Recently those Nerdy Chicks, Kami [link] and Sudipta [link], shared their family vacation traditions that took us from Folly Beach, S.C. to India. My family’s vacation tradition was that our vacations were not traditional—we’d go somewhere different every year.
Living during the golden age of American road trips, we’d drive off from our New Jersey home to experience the great northeast—the Jersey shore, a Rhode Island beach, Mystic Seaport, Cape Cod, Vermont, Maine, Niagara Falls (twice), Washington, D.C. (also twice), a Canadian odyssey from Montreal to Quebec City. I have a photo of myself as a toddler with my Italian-speaking nonna and my Polish-speaking babka at Daytona Beach, Florida—I can’t imagine what that road trip was like.
One year, my father sat at our dining room table with AAA maps and railroad timetables planning a trip to the Grand Canyon by train with connections in Chicago to all points west (my mother had a confirmed fear of flying). I was so disappointed when that trip never happened. Eventually, my mother overcame her issues with flight, and we made our trip to the Grand Canyon, continuing to Las Vegas, ending in LA and my first visit to Disneyland—but by then I was already 24.
As an adult, I continued in the family tradition of wanderlust and saw the world. My last big trip was to Moscow to adopt my daughter. Then Anna and I began our own trips—the Jersey Shore, Washington, D.C., Hershey Park, a New York State dude ranch, a North Carolina beach, DisneyWorld.
But then our family dynamic changed—we began to adopt dogs. First one, then two, then three. We loved them so much we didn’t trust anyone else to care for them (plus they tended not to like people other than us). This caused a vacation challenge for our family.
So I bought a summer cabin in a lake community in northwest Jersey bear country and that solved the problem for a few years. It was the perfect place for us and our three dogs. But when Anna got her drivers license, she preferred being with friends, and the cabin lost its appeal for her. I struggled through the pangs of empty nest syndrome until I recommitted to writing and drawing for children. The cabin became Studio del Lago—my creative refuge.
Anna is now a certified professional pet sitter [link]. Her weekends and weekdays are spent lovingly caring for pets in their homes while their owners are on vacation. My weekends are spent at the cabin writing (like today) and napping (also like today).
But last weekend, we were both home and decided to have a Staycation together—having fun in our own hometown. We went garage sale-ing, shopped for beads at a craft store, had dinner at a Japanese restaurant, and saw Jersey Boys in our village theater. Sunday morning, we had pancakes at our local diner, and shopped at our favorite antique/junk store (she scored a cement replica of our dog Princess and I added an Italian vase to my collection).
Anna and I dream of going to Italy someday. I hear there’s an airline that lets your pets stay in coach with you. If it flies to Venice, you can bet we’ll get a photo of our dogs in a gondola.
I was moved by your blog. Your beautiful adopted daughter, all your stray dogs plus your courage to adapt to the empty nest. Not the least bit easy but such a typical situation. I’m so glad you had a perfect vignette together and dreams of more to come.
You’re so kind, Elizabeth! I’ve been blessed with a loving life.
I can only hope that our son will want to hang out with us when he’s old enough to live by himself. Are daughters the only ones who come home to visit? 😀
Hahaha. My daughter doesn’t have far to come visit. She lives on the second floor of our house. 😉
Oh Mary this gives me the wanderlust.
Evocative travelogue . And there are jaunts we share (Grand Canyon, Daytona Beach, Jersey woods, Jersey Shore,D.C., Hershey, DW, North Carolina mtns. Yay! for Anna’s wonderful caring of beloved animals & your cabin where you are creative. All the photos are albumesque. woof, to the doggies. j a n
Jan, funny we’ve followed similar routes. Anna is off on another road trip tomorrow–to pick up a Bichon puppy in Virginia!
Mary, thank you for sharing this trip down Vacation Memory Lane 🙂 It all sounds very special, and I LOVE the look of that cabin!