I love countless things about summer: the sweet juiciness of a ripe peach, the freedom from all the gear necessary to survive Chicago’s other seasons, the hot sun on my car’s black interior. What could be better?
Yet every summer I struggle with the pressure to be the poster girl for summer fun.
When it’s sunny and warm, I tell myself we should be outside taking advantage of the weather and our city’s non-stop summer events. Every speck of free time should be jammed with swimming, biking and outdoor adventures like the rest of the northern hemisphere (or at least my summer loving Facebook friends).
That much of the time I’d rather be home writing, reading and futzing – my favorite season-less activities – never factors into my idealized image of summer fun.
This summer started off the same. I had many wonderful plans for others – teach our youngest to read, write and ride a bike, help our oldest improve her division, backstroke and jump shot, make hubs more romantic clean out the basement. In July, we’d enjoy nightly family bike rides, weekly movies in the park, and every museum/beach/swimming pool in a 30-mile radius.
My summer plans for me? Coordinate all this spontaneous joy, of course!
Contrary to popular opinion, memories don’t just happen. They require military-quality planning! And for years I’ve been just the drill sergeant person for this social director job. If I made my loved ones miserable in the process, so be it. We would enjoy every last drop of summer, like it or not.
We have memories to make, people, and summer is running out. Where’s the damn picnic basket?
But, did you see us around town enjoying all these glorious summer activities? No, no you didn’t. As my mom used to say, “my eyes are bigger than my stomach.” Back then, she was referring to my food, but this expression applies to my approach to summer. My ideas and expectations of myself outweigh my ability to digest. I overload my plate with shoulds, and then feel guilty if I don’t devour each.
As the end of summer nears, instead of panicking and attempting to pry every drop of fun out of summer’s stingy little hands, I’m ready to let go of the pressure. Enough with the guilt and shoulds and pushing. Enough.
I don’t know how this miraculous transformation came about, but I suspect divine intervention a la Touched by an Angel. As far as I know, Roma Downey did not tap me on the shoulder in a gauzy haze of godly love. But somehow I’ve let go of my summer whip and am ready to relax and enjoy connecting with my family without an agenda. We’ve been playing card games, watching movies and walking around the neighborhood eating Italian ice. And I’ve never been happier.
I’d still like to make a trip to the zoo and another museum before my kids start school in two weeks, but there’s always next summer. Or this winter. If we’re not too busy snowshoeing, ice fishing and tobogganing.
I’ve got the glow. The family-vacation-went-better-than-expected glow.
Like childbirth narratives, vacation memories are subject to reinvention. Instead of recalling the intermittent pain of persuading four genetically related, stubborn humans to agree on everything from meals to water play, I only remember the laughter and bonding – togetherness times ten.
Our family memories will last a lifetime.
My vacation-induced glow, however, will last only until we step through our front door. That’s when the real fun starts.
If you’re like me, the overwhelming affection you feel toward your loved ones and the relaxed vacation joie de vivre last just long enough to survive the trip home.
Once real life intervenes, the vacation glow peels off like a wet tankini, leaving piles of laundry, kids with no bedtimes, and sunscreen-induced acne behind.
I’m a great vacation mom – my yeses outweigh my nos ten to one. Want to eat gummy bears for breakfast? Again? Sure. Just be sure to wash them down with fruit punch. You best stay hydrated. Not shower for a week? Who cares! Lake water is clean enough. Jump head first off a floating trampoline? Why not? You’ll learn to swim on the way up.
Once home, I’ll have to slay the monsters I created. Or send them to your house.
“How can we keep this vacation going and enjoy these last few weeks before school starts?” my husband said.
“We can ditch the kids and jet off to Bermuda for the rest of the month,” I said. “Right now I’m feeling relaxed and loving and up for anything. The second we get home, I promise to be a raving bitch.”
And so it will be. God help us all.
How do you keep that vacation state of mind going once you return home? Is the transition home after a vacation hard for you – or is it just me?
This is a post about nothing. It started off as a post about running. I ran five miles yesterday around the lake where we’re vacationing in Michigan. I wrote about my thoughts per mile (TPM):
Mile One: Look at me out running! I’m so proud of myself. I feel good. I look good. My new running shorts aren’t binding or rubbing me raw. Even my bra is comfortable. I’m a rockstar. Hi all you Michigan people! I could run all day.
Mile Two: When do those f-ing endorphins kick in? Who put all these hills in here? What happened to the flat plains of the Midwest? Whose stupid idea was this anyway?
Mile Two Point Five: Hello, endorphins! Welcome! I feel strong and powerful! I will run around this lake every day of our vacation. And walk every night. I can already feel my ass jiggling less.
Mile Three: That’s it? That’s all the endorphins I get? Please kill me now.
Mile Three Point Seven: If I make it around this god-forsaken lake without getting hit by a car a la Stephen King, I will never again complain about my jiggly bits.
Fascinating, no? Other than two angry pit bulls chasing me for a half mile resulting in my fastest pace since high school (mile four) and finding the perfect place to hide a dead body should I ever need one (mile five), nothing much happened.
Instead of sticking this post in my draft file folder with the thirty-seven other pieces I don’t think are good enough to post, I’m giving nothing a try.
Where do I go from here? Nowhere. See how this works? I think I’m pretty good at this!
I could write about our vacation so far, but all I’ve done is run once and prepared endless amounts of food for apparently starving children. How often do kids need to eat these days? Since when can no one open her own cheese stick or yogurt container? Must be all this clean Michigan air.
371 words so far about nothing. That wasn’t so hard. Jerry Seinfeld ain’t got nothing on me.
I’ll shoot for 500 words. How hard can it be? I just need another anecdote. Where’s a good boating accident or random alligator attack when you need one?
Even the ducks that my kids can’t stop feeding are quiet. In exchange for our meal plan, the least they can do is provide some blog fodder. House rule.
I’m going for another run. I hope the pit bulls are out. Or maybe a rabid goose. If not, I’ll start making up shit. I bet I’ll be good at that.