It’s the time that ignites the best of memories and family lore, but it’s also the time of ridiculous sibling squabbles and expensive impulses. We plan for months, then leave with the highest of expectations and a suitcase full of optimism.
We experience a wide range of human emotions, from exhaustion to bliss, sometimes all in one day, and we return ready to go home while wishing it never had to end.
The family vacation has inspired movies, books and many a tall tale of family lore. My parents were annual vacationers and went further to squeeze vacation time out of every day allotted to them by their employers.
Some families have a camping trailer for their escapes, some have a cottage. We had a sailboat.
I grew up on the ocean. It was my back, front and side yard for as many weekends as my parents could manage and most of the summer. I knew that not every family had a weekend house and I vividly recall wishing I didn’t get hauled down to the boat regularly.
I wished I was “normal” and thought staying home every weekend sounded really awesome.
I never said I was a bright, forward-thinking child.
Not only did my sea days end but I moved to an inland state, then a more inland state and, finally, to Kansas City which is about as middle and landlocked as you can get.
I married while living in Inland State #2 and, in a very surprising turn of events, my hard-working husband decided that he didn’t believe in vacations at all. While I admire his sticking to his convictions despite several years and people trying to convince him otherwise, I soon learned that “normal” kinda stunk.
My born-into family lives a half a country away. Time with them is rare and precious and both they and our kids needed to know each other. Our compromise: I took the kids on shared vacations with my parents, near my brother and his family, in New England.
Traveling solo with little kids required a lot of planning, parenting and patience, but it was worth the effort.
Traveling with older, becoming independent and wanting-to-try-everything kids required a lot more money — but it was worth the effort.
Then my dad died.
Then my kids started to go to college and work.
Then my empty-nesting brother and his wife moved to North Carolina.
I may not have had forethought as a child, but as an adult I know that “we’ll go next year” may never happen; I know that each day on vacation, even the ones that made me yell or cry in frustration, were worth the memories that were created.
I know that the time my 3-year-old son ran with delight towards an aquarium’s beluga whales at the exact moment my 4-year-old daughter screamed and ran away from them in terror was tricky to live, but the story from it has aged well.
This summer I took two of my three kids on vacation. My mom took her cane on a plane, my nephew drove down from Rhode Island, and we rented a beach cottage near my brother and sister-in-law’s new home in a place none of us had been before.
We relaxed in the sunshine and swam in the same waters where we caught a tiny shark. We had breakfast mere feet from the ocean and ate our weight in seafood at lunch and dinner.
We had a Perfect Shell finding contest, shared a stomach bug, explored the area, took a ghost hunting tour, and never did open the puzzle we brought for a rainy day.
We laughed, we fought, we said some things we regretted - but mostly? Mostly we said things we couldn’t repeat enough.
“This is fun.”
“I’m so glad we’re here.”
“Where to next year?”
“I love you.”
Susan is a Kansas City based writer and podcaster. To listen to the women’s history podcasts that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.