We are having a fantastic vacation. As with any extended trip, some things have gone awry but many things have gone amazingly well, with much good fortune and some timely lucky breaks. It is our longest family trip ever, filled with lots of priceless memories and lots and lots of time together. All together. Together in one hotel room and one intermediate size car.
Did I mention lots of togetherness?
Vacations have a way of inviting expectations; they sneak into the suitcase as we pack, unawares. It is true, on this trip in particular, where Don and I are taking the boys back for the first time to where we used to live, and finally enjoying the opportunity to take them to all of our old favorite places. We have looked forward to this trip for years, with dreams of how it will be with our sons at our side, gamely hiking countless miles of beautiful trails and scenic vistas. (Does anyone see a red flag?) Yes, of course, it was inevitable that these very destinations, golden California memories for us, are viewed by two young boys in a very different light.
So, I have been given the privilege of viewing the family vacation through a boy’s eyes… and here is how it looks:
Every mountaintop vista or Yosemite cliff or San Francisco hilltop scenic view is evaluated based on projected flight speed, lift and anticipated trajectory of a paper airplane (which we would not let them throw, much to their consternation). Every rushing mountain stream or coastal tidepool wave is benchmarked by how far and fast the S.S. Styrofoam would travel… but, alas, we did not let them pack their homemade “ship” on this trip either. So basically, Don and I are just big spoil-sports who take them to cool places but then won’t let them test the laws of physics. Damn the need to not litter and to preserve our national parks!
And the cars — oh, the cars! As we drive Highway 1 along the coast, or up and down forested mountain roads and past national landmarks, they keep a running commentary on every car we pass, what liter engine and how much torque it has, and was it an XT or an EX? Many hours of entertainment (and heated debate) on the specifics of a car that is now a quarter mile behind us, yet still oh so very fascinating.
About 25 times, Don popped a vein in his temple and “told” them to stop talking about cars and look at the scenery. But being a boy at heart himself, about 10 seconds later he would see a really cool car and he could not help himself, he would comment on the year, make and model and start up the whole automotive conversation all over again. I started a “Car Jar”, which is like a “Swear Jar” wherein whoever commits the infraction of discussing another auto would have to put in a quarter. The proceeds could then potentially be used to buy me some Xanax. The Car Jar lasted about 45 minutes, because the boys did not have any money and Don ended up with the most infractions and all of everyone’s quarters had to be used for SF parking meters anyway. Sigh. I just lapsed into a coma for a short time to calm down. Could everyone please just look at the trees and the flowers?
On a more positive note, we have walked many, many miles of incredible scenery, and eventually this exhausted the small ones so thoroughly that they could no longer focus their vision on cars. Plus, since we stayed on the valley floor of Yosemite, we parked our car and almost everyone else parked their car which meant the boys could only debate the fuel source of the shuttle buses and tour buses (hybrid or biodiesel?)
We have also played countless games of Pooh-Sticks, which has nothing to do with any body function, but lots to do with Winnie the Pooh floating sticks down a stream and watching where they go. Good clean fun, and there must be some physics in there somewhere. We hiked and rode bikes and played on beaches and by waterfalls and streams.
It is all good, these experiences together that I believe we will always remember. I’ll remember everything I ate, because I always do; my memory is based more on taste and smell than vision. Don is often amazed that I can recall in detail a meal from 10 years ago, yet accidentally rent the same film three times. Hey, I can’t help it that I can’t taste Appollo 13.
Mostly I hope I will also always remember how my boys viewed the world at this age. How we all can look at the same view and see something completely different, and how their view is no less right than mine. Just different. Just boy.