Going on a family vacation is a little like being pregnant and then giving birth. I'm never doing this again, you think in your first couple of months as you either throw up every single morning or lie in a stupor on the floor of the coat closet like I did when I worked as the pastry chef of a restaurant during my first pregnancy. I'm never doing this again, I thought during the ninth month and second week of that pregnancy as I hauled myself up eight flights of stairs in my New York City apartment. I'm never doing this again, I swore as I picked the net panties off and lowered myself down onto the toilet one day after my second c-section. I'm never doing this again, I said as I wrapped my arms around one doctor, my naked belly practically under his chin, while a second doctor attempted to put the epidural in my back. You know the rest.
I'm never doing this again, I say, as I pack the diapers, the medicine, the change of clothes, the stimulating toys, the special food, the monster stroller/wheelchair. I'm never doing this again, I say as I stand behind her on the narrow aisle, coaxing her out-turned feet down the aisle while holding my own handbag and her carry-on behind me. I'm never doing this again, I repeat as I straddle the closed toilet in the airplane bathroom with her standing between my legs and slide the messy diaper down her legs and over her feet. I'm never doing this again I say as she flings and tosses herself around the bed, all night long for the entire "vacation," never getting entirely used to the time change. I'm never doing this again.
I'm doing that again.
Every summer, we join my parents, my two sisters, their husbands, six children, my cousin and his wife and their three children for a week on the east coast at my parents' beach house. My children look forward to this week literally all year and are almost beside themselves with joy when it comes around. Because we live so far away, and because Sophie has a very difficult time traveling and adjusting to change, we literally only go once a year as a family. It's a wild and crazy week with lots of the usual dysfunctional family dynamics and a more than fair amount of laughter and good times. The memories for our children, I know, will be profound and lasting in the best way.
It is NOT relaxing, and I like to call it the "vacation" with a special ironic emphasis on the quotations.
But just as I finally got up the nerve to have another child, three years after Sophie was diagnosed with infantile spasms at three months of age, and then had a third baby less than three years after the second baby, when spring rolls around each year, I start planning the "vacation" with enthusiasm. I'd even go so far as to say that I imagine maybe Sophie will be really great this year, no seizures, sleep well, a dream on the plane... So great is my amnesia that I relish getting a good deal on flights and begin to think about perhaps spending more than one week there.
This year we're spending THREE weeks on "vacation."
As you read this, I'm probably doing some sort of gymnastic routine in the bathroom. Be hopeful for me. Next year, I plan on inviting some guests to join me.
Elizabeth admits to hating travel with her special needs daughter. She blogs regularly at a moon, worn as if it had been a shell.