Around the 48th hour on a family vacation, I begin to think about getting back home. Not because I don’t like to spend time with my family. I spend the majority of my free time knee deep in doll clothing and hiding in closets playing hide and go seek with them. I just have a hard time breaking my mind loose from the chains of life. Eventually I wander back to home, work, and did I remember to flush the toilet before we left. Even though I enjoy getting away, by the time we’re ready to come home, I have my eyes and mind firmly fixed forward. I rarely, if ever, look back.
Last week, we spent a few days in Port St Lucie, Florida with my in-laws (yes, I’m one of the 1% who enjoys spending time with my in-laws). It was a chance for my girls to see their grandparents, for my wife and I to recharge from a whirlwind of a 2011, and to experience some things we may not get to do again anytime soon. Despite all of that, I completely anticipated halfway through our vacation, to be focusing forward. What I didn’t know at the time was, this vacation would be different.
First of all, we left for the Philadelphia airport on time. While this may not seem like any huge accomplishment, setting a departure time and leaving when that time comes is like hooking a coelacanth, rare. In fact, there have been times when I told the members of my family a time a half an hour earlier than the actual time I wanted to leave (and we still didn’t leave on time). I was fully expecting to leave later than I had wanted to but the gods shined down on us and we left on time (translation: My wife got ready quicker than any of us thought she would).
Now traveling with my wife can be like traveling with Alec Baldwin without his iPhone. She doesn’t do well with surprises, long lines at the Starbucks, or unforeseen delays. So when Kenneth Mazik decided to put a load on and drive his SUV on the runway to the Philadelphia Airport, effectively shutting down everything (including our departure time), my wife’s inner-Alec was pushed to the surface. We went from relaxing before our flight to wondering if we were going to be able to make our connecting flight. Even while we were in the air and I was agreeing with the other passengers about the blonde in 22E who kept on complaining, there was no guarantee we would be able to make it to Orlando in one day. But again the gods shined down on us and our connecting flight in Cleveland waited for my family and I and the 17 other passengers trying to get to Orlando too. The doors closed behind us as we shuffled on to the plane.
We would finally land in Florida and make our way to Port St Lucie. We swam before 9am, we took walks, we shopped, and we ate too much, and drank a little too much. I watched my kids’ utter joy at being with their Grandmom and Grandpop. I ran in to a childhood friend I hadn’t seen since we graduated from college 15 years ago while in Clearwater at a Phillies Spring Training game. Apparently Tommy and his family were with his in-laws too.
My kids and wife saw the dolphin from the movie ‘A Dolphin Tale’. I got a chance to sit down with Scott Schrier who you may know as DiaperDads on his blog and twitter and who has been my online pen pal for a while now. When the kids were at ‘movie night’ with their grandmother, I talked my wife in to getting another small carry-on suitcase to go home with and thereby making it easier on all of us (this was a breakthrough on par like Sybil being cured of 7 of her 13 personalities).
We met my father-in-law’s first cousin. A cousin he didn’t even know he had until she walked up to his door a few weeks prior.
This is how our vacation went. Chance encounters, meeting up with friends, seeing aquatic mammalian movie stars, soaking up not only the sun but also valuable time with my family. The days passed too quickly and before any of us knew it or wanted to admit it, we had to leave.
I have enjoyed every vacation I have ever been on. I love being with my family. I love being able to watch my kids’ excitement at the crash of waves at the beach, or going to the pool at 9am and eating ice cream for lunch. I love all of it and yet, not since I was a kid, have I been able to avoid looking firmly forward when it comes time to go home except for this year. This year was different. Maybe it was all the things we did or who we met or saw? Maybe I had a breakthrough (like my wife admitting her problem with packing)? I’m not sure what it was but this year, on our way back to the airport and on our way home, it was the first time in a long time I found myself firmly looking back.