“Alexa, play songs by Justin Bieber,” commands Pattu. Alexa obliges. The twins dance, arms outstretched, head thrown back, smiles lighting up their faces. They are the picture of abandon. I am struck by the difference. I stand in the kitchen watching them for a while. Ammu notices me and runs up. Her arms are around my middle, her face upturned. She is angelic.
“I don’t want to go on vacation. Can we vacation at home next time?” If my face registers surprise, she picks up on it. She adds hastily, “I miss California and I enjoyed everything but I just like being home.”
I reassure her knowing exactly how she feels. We hug a second longer and she is off to continue dancing.
We were away for over two weeks on a trip spanning the length of California. We landed at LA, drove to San Diego, walked along the Torrey Pines Beach, checked off Disneyland and Universal studios, pondered the meaning of our existence at Griffith Observatory, had fun tracking stars on the Hollywood walk of fame, took pictures with faux celebrities and flew to San Jose.
The next week we took in the sights around Tahoe, celebrated my niece’s birthday, reunited with college mates from over twenty-five years back, spent way too much time in the pool, met with family, friends new and old, bloggers and ate too much food.
Each day we woke up in a new home, took pictures to freeze the moment, hugged and said our byes. The children handled the changes with aplomb or so I thought until this morning. Watching them dance reminded me of the hunched shoulders, the wariness, the anxious twirling of hair, the constant questions of whether we would be back at Chithi’s house.
I sat at the kitchen island coffee and hand and realized my neck and shoulders felt loose, as if a weight that had been pressing down had lifted. I looked around and it hit me that I was just like my children. On guard, constantly monitoring and planning ahead. Each day was an exercise in logistics. Setting clothes out, packing soiled clothes, packing, unpacking and repacking. Each meal was an exercise in figuring out which child would eat what. It meant taking detours so we could get proper food into them before setting foot into theme parks. It meant short-changing the amount of time we would spend in the parks we had paid so much for.
Coming home is metaphorical. It reminds me of all that is good and simple. It reminds me of the things I take for granted. It reminds me that my children need routine, they crave permanence, they are troopers but would rather not be. It reminds me to plan vacations that build in time to relax. To settle in and do nothing. It also tells me what Saathi says all the time. Staycations are vacations too.
What are your vacation takeaways? Do you travel with children? How do you feel about it? Do share in the comments.