It is now late May, almost Memorial Day, and I realize that I have made no plans for a summer holiday. Ever since my children were very young, I have been planning our summer vacations, spending countless hours each spring researching hotel deals, scanning city maps and reading Fodor’s reviews. I love doing it, it has become a part of who I am, a way for me to nurture both my family and myself. But in these last few weeks of this spring, before summer announces itself with picnics and fireworks, I realize that I have been spending countless hours telling myself that the time when our summer vacations as a family will end, is here. I tell myself that my daughter is now 20, my son is almost 17, and that they both have summer jobs, their own agendas and their own lives and that they are nearly grown. I tell myself that my husband and I are now 50 and that we have retirement accounts, an unpaid mortgage and colonoscopy appointments and that we are growing old. I tell myself that our family summer vacations are no longer necessary or practical or relevant and that we have, all of us together, moved on. It is a lie, but I tell it to myself anyway, in an attempt to be cautious and responsible here at age 50, and to brace myself for what I know is coming soon: the day when my children will be taking summer vacations of their own.
In the midst of all the self defeating talk, I begin to gain some clarity, and with my husband, decide to at least discuss possible plans. I bring up the idea of a trip to California, a trip we have long discussed and long put off. We take out a map and trace out a possible route, and suddenly, we are twenty-three again, full of hope and excitement, traveling together along the west coast for the very first time. We tell our 16 year old son our idea and he smiles, his eyes sparkle; he is 6 again, hearing us say that we will put paper inside the heels of his tennis shoes so that he will be tall enough to ride the roller coaster that summer when we visit Universal Studios. We tell our 20 year old daughter and she squeals with delight; she is again 8 years old, standing in line for Winnie the Pooh’s autograph during our first vacation to Disney World. I now remember why I have spent all of those hours planning. I now realize that our time away is as necessary as summer jobs and Dr’s appointments. I now realize that we are, all of us together, still here. This is a truth and I tell it to myself loudly, in an attempt to remind myself that caution and responsibility are benefits, not restrictions, of being 50, and that the day my children take vacations of their own is not yet here, it is not now. Instead, now is this day, the day I realize that we must continue to do what we love, and continue to nurture ourselves and each other, no matter what our age.