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Live Vicariously

 

 

 

 

 

The computer has it’s element of voyeurism certainly.

And it also provides an opportunity  to live vicariously through others.

 

I like to take visual forays into Pinterest and follow the leads. And a couple of days ago I found myself on someone’s blog as they described their trip to Paris.

This picture makes my mind muzzy. As I feel like I’m there looking out of the apartment I’ve rented. I love the huge black tree and the tiny lit Eiffel tower.

I have visited Paris in my dreams several times. I was happy there and ordered a cappuccino both times.

I offer up the small sweet hope and dream that one day I do get to visit that magnificent city. And eat and drink and laugh myself silly. Silly I tell you.

Vacate Home

(Originally published on Divine Caroline in September of 2009)

Ask my husband about his family’s vacations and he will deliver a chirpy recount of playing guitar at beach campfires, sleeping in a pop-up camper, and the frolicking multitude of cousins. My fractured family vacation memory is one trip to a cabin. There was yelling involved. Add the 15-mile endurance hikes complete with gorp and hard-earned sleep on the ground, a coincidental side effect of divorce and my mother’s new beau, and I don’t have much for the great outdoors or vacations.

Then I grew up, got hitched, had a kid and me and mine just returned from our annual September sojourn to the beach. Yes, it is off-season (also known as hurricane season), but I sleep in a king size bed and relax knowing the rates and crowds are halved. Crowds do not relax me, but neither does wearing a bathing suit. Sacrifices.

Back when we were only “two for dinner,” my husband and I traveled a few times. Our first trip was to England and Ireland. This trip clinched my future “I Do” to this man. If the long leg cramping plane ride, jet lag, and barreling down the side of a mountain in a Ford Fiesta on the wrong side of the road in the pouring rain doesn’t stress you out enough to even bicker, he’s the one. We each had our duties; he was the money man and I was the navigator. We still have these roles in our daily life.

Our first beach trip was a birthday celebration for me and we checked into our hotel anticipating a little vacation nookie. We agreed, “Nice pool” and “Killer water slide.” The next time we visited, I was knocked up guaranteeing our future return with a “family” perspective.

We took no vacations with our baby. He was already too much work. I couldn’t imagine spending all that money to not relax. We didn’t even eat out a lot in his third year because mostly he’d act like a jackass when we did and, once again, I didn’t want to waste the money.

We finally took the kid on an overnight when he was three and a half. It was okay. He was thrilled to press the elevator button, ride on the luggage cart, and find our room by reading the numbers. Although, when we told him it was time to go to sleep, he said he was ready to go home and sleep in his own bed. I spent that night sleepless, in and out of both beds, and the kid slept soundly.

This year’s trip proved he’s a big boy. I did not constantly feel irked or think about his every need. We ate out three times and he ate a third of his food each time. Huge deal. Not a lot of back-up food was really necessary. Other highlights included hunting down a special shovel and bucket set for the low, low price of 8.49 plus tax. This made the beach an event.

Every year we improve our experience. This year we found a restaurant with a playground, sand floor, good food and beer, and a sunset water view. And though we neglected to bring a DVD for the hotel room, Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood playing on a classic movie channel did the trick. Pirate themed putt-putt golf was a riot. Little dude’s job was to sink the final shots into the cup which he did stooped over and choked up on his little orange putter. We got some great pictures and, fortunately, I was wearing makeup!

I wanted to travel the boardwalk in one of those multi-person pedaling cycle cart things called a surrey. Much like the Flintstone mobiles, it took all your leg power to get it moving. And when a certain four-year-old had to sit on the steering wheel lap to steer and weave his way up the boardwalk through terrified pedestrians, the remaining person was pedaling. That was me. The lap person’s job was equally hard balancing the bruising of the driver’s sensibilities with the saving of lives by grabbing the wheel or slamming on the break. The heat and humidity were an added bonus.

Our last hurrah has become the arcade on the boardwalk followed by fries, lemonade, and a photo-booth picture. This year I added shopping, of course. Jewelry for me and pirate tee for the boy.

It took me a day to realize I didn’t have to do much of anything. Maybe you have to vacate home to focus on the small stuff that doesn’t include the dirty floor, bills, laundry, incomplete projects, or upcoming events that lack to do lists. I sat and I read a lot. And I really did enjoy just being. I enjoyed being the mother of the a cute kid on at the beach. I enjoyed the cool husband who took the first shift in the pool. I enjoyed spraying really cold water-repellent sun block on my kid which made him scream. I enjoyed going down the water slide with this cute ghostly pale kid with the shark swimmy on who yanked off his wet shorts when we got out of the pool.

Sometimes, you need a special mental and physical zone where you have nothing to do but enjoy the scenery. You may need to vacate your comfort zone and find a place where you prioritize creating memories and smiles and tradition. Where you spend a little extra time and money to enjoy your people and the life you usually take for granted and where you generate the photo-op for this year’s Christmas card. Did I mention the kid’s really really cute?

 

Slowly

I live on a peninsula cushioned geographically by water. The further into the region you drive, the further you can time travel. To places where the accent is thick and old spinster ladies still do without running water or electricity. Much like in Ireland, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the residents here are used to the slower pace.

There’s an understanding in both places that you are not allowed the audacity of hurrying. You never know when you will run into a hillside filled with sheep there or large strange farm equipment here. You must chill your obnoxious driving self while those sheep do whatever they were doing before your speedy butt got there.

