Apparently, I survived.
The last two weeks of school are something of a blur – one of those times in which an event on Tuesday seems like it actually occurred in 1998. And such mental delusion does not a happy mama make. I vaguely recall acting quite inappropriately. I think I remember kids running for cover. I know my camera broke during 4th grade graduation – which only stoked the volcano. The words “brat” and “shut up” may or may not have slipped out of my mouth. I don’t remember.
No matter. Summer has arrived. No more teachers, no more books…and no more award ceremonies and class parties and field days and graduations. Halle-freakin-lujah.
For the first half of the summer, our days will be filled with camps and projects and some variation of this:
We start with great intentions, abundant energy. I discovered the hard way that plunging a kid into an abyss of free time – after nine months of structure and discipline – results in lots of whining, lots of arguing, lots of “I’m boooooorrrrrreeeeddddd…” So I attempt to maintain some semblance of structure and discipline during the first few weeks of summer – which is about how long structure lasts until it disintegrates into loosey-goosey-whatarewegoingtodonow?
Just in time, as we have for the past seven years, we go on a vacation. Not a trip, but a vacation. A trip involves sightseeing and walking and driving and walking and walking and walking. It involves a detailed agenda. It does not involve sleeping.
Contrast that with a vacation, which includes this:
Lots of these:
For our family, vacation always includes this:
If you haven’t already met them, may I introduce you? In the words of our daughters, these are our “bestbestbestbestbestbestbestbest friends.”
Alexandra & Meghan
Christian & Griffin:
Adrianne & Nathan:
Gretchen and I met during our husbands’ residencies. Entire books have been written on surviving and staying married during medical training – so I’ll simply summarize: We are all still married because Gretchen and I had each other (plus some other amazing girlfriends). We lived less than a mile apart, and all our kids were born within months of each other. During our last year in Iowa, we practically lived together. Our husbands were working 100+ hour weeks. Neither of us had family within 800 miles. We were family – minus the disfunction.
Which is why, now that we live precisely 1217 miles apart, we spend two weeks of our summer on family vacation. It doesn’t matter where – though we have visited some pretty cool places. All that matters is that we are together.
Many people have looked at me quizzically, astonished that any group of ten could live together for two weeks and not be ready to go home. Believe it. Two weeks is never enough. We’ve nicknamed Meghan and Alex “the Velcro Sisters” in honor of their extended good-bye hugs. There are many tears, and we’re calling or texting each other within hours – or minutes – of our farewells. Then we all go home and sulk for about a week, wishing we had just a few more days. Or weeks. Someone comes up with a new plan for how we can all live in the same town. Or house.
Our hope is that someday, when our kids are no longer kids, when they are married with kids and mortgages and jobs, perhaps when their parents are no longer living, they will sit together around a dinner table and define their childhoods by our family vacations. We hope they remember kickball games and roasting marshmallows, floating in ponds and making crafts. We imagine they will discuss the vast knowledge they acquired at all the educational, historical landmarks we explored, and how visiting such important American treasures developed them into fine, upstanding adults. Surely they will marvel at how much their parents loved them, how hard their mothers worked in planning vacations of utter perfection. They will rise up and call us blessed, then raise a glass to their mothers’ brilliance and forethought.
More likely, however, they’ll remember Costco-sized boxes of Fruit Loops (since their communist parents let them eat sugar cereal once a year) and eating spaghetti and all the times Nathan got lost. They’ll remember thinking their parents were grossly inebriated after the kids went to bed because of all the raucous laughter coming from the back porch. (We weren’t.) They’ll remember the snake in the pond and the ticks on Alex’s head and Adrianne’s back. They’ll laugh about sword fights and water balloon battles. They’ll sing all the silly songs they made up and the songs whose lyrics they once massacred. They will finally realize that Smash Mouth was not, in fact, singing about the world being made of macaroni. They’ll roll their eyes recalling all the pictures we forced them to pose for, and how one particular mom never quite learned that yelling at your kids is not an effective method of getting them to smile and look like they’re enjoying themselves – but they’ll be thankful to have the pictures. Especially since we’re dead.
And, undoubtedly, they’ll talk about our annual tradition of making ice cream sundaes on our last night together. How Griffin hogged all the sprinkles and Alex’s creation always looked like chocolate soup and Christian squirted whipped cream directly into his mouth. It’s our attempt to make the parting a little more sweet and a little less sorrow – but that never works.
The small, seemingly insignificant details shape us. The crazy, unscripted moments are what we remember. We can write our agendas and plan our minutes on the Great Summer Whiteboard – but within those blocks of time lie the sacred spaces that sculpt the beauty of our souls.
Today, let us welcome and embrace the sacred spaces like an old friend with new secrets to share.