Our Vacation Destination
I don’t remember who snapped at whom first.
Maybe it was me.
It had been a long day at work, my kids had been impossible during the dinner-homework-bedtime rush, and I still had some grading to do before going to bed.
Or maybe it was him.
The baby had kept both of us up overnight, he had davened Shacharis before I even opened my eyes, and his day at work had been long and stressful too.
When we finally sat down at the dinner table, neither of us was in a particularly charming mood. So one of us said the wrong thing, or one of us heard it the wrong way, and the next thing we knew, we were giving each other the cold shoulder. I wouldn’t say we were in a fight because we weren’t really arguing about anything, but there was obvious tension building between us. I felt misunderstood, he felt frustrated; there was nothing to apologize for but there was something we needed to be make right.
Right before we went to sleep, I said the words I’ve said a million times. Not “I’m sorry” (those words aren’t easy for me) and not “we need to talk” (those words aren’t easy for him). Instead, I announced with a deep sigh, “I think we need a vacation.”
Those were exactly the right words to break the tension, because as soon as they left my lips, we both burst out laughing.
Vacation? Us? Ha!
It’s not that we don’t need one. Who doesn’t, in what has been a strange and challenging year? But we dream about vacation the way other people dream about winning the lottery: it would be sooo nice to take a break for a few days (especially somewhere warm!), but what is the likelihood of that happening for us?
The odds of winning the Powerball are 1 in 292,201,338. That sounds a lot like our vacation odds too.
It’s not about the money (we can use points like everyone else). It’s the logistics. We’d love to book a flight and sail off into the horizon, but how can we do that without someone holding down our crazy (but loveable) fort at home?
It’s completely impractical for us to find babysitting for Naftali (he is too big and too old for a female babysitter, but we can’t leave our almost bas mitzvah daughter with a male babysitter either). Our extended family is great, but they have a lot on their plates too. How can we ask them to juggle Naftali’s needs while also waking up in the middle of the night for our eighteen-month-old (who is convinced he is still a newborn)?
So leaving for a few days just doesn’t work. And even if we could manage to make arrangements for a quick getaway – just a night or two – I don’t think either of us could really enjoy it because we’d be too worried about how everything was going back at home.
I know that from experience; from the one vacation we attempted that didn’t quite work out.
Years ago, when we still lived in Miami, my sisters, who were both single at the time, came for a visit, and surprised us by booking us a hotel room for the night and insisting we get away. Back then, Naftali was a very poor sleeper, and they wanted to gift us with a good night’s sleep, which we hadn’t had in years. (I know! They’re the best!).
It felt like a dream. Before my husband could say it was a bad idea, I had my bags packed and at the door. We left late – after the kids were fed and fast asleep – but it still felt like a miracle. The hotel room was beautiful, with a magnificent view of the beach, and when I fell asleep that night, it was the first time in more than a decade that I didn’t anticipate a mid-night wakeup.
But when I opened my eyes at 6 A.M. (some old habits are hard to break), I noticed that my husband (and his stuff) was already gone.
Panicked, I quickly dialed his cellphone. When he answered, I attacked him with a barrage of questions. “Are you okay? Where on earth did you go? How am I getting home from here?” (Come to think of it, I shouldn’t have been so frantic; would it have been so terrible to be stranded at the beach?)
I could hear the rush of the highway outside his car window as he sighed apologetically. “I didn’t mean to scare you, but I was worried that your sisters would have a hard time getting Naftali on the school bus at 6:45 A.M. I was up anyways, so I drove home to help get him ready.”
I closed my eyes and laughed out loud at the absurdity.
Of course he did.
There went his “vacation.” And pretty much the possibility of every vacation since.
So if you’re like us, in need of a deep breath, of a change of pace, of a chance to clear your heads so you’re not constantly nagging at the kids or at each other, know that you’re not the only one who can’t zip off into the sunset, even if it feels like exactly the thing you need.
But I’ve learned that while getaways may be off the table, vacation can also be a state of mind.
For now, vacation can mean nursing the dream that im yirtze Hashem, one day, life might slow down, and our circumstances might change. Because, hey, we’re getting closer. Soon, my daughter will be old enough to babysit. Soon, my little guy will realize he doesn’t have to come visit us in middle of the night. Soon Naftali might live a more independent life, and we might have flexibility we don’t have now.
Until then, it’s one day at a time. One foot in front of the other.
For now, vacation can mean skipping the laundry, ordering takeout for supper, or sipping a coffee in my closet until someone finds me. Vacation can mean giving my husband the space to be in a bad mood or to say the wrong thing without me overreacting to every perceived offense, and it can mean asking him to give me the same space.
Just one day at a time. One foot in front of the other.
Vacation can mean slowing down for just a few minutes and focusing on the beautiful views right here in our own backyard. And while we probably won’t win the vacation lottery anytime soon, it can mean noticing we’ve hit the jackpot in so many other areas of our lives. Because everything in life is a stage, a fleeting moment in time. What’s difficult today might be what we laugh about tomorrow – or what we miss the most.
I have a feeling there are a lot of us out there, living, breathing, grateful, but exhausted, taking it one day at a time, putting one foot in front of the other, dreaming but assuring ourselves we have everything we really need.