Thursday, July 3, 2014
This vacation – the vacation we’ve taken for 18 consecutive years with my husband’s parents and any of his four sisters who want to come – starts as any other vacation starts.
With lists. Three-page lists full of items that need to be packed, each with an empty circle beside it that can be checked off with a feeling of satisfaction. Lists of to-dos, lists of in-case-of-emergency numbers for the neighbors. Lists of where the dog is going (where is her rabies certificate?), where the guinea pig is going (add that friend to the list of people for whom we need to buy presents) and who is taking out the trash (ditto). Lists of my clothes, the kids’ clothes, and Whit’s clothes. To dos and lists that leave me feeling exhausted but fully prepared.
We drive to this vacation of ours, anywhere from six to nine hours in the car. This is where I worry. I worry about traffic and I worry about my back hurting and I worry we’re going to get in an accident and I worry someone will drown on vacation. I worry that Whit’s parents will some day not be on this vacation with us. I worry my house will burn down, the dog will misbehave, I forgot to pay a bill that will be due while we’re gone. I worry.
We unload the car and I neurotically count our items and an efficient college student with an awesome summer job grabs our bags and bins and loads them onto a boat. Whit parks the car and says goodbye to it for a week. We board the ferry and it blows its horn and slowly chugs toward the island we’ll call home for seven days.
This island doesn’t have cars. We travel via golf cart, often with kids on laps and hanging off the back (shh). Our children learned this summer how to drive the golf carts, which gave them hours of thoroughly illegal fun (shh again…and pipe down, it was safe).
As my days on these beaches unfold, I suddenly care less about rules. I care less about what I'm "supposed" to do. I care less about helmets. I care less about food groups, which explains why Jack ate a popsicle for breakfast today. I care less about bedtimes, I care less about watches, I care less about the problems that await me at home.
What I suddenly care about is pulling the kids out of the ocean, away from their cousins, to reapply sunscreen to pink noses and shoulders. I care about whether or not there are enough Mike’s Hard Lemonades in the cooler for each adult and some of the older kids to have another one. I care about whether the light will be good for pictures on the beach during our traditional twilight cocktail hour(s). I care about the faces of my kids as an older cousin launches them into the air in the ocean or their smiles as they race toward me on a boogey board.
Here, I don’t despair that the doctor told me I can’t ever run again. Instead, I care about long walks on the beach, whether they’re at 7 am and my heart is pumping or they’re in the middle the afternoon as my son stops every five feet to dig for coquinas or it’s a long stroll to chat with my mother in law. I care about whether the single, teeny store will run out of chicken before we have thought about what we’re grilling for dinner. I may idly wonder if I should run a load of beach towels through the wash or if the golf carts are all charged, but they’re generally passing thoughts.
This is my favorite vacation. It’s the only one in which I’m totally, and completely, unplugged. From my phone, my laptop, my iPad. My lists. My stressors and my worries.
It’s my family’s favorite vacation, too.
There might be a coincidence lurking in there.