“You should have warned me about that,” a friend said to me recently. She had gone on vacation for the first time with her one year old. Upon returning, she admitted that she had taken a book along and hadn’t really read any of it. “So this is vacationing with a non-infant?” she wondered. My friend told me she was getting ready to go on another vacation where there would be more adults present and less children per adult, which I told her would make for a more relaxing vacation – in other words, take the book along this time.
I guess I’ve found this to be true from experience. Last year the four of us went to a little cabin in the woods with my immediate family for a long weekend. The adult to child ratio was 2:1, not bad; but I didn’t crack a book or have a lot of free time except after the kids were in bed – just like at home. A couple weeks later, we went to Maine with Daniel’s immediate family. The adult to child ratio was 5:1. Wow! what a difference! I read, played games, spent a day hiking without kids, went out on the lake without kids, etc, etc – all during kid-awake hours. It was great.
Shortly after we returned from Maine, Daniel’s family began talking about next year’s vacation. This was something new for me. The trip to Maine was the first family vacation we had taken together, and I didn’t really expect everyone to be all that excited about round #2 so quickly. (I guess everyone else thought it was great too.) I thought maybe it would be a couple years before we all planned the next one. In all honesty, I was somewhat unsure that I wanted to commit to another vacation with so many people. I had had an awesome time in Maine (and I love Daniel’s family like my own)!!!; but as an introvert, being with lots of people is actually “work” for me at times – although I feel less that way since becoming a SAHM. Also my own history of vacations didn’t include aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. I grew up “vacationing” with my immediate family – Mom, Dad brother and sister. Our vacations consisted of camping on the weekends for most of my pre-teen and teen years. During high school we took 2 or 3 one-week-long trips that I remember, again just with my immediate family. Since I was used to camping as a small family unit as a child, I just wasn’t sold on never having a vacation for just my current small family unit ever again.
But of course if my family had planned a week long vacation this year, we definitely would have gone with them due to my own desires of wanting to be there. In turn we have just returned from TN with Daniel’s family. On top of that, I came back from TN a total believer that this is a wonderful way to vacation – why did I question it to begin with? My kids have the best bunch of aunts & uncles (and “friends” of aunts & uncles) & grandparents that I could have imagined. They were truly amazing! From the minute we arrived, they were ready to play with and love on my kids in any way possible – just like they always are. Coloring, swimming, swinging, hugging, horseback riding, air hockey playing, shoulder rides, hand holding, treasure hunting, reading, attention diverting, even diaper changing – there wasn’t much they didn’t do. I am so thankful – not just because I got a bunch of time to do things I enjoyed doing, sometimes without kids at all! – but because I value these relationships so much. Having worked daycare and also with emotionally disturbed children, I’m well aware that there aren’t a lot of kids who have this many adults interested in their lives to the degree that Daniel’s family is interested in my kids’ lives. My kids are blessed beyond belief to be a part of this family.
Sadly, there was one aunt missing this year. I cannot explain to you the degree of loss I felt over her not being with us – the whole family felt it horrifically. For me it was especially hard in the quiet times when I knew she would have had a rousing comment or another topic of conversation to dive into – or when we were getting ready for the next adventure. She had a way of making me feel less akward and clumsy – as a person and a mother. She had a way of helping everyone gel together a little more. She had a way of making something that was a little funny seem really funny. She was just plain beautiful, inside and out. She had a special place in her heart for my kids. In all honesty, it makes me very angry that something so beautiful was destroyed so quickly – my kids (all of us, especially her husband) were robbed of so many things that “should have been.” Alicia would have loved to listen to Ian go on and on about the horses, not wanting to go to the pool, and whatever else popped into his brain this past week. Alicia would have been so excited about Alice loving the pool, turning 5 yrs old and beginning school next week, probably more excited than I am. Will this pain ever cease? Will the tears ever stop? As of today, I am very doubtful. Sometimes I’m jealous that Alicia’s pain has ended. Oh, that ours would end too.
And here I am already – back at home, doing the thing that I call “life.” But I can’t shake the feeling of being torn in 2 – being exceedingly grateful for the “things” – all immaterial – that my kids and I receive from being in this family and yet mourning the loss of so many things that “should have been.” It has been a sad couple of days back at home (wherever that is for each family member) as I know other family members are also experiencing grief as we think of all the things that should have been different last week. But I do thank all of you – Mom, Dad, Laura, Shelly, Eldon, Joel, Cody, Patrick, Allayna & Britta – for everything you are and do. And Alicia – I thank you too, for giving me a glimpse of how to live with enthusiam, how to love with all your heart and be passionate about that which you love. I hope I too can learn some of these things from having known you for such a “short” time… but it should have been longer.
PS Alicia – you’d be proud of me today. I started an organization project. I miss you.