Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Vacation Is Over, But the Mindset Lingers

Here it is. The end of vacation. We went to Boston for a week and a half to visit Justin's family. It is our big trip every year, and it always goes by too fast.

Now, our bags are back in the attic. Empty. A stack of photos rests on my dresser, waiting to be filed away neatly in an album. By elves, hopefully.

The pictures show a trip to a rocky beach, where Johnny found a crab. He kept it for a pet in a plastic cup with a little ocean water. I tried to convince him to put it back in the ocean, knowing that animals, unlike people, do not like leaving home. But he said he was rescuing "Crabby" from a life of...well, being eaten by larger animals.

I felt terrible on the way home as the crab's legs slipped while he tried to crawl out of the plastic cup. What kind of world do we live in? I wondered. A crab can't survive in the ocean...or a papercup. Then we stopped for lunch and I ate more than 20 fried clam bellies. Which eased the emotional pain considerably.

The next time Johnny and Richie caught a bucket full of crabs, we released them at the end of the day. Then, on the drive home, Johnny informed me that I didn't put them far enough up on the rocks and they were probably washed out to sea and being eaten by stingrays at that very moment.

"I miss them," he said, staring forlornly out the window.

"Well, what would you do if you were dropped off a block away from home?" I asked.

"I'd walk home," he said.

"Well, that's what the crabs will do," I said. "And if they get too far out, they can swim back."

But the rest of the way home I tried to remember if crabs could swim or not. The lobster Nana made for dinner stopped that obsessive worry in its tracks, though.

Also in the photos: The boys meeting their cousin Brendan for the first time--feeling an instant connection.

Jellyfish that were swimming in Boston harbor--something none of us had seen in person.

The photos don't show Richie giving Papa a third, fourth, fifth and sixth hug on the last night of the trip for all the nights to come when we would be back in Kansas City.

They don't show the warm ocean water in Rhode Island--when the boys swam with Uncle Jamie and Aunt Sondra and their dad while J.J. and I built a "castle" that looked straight out of the caveman era. (We don't get much practice around here).

They don't show the evening at Uncle Rick's and Aunt JoAnn's, when the boys seemingly drank three triple espressos before we got there. Or the 4th of July party under a white tent, where friends and neighbors and family gather to eat clam chowder and talk as if they just saw each other yesterday.

Or Johnny asking on the last day of vacation why we can't live for Boston for one year. Then Kansas City, and so on.

I explained to him that it was because we weren't the Vanderbilts (whose second homes in Rhode Island look like museums--which they now are.) See http://www.newportmansions.org/.

The suitcases are empty. But we are full of memories.

When Richie was a newborn and Johnny was two, we visited Justin's friend on an island that had no electricity. Johnny played with little boats in the sand for, like, three hours. Then Justin held his hands so he could jump over waves. He was laughing so hard and Justin said, "I wish he was old enough to remember this."

But I think those are the kind of things we remember in our hearts.

That's why people who take vacation are reportedly healthier. It can't be just that one week. It's the enduring reminder to enjoy life. To go outside. To eat good food. To listen to music. To spend time with family.

Slowly, I'm returning phone calls. And the sound of the alarm clock is becoming recognizable. I.e., I no longer dream that a ship is blasting its horn when the bell rings.

Then a crewmember yells, "Go back to sleep." I love that dream.

What remains are the new perspectives:

As a kid, I read a lot during the summer. Any situation the character was in--good or bad, I would picture her sweating profusely. Such was the weather in Kansas City.

So I would imagine Nancy Drew solving a mystery and think: that's great. But isn't it a little hot to be wearing jeans and a sweater?

Or I'd think about Margaret and her letters. Dear God: It's me, Margaret. Can you help me? It's hotter than hell around here. Even the swimming pool is hot, at this point. The garden hose is practically spitting fire...

And I always felt bad for the puritans, with their strict religion and, even more so, their pilgrim costumes--which had to have been stifling.

Now, come to find out, the weather isn't bad everywhere. By the sea, there's a nice breeze. Even on hot days, it cools off at night. And: there are beaches. Legend has it that the sand used to be crawling with lobsters. But the people wouldn't eat them because they were so plentiful that they called to mind rats. (I guess those snooty settlers didn't eat rats, either.)

So maybe the people in the books--and even the pilgrims--didn't have it so bad after all. Until winter, that is. And the witch accusations.

New perspectives, new resolutions.

On January 1, you resolve to work yourself to death, basically. You write up something along the lines of:

1. I will wake up at 4 a.m. to train for a marathon.

2. I will stay up late reading for my book club (and not just go there to drink wine and talk about work/kids/husband.)

3. I will take on a second job in order to pay off my credit card.

4. And I'll do all this on an empty stomach, as I am also going on a diet.

But in the summer, we make a resolution to just have fun--full-time for a week, part-time for the rest of the summer, and hopefully a little bit all year.

On vacation, anything is possible. You might wake up and decide to go to the beach. Or head out for ice cream late at night.

For Richie, this really is a full-time attitude. Anything is possible.

When I flip through magazines, I often point out homes and say, "That's my house." or in Boston, "That's my beach house."

This drives Johnny crazy. But Richie will say, "Which one's my room?"

I can even show him the owners and their children, photographed in matching white linen outfits and he'll say, "Which one am I?"

On vacation, I showed Richie a picture of Justin when he was about Richie's age. Justin was wearing a white leisure suit with the jacket jauntily thrown over his shoulder. (This was a studio picture.) He was smiling and looked a lot like Richie.

Richie smiled at the photo for a while.

Then he said, "When daddy was a little boy, did I play with him?"

"Yes," I said.

"Did me and Johnny go over to his house?"

"Yes," I said.

I could just see him remembering those playdates as if they happened yesterday. Yesterday for him. 30 years ago for his dad.


Anonymous Jeanne said...

Suddenly it seems like a ghost town at my house. It is too quiet. Papa folded up the new water slide and put it away until next year without complaining about the dead grass underneath. I keep finding little toys that were missed, a few shells around that are quite smelly now, sticky floors, and little fingerprints on the glass door. I miss you guys already!!!

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Pat said...

And I'm so glad to have you home!!! I was so worried that you'd love it so much, you wouldn't come back. We just can't match the fun Jeanne and John can show you back there. I'm thinking, I even want to live there and eat lobster evey day at the beach! Oh well, we can dream!! Thanks for coming home and for the vacation report! I loved every word - and the mansions!

10:35 AM  

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