As has become my habit on Thursday, I’ve chosen a random question from Gregory Stock’s The Book of Questions to ponder today.
Would you rather spend a month on vacation with your parents or put in overtime at your current job for four weeks without extra compensation?
Although I wouldn’t actually mind four weeks of unpaid overtime at any of my four current part-time jobs, this one is a no-brainer. I’d pick the month-long vacation with my parents in a heartbeat. The last family vacation we shared was the summer before I started college–gulp–twenty-three years ago. I had no idea back then that I’d never again enjoy a getaway with Mom and Dad. Sure, I’ve spent time with them since then…I went to their house on weekends, they came to have dinner with me, we spent holidays together. But never again did we all drop everything to go off somewhere and explore a new place in each others’ company.
When I was growing up, we had some wonderful family vacations. Like almost every other American family, we made a pilgrimage to Orlando to meet Mickey and Donald. In a car with a broken air conditioner, we drove across scorching highways of the midwest to reach the majestic (and blissfully cool) Yellowstone National Park, swinging through Colorado on the way to scale Pike’s Peak and catch a rodeo. We spent a week on the Gulf coast of Texas, where I found my first sand dollar and saw my first waterspout. Some years we’d simply make our way from wherever Dad’s job had us living back to Virginia where grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were based. The week or two we’d spend with extended family was punctuated by outings to Colonial Williamsburg, D.C. museums, and area amusement parks.
Once I moved completely out of my parents’ house after college, I’m not sure they or I ever contemplated the idea of going somewhere together to escape the obligations of day-to-day life and become reacquainted with each other. Then one shocking day in April 2006, my dad died suddenly and any possibility of vacationing with both my parents as an adult died with him. Now that I am married to a man who has both a love of travel and an overseas job that lets us explore lots of new places in our free time, I find myself frequently longing for a chance to share some of these experiences with my parents. I’d love to hear what they think of the people and customs and sights I’ve been lucky enough to see. Even if we didn’t travel to a foreign or exotic location for vacation, I’d love to just have time, away from all the responsibilities that get in the way when you are together at home, to talk to them about their past, my past, our past. To see them relax, to hear them laugh. To thank them for all the vacations of my childhood, and to plot future family get-togethers. I wouldn’t view a month-long vacation with my parents as a choice between the lesser of two evils, as implied in this question. It would be a gift more precious than gold.