The return from family vacation

Six months ago I wrote “family vacation” on the calendar in black ink. I knew that this was the only way it would happen. To reinforce the edict, I paid the money for the hotel in advance. Thus my past self forced my current self to take three days out of a busy week and trek to the wilderness for family time. When I scheduled the vacation it was all by itself in the middle of an empty month. It was my intention to keep that month empty. But deadlines slid around, new activities and projects shoehorned their way into our lives. And the calendar around the vacation filled to overflowing. But the vacation was written in ink. It was our stake in the ground that some times business things had to bend around family things. Howard and I both knew that we were not allowed to move it.

Last week I fretted at Howard. I worried that we would go on the vacation, but that he would spend the whole time stressed and cranky. I worried that because of the vacation we would get even further behind on work, but that the existence of the work would prevent us from enjoying the vacation. I worried that we would come out of the three days having accomplished none of the things I hoped for.

The worries were not groundless. It took lots of conscious effort from all six of us. In the end, Howard had an easier time letting go of stress than I did. I left it all behind just fine for the travel, but when I checked my email that night it lay in wait for me. It was a fretful night for me. But the next day there were other things to do. We were all so far outside our habit patterns that it forced us to interact in new ways. I played games with the kids. We all went swimming. Howard got out his minis and paints. We all watched for wildlife and scenery. We figured out how to get six people to fall asleep in the same room without driving each other crazy. All the business and home things drifted far away and none of us thought of them.

On the last night, just as we were falling asleep, Howard said “This was good. I’m glad we came.” I held my breath for a moment, waiting for the qualifier that never came. He was just glad for the trip. I smiled in the dark.

On way home we drove through Provo Canyon. The scenery in Provo Canyon is every bit as astounding as the scenery we drove five hours to go see and it has the advantage of being a mere 20 minutes from our house. It is true that the canyon lacks herds of elk and buffalo, but you can see deer and big horn sheep if you know where to look. Howard and I looked at the canyon walls impressively high above us, and felt no regret. The trip was never about going to see things, it was about getting away from our regular things and spending time together. This we did. It was an unqualifiedly marvelous vacation.