Few adults would argue the benefits of taking vacations, but whether you’re taking a break from a hectic job or running off with your family, the preparations can be grueling.
Beforehand, it’s a race against the clock to check-off pre-trip duties in time: confirming reservations, paying bills, returning emails, canceling newspapers, filling prescriptions, washing and folding clothes, arranging pet care, straightening the house, making packing lists and fitting necessities into suitcases.
We find solace, in those harried days or hours before departure, knowing that a true break lies ahead.
Returning home is a different story. We’re exhausted from travel, the teens are bristling from too much “family time,” our suitcases brim with dirty clothes, a mountain of mail awaits and, most likely, a strong smell of past-date food fills the fridge.
We are overwhelmed, and feel our bodies start to tense up again.
Late last night, when we returned from the airport after 10 days away, I was determined to slow-down the re-entry process, and to try to maintain the vacation calm.
The teenage boys rushed out, and I lifted their curfews for the night. I didn’t even wait up for them.
Friends of my kids had left a welcome-home cake on our front porch. Despite the late hour, I allowed my daughter to dig in.
My email inbox stretched on for pages, and I decided to attack it later. (Of course, modern technology allowed me to deal with any critical messages while out of town.)
I knew the bread was growing mold, the yogurts were past-date and the milk had soured, and vowed to deal with it later.
My husband, daughter and I emptied our suitcases, and I decided to let the piles of laundry sit.
I didn’t open the Sunday newspapers, turn on the TV or play the answering-machine messages.
Instead, I took a tip from Scarlett O’Hara, and said to myself, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” I washed up, climbed into bed, and allowed myself time to reflect on the trip:
For most of 10 days, my teenage boys got along, and even smiled occasionally. (I have photo documentation!)
We sampled new foods, went to museums and experienced cultures different from ours.
We walked, together, in the bright sunshine, absorbing sights and much-needed vitamin D.
The kids gave their thumbs a rest from constant texting. They read books and talked to each other…and even to their parents.
My husband “un-plugged” from work, and didn’t once mention issues with clients.
For more than a week, I didn’t get behind the wheel, didn’t rush a child to a lesson or practice, didn’t scurry to the grocery store for milk, cereal or bread.
While on vacation, I didn’t remind anyone to put dishes in the dishwasher, pick up dirty towels, turn down music or turn off lights.
I went to sleep every night knowing where my children were, who they were with and what they were doing.
This morning, I still sense the quiet and calm. The kids will sleep in. My husband will soon rise and head back to the airport, but hopefully with lower blood pressure than usual.
The cat is purring on my daughter’s bed, relishing in her warm body and rhythmic breathing. The dogs are resting at the Tails-a-Waggin’ pet hotel, where I will fetch them later today.
For now, I will spend time on Facebook, enjoying photos of friends’ July 4 adventures. I will load my own photos into the computer, and look at them over and over. I will make another cup of decaf, and sip it slowly.
I give myself permission to slow down the re-entry process, and make my vacation last just a little longer. And, maybe, I can take some of the lessons learned, and apply them to “real life” here.
– Linda Williams Rorem, 8 July 2013