After Nate (12) looked at my photos on my iPad from last year’s trip to Bora Bora, he said, (conniving a trip for himself) “I think Dad’s next book should be: A week of Bora Bora“!
Being the children of a father with severe wanderlust, they have been blessed to have been to the Bahamas, Hawaii, Ireland, England, Spain, France, Greece, Croatia and now Norway and of course Italy…for a month, before subsequent return trips. A few years ago, I asked them, “Where is your favorite place you have been?”
They unanimously said, “Yogi Bear Campground!” (Silver Lake, Michigan).
“What are you looking forward to when we get home?” I asked the kids last night as we get ready to transition back to North Carolina tomorrow.
“Delilah!” (the dog) Christine immediately responded.
“Clean clothes!” Casey joked, but I saw the truth in that! We left our washer at the Tuscan villa over a week ago, while we jaunted to Norway, then to Capri and back to Rome.
“Soccer!” was Nate’s standard answer.
“I’m not ready to go back,” 7-yr-old J.R. surprised me, since my heart is longing for home…and my washing machine.
“Really?” I continued to the positive, “What do you like about it here?”
“Our family is all together,” he said.
“We never even knew how to play Euchre at home,” Casey joined.
“We probably didn’t have time to learn it there,” Nate agreed.
As we skipped Yogi Bear, and headed to Italy this year, I reflected how different the two vacations would be, and yet they are so much the same! Here, we traipse around ancient cities, twisting our ankles on the ancient Roman stones that have a 2-inch dip between cobbles. As campers, we would twist our ankles walking through wooded trails among the forests that God created in the beginning of time. In Italy, we wake to singing Cuckoos; as campers, we would wake to singing robins. As temporary Italians, we celebrate the end of the day with a gelato; as campers, we would finish the day with roasted marshmallows. Here, we enjoy the sunsets across the Mediterranean; there, we would watch the same sun from the shores of Lake Michigan. In both, we would sweat in 95-degree heat and dirty laundry.
And I bet if I had asked the children what they enjoyed about the vacation at the campground, they would have replied, “The time we had together as a family.” OK, they may not have said it that way. They would say: “Swimming with Dad in the lake” or “Sleeping cozily in one camper!” or “Playing cards by the lantern light!” Just as in Italy, it would have been: “Eating together outside!”, “Singing spontaneously in the car!” or “Having a Euchre tournament!” I think the results are the same. We enjoy the family time.
My heart pleads with Father Time, “Slow down!” as I see the empty nest around the corner, and I want more time with my family. I see families torn apart by illness, divorce and “early” death, and I think the call for family time is more urgent and important than ever.
Last week, in Norway, Chris spoke from stage about his book, A Month of Italy: Rediscovering the Art of Vacation. As he encouraged people to take time “off,” he listed reasons that people give for not going on family vacation. There were the normals: time, money, etc., but one really got my attention: the fear of intimacy. The person next to me leaned over and said, “Yeah, that is tearing apart marriages.”
It’s sad, but people ARE afraid to be alone with their spouse…and/or family. I’d have to look in his eyes again? We’d have to have a conversation about something other than work, the house, or finances? How would we be as a family without tons of other families to distract our children from each other?
I had my own fears that my kids’ fighting would tear apart our vacation. And it tried. Family vacations always expose family relations. About 7 days into this trip, we cracked down on selfishness. Anyone who said, “I call that seat!” (or bed, or last cookie, or whatever thing which always led to bickering) had a consequence of an earlier bed time. I was mad at my own selfishness, because I too had had a funny thought: “The best part of being an adult is that I always get to ride shotgun!” (hee!) Selfishness runs deep, and I tried to suppress my own. With the sin curbed, siblings trusted siblings and peace (almost) came to our villa.
As this vacation comes to a close, the very thing they are going to miss isn’t the history lessons from Dad (which were phenomenal!) or the amazing Italian cuisine (which I LOVE!). If we had gone to the campground, it wouldn’t have been the fishing, hiking, or swimming they talked about. Rather, when we are back into our busy lives, what they will miss most is what many families are missing altogether: intimacy.
I thank God for family vacation. May He bless you with family intimacy at home and away. As my husband says, I hope you can “get away, so you can get a way” to have more family intimacy. I guess it’s not where but who that matters most.
with love from Italy,