landed, we were back in my home state. Although I have to sleep on a roll-away cot in the house where my mom lives and I never did, I consider those visits going home even though the feeling of current home is gone.

There was a time when I knew the roads to the airport with the same confidence that gets me to and from the bathroom in the middle of the night with the lights off. But when the kids and I arrived at that same former home airport, I couldn’t even get us out of the parking garage or on the correct highways without serious doubt.

It all looked familiar and yet, at the same time, unfamiliar. Were the trees always that thick? Did that exit always come up so quickly?

The foreignly familiar feeling stayed with me as we drove a couple hours and boarded a ferry to my happy place island; it stayed with me as we settled into the rental cottage in a town where I used to work and it lingered as I failed to find shortcuts around traffic.

You can go home…it just looks different. Feels different. Not worse or better…just foreignly familiar.

More moments of paradox and conclusion.

Fourteen days stretched before us and we filled each with things I had done many times things, things I hadn’t and a lot of things that were only possible because of the people we did them with.

14...10...5...3...2…two more days?

On a more condensed level it felt like the paradox of raising kids: a long time that passed in a blink. I tried to absorb and trap each day, each moment, each experience — not with a camera (although my kids may think differently) but with memory pictures and words.

Did you know that no matter how many awesome things surround your kids on vacation they will decide that fighting over the last of the Doritos is the best way to fill an hour?

That two different sized brothers in a tandem kayak is not a team-building exercise but an exercise in futility?

Did you know that riding in the back of a convertible is both very hot and very cool at the same time? That sneakers walked through sea water will never really dry while near said sea? That sand in your sheets is both crazy annoying and delightfully exotic for Midwestern kids?

Our 14 turned to two which turned to re-packed luggage and oophing and the moment when an adventure you are on becomes a memory that you cherish.

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. To listen to the women’s history podcast that she co-hosts or read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.

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