People weren’t meant to fly so quickly through time and space, but that’s what’s happened to me. 3 beaches on 3 continents in just over a month. I’ve not just crossed time zones, but I’ve had the chance to stand with stark admiration of the rapid passage of time; and how I crave to make the most of each moment.
Last you saw me, I was on the lawnchair in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka, contemplating the potent mixture of music and rum, which forms fast and fleeting bonds between strangers. I also felt so incredibly lucky that despite dragging my kids through Europe in their early years, they still want to travel with me as teens. I’ve reached a new level of parenting — a relaxed, fun level, but I know it will be gone too soon. There is a certain gravity to words like ‘university’ and ‘degree program.’
Less than 24 hours after arriving home from Sri Lanka, I was on my way to Florida.
At the Tampa airport, I was greeted by a woman holding a sign that read: “Welcome home from rehab!” This was a sign only a best friend could have written. We laughed, and I tried not to cry. I’ve known Mavis for over thirty years. We spent our formative years together and bitched a lot about guys and parents. It was a time where we agonized over life choices that seemed to have no happy medium. It was the dizzying ‘all or nothing’ life of teenage-hood.
I’d been wanting to visit Mavis for some time now, but something always seemed to crop up. Living five thousand miles away doesn’t make it easy to slip away for a weekend. However, Mavis is being poisoned by her own kidneys. There is no time for me to make excuses — friendship like this cannot wait. On top of the malfunctioning kidneys, she had been caught in a health care system that doesn’t give a shit about people’s lives. It is a system for the very rich or the very poor. Those in the middle are the real walking dead.
My motto in life has always been to take opportunities when they arise. This is what inspired me to sell my car at age 18 and buy a ticket to visit my friend in Germany. This is what led me to marry my husband (all he did was say the word “Alaska” and this poor gypsy heart skipped a beat). The motto led me to my masters degree, despite the ‘handicap’ of having two little kids & getting pregnant while writing my thesis. This is what brought me and the four (then) little ducklings back to Germany. It’s what made me fight to stay. It has led to ten marathons and and upcoming trek to Nepal. I have been both crushed and galvanized by this motto. I have never regretted it.
It led me to squeeze in a trip to Florida, between two other planned vacations.
Mavis and I walked along the beach and found a bench overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Dolphins swam by. There was no awkward time. No time talking about the weather. There were only those themes of sickness and health and life and death. We called each other ‘bitch’ and laughed, just as when we were 14. No time had passed. And yet, lifetimes had passed. This is the great and miraculous thing about true friendships.
I will give her my kidney, if the bitch won’t reject me.
This year, I threw my oldest daughter into the deep-end of the Adulthood Pool. I knew she was ready. It has been hard for her. She has experienced the pain and the joy that comes with being self-sufficient. I am proud of her for the millions of ‘little’ adulthood things she never had to think about before: battling mice, lighting a gas stove & gas heater, choosing furniture that will fit up the ungodly flights of narrow stairs to her attic apartment, job contracts, healthcare benefits…the list goes on.
Thus, when she had vacation time from work (and a narrow window in which to take it), she asked if I would go with her. This is how I ended up on Fuerteventura. It is a place that’s been on my “list” since moving to Germany over a decade ago. It is a place she always wanted to go as well.
The resort at which we’re staying is truly lovely with its many pools, bungalows with private patios, free drinks & food, and the beach at its doorstep. However, this place is filled with elderly couples and couples in their 30s toting small children. There are more pregnant women here than in the waiting room of my gynecologist.
It is an odd perspective, to be here as a single, middle-aged person and to observe couples on opposite ends of the spectrum. You have couples just starting their histories and people in the final chapters — very few in the middle, like me.
As a mom of four, this vacation has been a parental refresher course for me. Kids are just weird. If adults acted this way they would be institutionalized: the meltdowns, random T-Rex roaring at strangers, food tossed to the ground, the whining, the giggling, the blunt observations about everything from palm trees to someone’s pants.
It is strange walking through the preschool neighborhood when you’ve been gone for a long time. Everything is small and quaint and a little bit more restrictive than you had thought at the time. I will never forget how much work it is. And I admire the parents for being bold enough to travel with their kids. It is so much easier to stay home and plug them into the computer.
Traveling with my daughter is certainly easier than it used to be. We can sleep late. Eat whenever we feel like it. I can go to the beach and not worry about her drowning. While on some level it makes me teary to watch my kids grow up; it’s a hell of a lot more relaxed now.
Vacation is actually vacation; not simply additional work in a new environment. (Geez, the sunscreen, the floppy hats that blow away, the life vests, feeding the kids, sand in the food, diapers, diarrhea, choking on the giant bottle of water and spilling it, potty breaks that take twenty minutes, kids who refuse to pee in the ocean…parenthood throws unusual challenges at you).
Now, my only challenge is to decide if we should go to the beach or the pool. Or do we want to stay in for dinner or go to the music bar?
Being here with my daughter is being here with a friend. I don’t take it for granted. So many people have fucked up relationships with their kids. But my kids enjoy spending time with me. We talk about what needs to be done now to lay the groundwork for an exciting future. I love spending time with them. And I know that it’s worth the investment. Because when I turn around, they’ll be off living their own adventures.
And I will pause for a moment and watch them before living my own.