Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Family vacations are a lot of things but perfect isn't one of them.

We are fresh back from a few days away together as a family. I often think that if you could perfectly summarize what it is like to build and grow and love and live within a family, vacation is in and of itself the perfect encapsulation of all the things.

There are so many special moments together.

We were fortunate to travel to an extremely lovely spot and I can’t underscore that enough. But it was so lovely that for the first time ever my husband and I experienced the very odd sensation of feeling that so many of our fellow travelers were nearly all the time Instagramming all the things. In fact my children and I stumbled upon an actual photo shoot as we wandered into the pool early one morning. The woman was wearing a bikini that was not particularly G rated and arching her back in the waterfall next to the tank where my kids were gawking at sea turtles and sharks. I felt like I was imposing on her photo shoot. I genuinely needed to remind myself that the point of the pool is the wetness and all the swimming and the playing. The point is not the picture. At least not for us right now.

There were plenty of folks on vacation with us who were clearly on a working trip. Working as influencers to sell fashion or experiences or a certain lifestyle and quite candidly there was something sort of out of body about the whole thing when you see someone actively trying to sell or capture a moment that you think you are actively living. You sort of feel like, is this really a beautiful day in a beautiful pool, or is this the Instagram version of that? People were hashtagging the hell out of this situation with #tranquility and #livingwithacapitalL and inspirational quotes and so much prettiness. Yet there was something about everyone trying, seemingly so hard, to capture how utterly indulgent and fabulous this moment was that made me question how truly fabulous everything actually was. After all, everything looked picture perfect. But what truly makes a family vacation great?

I have wonderful memories of my own family vacations from when I was kid. These reflections are peppered with pictures of the places we visited which never ventured into the overly exotic territory. They were usually run of the mill, family-friendly destinations that featured free breakfast in the hotel and a beach not too far away. What I remember most is the stories we crafted as a family, woven together mostly from accidental adventures we had on each of these trips. There was the time we hooked up the car wrong at the drive in movie on the Cape and had to hitch a ride back to the hotel in the tow truck. Or the time my father got locked in the bathroom in Montreal. Or that one beautiful blue morning when a bird pooped on my mother's head in New York City. In every way, I loved these moments because they featured a rare thing: my parents, briefly unencumbered by the trappings of regular life, free to give me and my sisters more of their attention than they normally could, and free to create new stories, and stay up late telling the old ones.

We've got plenty of pictures from those trips alright. Most of them are not unlike the trips themselves, not especially perfect or fancy. But always able to evoke a visceral feeling of the way the rental house smelled that summer on the Cape, the way the upholstery felt in the back of my father's Oldsmobile, the sound of his laugh, or my mother's smile. It wasn't all perfect and because my memories are of being the kid but reflecting on them now as the parent, I'm conscious of how much was probably going on behind the scenes that wore them out, the driving and packing and logistics and general adulting that doesn't disappear on a family vacation. But as a parent I'm equally conscious of how much it matters to give my own children that same experience. Not especially glossy memories. But more of my attention. And oh those stories. 

That women in the bikini that day- I wish I saw the final product. I’m sure those pictures were amazing. We also took some photos in the same pool that day. Here they are.

 We had to leave soon after. A kid that was not mine pooped in the water. As children will do. Even in extremely pretty places.

They had lots of yummy food and we indulged! In this picture we are enjoying some nachos and ice cream for lunch because vacation is for eating odd things at odd times. Also there appears to be some sort of unwritten rule in our family that one of us must close our eyes in every photograph.

We took a delightful boat ride to a nearby island. As we got on the boat the staff told me that the island was all cash though we had been staying on a cashless resort. We were nearly on the boat and not going to double back to the room for our wallets so we took three kids to an island with two packages of peanut butter crackers and one bottle of water. On the way back to the hotel no one spoke because we had effectively glued their mouths shut with peanut butter. My husband and I, though we regretted this temporary period of dehydration for the children,  did enjoy this brief moment of silence. We also went snorkeling! We saw some fish! And Dylan found a $5 coupon and an empty pina colada cup in the ocean.

At night we all slept in one room which, as anyone who has ever travelled on vacation knows, means that no one sleeps at all. There were many people. There was no sleeping. We did have an impromptu 10PM dance party when a DJ started busting a move outside our balcony one night. Goodbye bedtime! No sleep till Brooklyn!

There was a beautiful view, and time with my people. Also there was so much time with my people. We were sweaty and unkempt. Sometimes we weren't!

We're home now. We've got some sunburns and an unhealthy yearning for bacon and chlorine 24 hours a day. We've got some shared gratitude about how nice personal space can be, and we've got some great stories about our late night dance parties, peanut butter sandwiches, basketball after dark, swim up bars, and lizards that bite. More than our pictures (with most of our eyes closed), I know that's what we'll take with us.

Are you planning a family vacation this summer? I can't wait to see your pictures! Or not! Share with me all of the beautiful stuff, or the not beautiful stuff. Our vacation was beautiful and hard and fun and long and short. It was all of the things except perfect. I hope your photos capture some or all of that. And if they don't, that's fine too. Don't worry so much about capturing it so much that you forget to get in it. 

Go write yourself a story about your family, one vacation, and one ridiculously imperfect memory at a time.

#vacation #ispent96%ofmyvacationreapplyingsunscreen #myfiveyearoldsnores #sunsets #ihaveanextremelypainfulsunburnonthebackofmyarms #mypeoplearethebestpeople #alsopleasestopspeakingtome #getmehometomyownbed