I wrote a week ago about “what I did on my summer vacation.” You may have noticed, it didn’t sound so much like a vacation. More like a “working adventure.” My life has been peppered with experiences like that. I’ll write about them at another time. I’ve had real and wonderful vacations in my life. That’s what I’m focusing on today.
When I was a child, vacations always brought our family to Beaver Island. We came in August, when the sun shone bright every day, nights were cool, and Lake Michigan waters were warm. We had freedom to explore the woods and fields, to walk the country roads, and to play in the old cars and in the barns and outbuildings. My grandparents were there, with their own ideas for entertainment. Bingo at the church hall, games of “Kings in the Corner” around the kitchen table, and trips to the dump to see the seagulls broke up our days. Those are still some of my fondest memories, and shaped my love of Beaver Island.
As an adult, vacation locales were more diverse, but also abbreviated, and rarer. There were weekend camping and canoeing trips, and visits to amusement parks and zoos. Once, we drove to Arkansas to spend the Thanksgiving weekend with my husband’s cousin and his family. After our move to Beaver Island, vacations mostly involved going to see family and friends. That’s the way it has held, though there are exceptions.
Several years ago, my daughter Jen brought me to Chicago for a long weekend. We found a little Italian restaurant with white tablecloths, excellent service and a great wine list. We went to an exhibit of Jasper Johns recent work; we wandered shops and stores.
Last summer, my daughter Kate and her family treated me to a trip to Chicago for my birthday. We toured the city, ate fabulous meals, and visited parks, galleries and museums. We went to see the musical, Hamilton! It was a fantastic, exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime experience!
My sisters and I have taken several trips together, each one memorable for its own sake. Our first trip to Florida, in the winter after the awful summer that saw the death of my sister Sheila and my mother, was a healing journey. Six sisters, finding our way forward with laughter, tears and lots of hugs. A trip to Chicago for Mother’s Day of that same year included four sisters and three nieces. Another step forward into life without our mother, surrounded by loved ones who felt the same loss.
A vacation in Tennessee a few years later was memorable because we knew it would likely be the last time my sister Nita would be with us. She had already defied the life expectancy handed out with her cancer diagnosis, but her health was failing. Even so, that trip held lots of laughter, and even some bickering between sisters. One line stands out: “Dying or not, there’s still no excuse for being a bitch!” That, along with my sister Cheryl being called away for a family emergency, and my sister Amy driving the rest of us home – in a very crowded car – through a raging blizzard, made it a trip I’ll never forget.
On our last “Sisters Vacation,” there were only five of us. There was less drama and sadness, but just as much joy and laughter. In fact, for every loss, there is a greater sense of the value of family, and the importance of time together. We went to Florida again. Each of us chose activities for the group. Each offered something special. The Titanic exhibit was outstanding. The psychic readings were fun and enlightening. Having never been to any of the Disney parks, and not feeling like I missed anything, I would never have planned a day at Disney Springs. That turned out to be one of my favorite activities of the whole trip!
The primary purpose of most every vacation, for me, is to spend time with loved ones. Relaxation is important, but secondary. Beyond being together, opening myself up to new sights and ideas, and taking part in memorable experiences: that, for me, is what makes an exceptional vacation!