When you don’t get away for a while, you forget what a good vacation can do for you, for your family, for your marriage.
What has seemed like an impossible luxury since linking up with a mortgage, becoming parents of two and riding shifting career tides, at this moment, I go on record as declaring an official necessity. Travel and family vacations, be them close by and simple or faraway and more intricate, shall heretofore be enjoyed with regularity. All supporting rationale for our new family order can be found in this moment.
This moment, you come up over a hill and see a baby deer nibbling at a bush, or a roadside crawling with wild succulents, or a grove of redwood trees so tall and so magically like and unlike the skyscrapers to which you’re accustomed that you all whisper, “wow.”
This moment, you drop your jaws in succession because all you hear is the steady, mist-muffled roar of parallel sets of waves crashing into the shoreline below the cliff on which you stand. No words. Just open mouths and amazed glances.
This moment, you turn 360 degrees to find you’re the only ones within sight so, for miles around, it’s just you, your family, the decomposed granite beneath your feet, a bovine paradise of green hills and clear ponds spreading in three cardinal directions, the bright sky above, the cliffs dropping into the Pacific, deep blue for days and an unmolested deer family grazing just up the hill. This moment is no longer optional.
This moment, your oldest son shovels pasta hungrily into his mouth with his head resting on his other hand because he’s so tired from running literally everywhere he goes and then crawls into your husband’s lap to lean into his broad chest for the rest of lunch while you cradle your sleeping three-year-old and drink wine–a delicious glass of deep red wine–and eat pizza covered in burrata, mustard greens and bacon. And then you drink a cappuccino without even wondering if it might keep you up tonight.
This moment, your three-year-old stands up, brushes off his hands, vows aloud to protect the family snack from one bold seagull and takes off running like a soldier into battle, seagulls erupting all around him. This moment when you’re all laughing—and laughing together—it no longer feels like the indulgent luxury it seemed when you were worrying about how expensive flights were, how much a dog sitter would cost, how he could take that many vacation days and whether your extended family would be a little sad you didn’t come visit them instead. This vacation suddenly falls into the category known as essential.
These moments, as I know after today, are family fuel. They make you roll down the windows on the highway and put your hands out the window, yelling, “WOOO HOOOO!” a car full of gaping smiles reflected in the rearview mirror because Mommy never ever does that. They make you pull over just to stare at a still-as-glass pond reflecting the landscape because, if you had a schedule, it no longer matters; this is too beautiful.
They make you do cartwheels in the sand, leap over rocks and chase each other around like puppies. They make you close your eyes to smell the pine-and-eucalyptus perfume wafting in from the trees along the snaking two-lane road. These moments make you and your husband latch the entrance to your hotel suite, turn the cartoons up loud in the sitting area, sneak away to your bedroom and lock the door.
This vacation, this bit of traveling, it’s never seemed like less of a luxury and more of a necessity. Where I sit today (listening to the surround-sound cadence of three sleeping Quinn men), I have uncovered the fact that travel must be a family value for us, a non-negotiable investment in our us-ness.
I vow not to let as much time pass between now and our next adventure—be it exotic, local, foreign or familiar. I’d forgotten how much traveling expands us, thrusts us out of our habits, and gets us away from laundry and dishes and all the other things at home that distract us from simply being together.
I will admit it wasn’t all perfect. After all, we’re a family doing family things with two boys under age five, so a “family vacation” doesn’t remotely resemble the fancy free, adventure-laced, grown-up getaways of yore.
Meltdowns, whining, brothers picking at each other in the back seat, walking the paved trail instead of the backcountry one, looking at the ocean instead of getting in it, irritation with one another, moments of frustration, it all showed up to our party. However, the challenges faded in the wash. Being together, being awed together, laughing together, talking together, playing together…this is some of the loveliest stuff there ever was.