I’m currently on vacation with my extended family: my parents, aunt, brother, our significant others, and my children. We’re missing my cousin (who is like my sister) because she is stretched thin with work and her wedding next year. The last time I went on vacation with my entire family, I was fifteen; I’m thirty-four now.
When I was growing up, my parents took us on vacation every summer. Often we’d drive somewhere. Sometimes it would be east, taking Interstate 10 to the Grand Canyon or Four Corners; or we’d follow the winding coastline north all the way to Canada. They were very different than the car trips my kids will take. We all had to agree on the music that would be our road trip soundtrack, and the games we played in the car to pass the time were held together with catches and magnets.
The best vacations, though, started with a plane ride over the ocean. The sticky, fragrant Hawaii air hit you the second you stepped off the plane, as if the island was giving you a welcome hug. The days that followed were lazy perfection: wake up early, go to the beach, nap, eat, repeat. I never wanted them to end, and I often cried when they did.
My parents planned carefully and worked hard all year long to take us on the trips they’d always dreamed of. As a kid, it all seemed so simple: you go to work or school, and then you go on vacation. I never realized how much sacrifice went into it until I was an adult. I also never understood how much work vacations are until I had kids of my own. For a kid, a vacation is just that. For a parent, a vacation is a string of days trying to entertain your kids outside their comfort zone. It’s work – but it’s worth it.
This vacation with my family has been amazing. I keep fighting the urge to hug my parents repeatedly, to thank them for every vacation they took us on when we were kids. I hope that I was appreciative when I was a child, that I remembered to thank them then, but I’m sure I didn’t. I know they weren’t taking us on vacations for the thank yous, but for the experience, for the memories – and they are some of my best. I am happy that we’ve all taken this trip together and created new memories, and I hope my daughter will someday look back on this vacation with the same fondness I have for mine, no thank yous required.