Farming equipment, our sheep substitute, causes even slower paced parades.  When you travel the one road southward to the next town fifteen miles away, you are part of a parade the name of which is whatever miles per hour you are traveling. I’ve spent many an afternoon in a 48 mile an hour parade. The further back you are, the slower you go.

Add the rebuilding of a bridge and you’ve got a shore complaint. Many rivers and tributaries to the Bay mean many bridges to cross. Repairs and replacements are a natural part of the economy. And part of your delayed driving day.

I was forcibly reminded recently that I really needed to check myself. I rush off to do everything like I’m in some great big hurry before the world ends. Or the bus returns my kid to our home. When there’s an officer writing you a ticket, the universe is trying to tell you to make a better choice. And reset your clock and expectations. And slow down because the accomplishing and the erranding are illusions.

I am a city girl at heart. But my drive to the city yesterday, during which I was trapped on the beltway with a full bladder, reminded me of why I don’t want to still live in the city. I want to practice conscious locomotion. Maybe I’ll tape the words “ticket” and “beltway” to my dashboard to remind myself to keep cool and get there when I get there. Because there isn’t going anywhere no matter what time it is.

 

Train Travel

I just returned from Philadelphia tonight. This was the second train trip I had the opportunity to take in the past month. It’s been at least a dozen years since I’d last taken a train and I found that I still love the sensory pleasures it provides.

I crave the sight of train track graffiti art. The backyards of America are snapshots of the cities’ and towns’ underbellies, decaying and humanly messy. I love the textures of the row houses and the unnatural speed and the effortless travel which all gift me with this odd gratitude. The kaleidoscope of the landscape rolling by had my brain singing “Good morning America, how are you?” These City of New Orleans lyrics are an ode and a prayer.

Experiencing this with others is part of the journey’s experience. My fellow train travelers and I share the same bathroom where, by the smell, I discerned the train throws off the boys’ aim. Last trip, I sat next to a sweet kid who still had last night’s party oozing from his pores. And this time, a lady with a lovely British accent kindly agreed to my seating company. The only time we spoke was with the shared excitement of watching five parachutists descend from the sky into a field somewhere in Delaware.

People travel with baggage, both the real and the mental kinds. A toddler boy a seat back and to my left loudly screamed “Owie, owie, owie, Mommy” for the entire first hour of the ride. The Mom knew she was in a publicly viewed power battle. I had compassion for the woman. I’d been the frustrated Mom with no toys or techniques for distraction in my traveling trick bag. Attempting to control him, I heard slaps and hushing. He shrieked more and the frustration was tactile. Then I gladly jammed ear-buds into my ears.

My compassion turned right off when Stevie Wonder’s Superstition was cranked and poured into my head. I was removed from an intimate level of focus. My ride happily allowed me to write and watch and roll. And when I reached my stop, I had arrived. No need to park or drive or get lost. The station in Philly is an amazing vaulted building and still holds the awesome magic of days gone by when train travel was a luxury and an adventure to most. My awe was rekindled for this place I’d been only a month prior.

My pick up gal and I had not discussed whether it was the 29th or 30th street passenger pick up circle we’d meet in. As she’d left her phone at home, I sped across the lobby twice before I found her at the 29th street end. I was happy to have stretched my legs.

We spent two days catching up on an entire lifetime of chat. We retraced the woven path our lives had taken together and away from each other. I really enjoyed her town, neighborhood, and community. And we managed to imbibe two bottles of red and two bottles of white in two days. And run around her gorgeous springtime corner of the East Coast until I got cramps in my calves.

After a needed two day vacation from the woes of my recent existence, I happily returned home tonight. My train-adventuring-ease was accompanied by a glorious sun setting view of the world I was both hurtling above and tethered to. I wish everyone a gift of perspective as sensory as mine was this week.

Home Again Home Again Jiggity Jig

 

          Since having a baby, who’s about to turn seven, I haven’t made a habit of taking large blocks of time for myself. Maybe it was me and a fear that I’d harm his brain. Maybe it was a lack of a secure system in place to catch the pieces.  I wouldn’t risk even staying more than an hour’s drive away for too long. Buses need meeting.

This weekend, I stole my life back for 48 hours. What a difference even the permission for the escape gave me. I knew the kid would be taken care of every minute by four family members and a school full of strangers. And I journeyed out for one night at the Philadelphia Flower Show, the biggest of its kind in the world I was told. I really wanted to see it and hoped to be inspired. And I wanted to escape my own daily self expectations of chef and waste manager.

   The former city girl got to go to the big city. And I dug it. I took the train. I love the train. I took pictures of everything that inspired me. I talked to people. I got my nails done. I ate. I saw a play. I walked. I slept in a hotel room. I spent time laughing with my sister. And I let it all pour into my thirsty brain.

I got home yesterday and suddenly, I was behind. I had to usher my Mother out the door. I had nothing planned for dinner. I had to be somewhere at ten this morning after we’d turned the clocks up and my kid’s and my suitcases weren’t unpacked until tonight. I started the laundry. I shopped for and grilled the dinner. I bathed and read to the kid, packed the husbands lunch, and enjoyed almost all of The Walking Dead zombie TV show I like.

Do I resent that these are my home duties? Nope. If I had the chance, would I go again with the knowledge that I would have to catch up when I got home? Yes. What took me so long? I’ll definitely play catch up for a few days but I have more of me to share now with myself and others. And that is why we travel, even if it is tiring and anxiety creating and disruptive. Because we bring back a better version of ourselves with us.

 

 

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