I have been reflecting on my lack of a summer vacation this year.
I’m not complaining. We had a fabulous trip to Jamaica in March – which will satisfy us for a year at least. Maybe two years if we want to pay for that trip before we travel again.
We have a beautiful yard and a patio that is just made for reading and napping. And for variety, napping and reading.
So I’m happy.
But there’s something about going away on vacation that makes you step outside yourself. As much as I love the comfortable, secure feeling of being home, there’s something about being AWAY that makes me feel like someone new.
I remember my first “grown-up” vacation.
1969. I had just graduated from high school. I had never had a vacation without Mom and Dad and the whole family. My mother entertained me with tales of her first “adult” vacation. She had been about my age. She said it was the sweetest memory – being on her own for the very first time. Grown-up. She was enthusiastic about giving me a similar experience.
So my father helped me rent a cottage in Westbrook, Connecticut from one of his friends. Dad drove me down there the week before vacation to show me where it was. I was awed. It was more than a cottage – it was a lovely four-bedroom home a block from the beach.
My two best friends and I pooled our money. It was a little tight because we thought we might want to eat a little something while we were there. So we got another girl to pitch in too. She was a quiet girl I didn’t know well, but she planned on spending her week with a pile of books – so she was okay by me.
We drove down in my friend Chris’s car – which was a Mustang. In 1969, that was about as good as it got.
We had our linens and towels and clothes and whatever food our mothers packed up for us. But we didn’t really bring too much food – we wanted to grocery-shop for ourselves. How sweet it seemed to actually pick out your own food.
First things first, though. How better to feel like a grown-up than to have an immediate crisis?
Almost upon arriving, Chris fell down the stairs. On the landing she hit the wall hard with her foot. Her toe immediately swelled up.
We looked in the phone book for a hospital, but didn’t see anything nearby. I was supposed to be a grown-up. I hated the thought of calling my mother. But Mom was a nurse and would know what to do, so I swallowed my pride and called. “It’s probably broken,” Mom said. “But don’t worry about it. Broken toes just mend on their own.”
And so, eighteen and on vacation, I didn’t worry about it.
We didn’t call our parents again for the rest of the week. We were on vacation. We were AWAY. We were adults. We were an HOUR away from home.
Chris was a trouper too. She had a hard time driving, but she did her best, and she reluctantly (since it was her Dad’s car, really) let one of us get behind the wheel once in a while. I’d had my license for 40 whole days, so Chris wisely excluded me from the driver’s pool.
My other friend Mary and I set up a card table on the big screened front porch. We even found a tablecloth. We took all our meals there, in the cool ocean breeze. Breakfast on the porch. Coffee and toast with marmalade.
A couple of boys came to visit – the boy Mary was seeing, and his friend – who in my mind was the most gorgeous boy I ever met. I flirted shamelessly. I had a two piece bathing suit and a tan. What more did I need?
The weather was spectacular – dry and hot. Where the heat rose from the pavement in waves. Waves on the water. Waves on the road. The radio played “Sweet Caroline” three times an hour.
We ate mostly hotdogs and potato chips. One evening, we went out to eat at a very nice restaurant that overlooked the marina. I had lobster. Truly a grown-up meal. I wanted a glass of wine – but we were under the legal age. I didn’t even try to pass for 21 – I may have been 18, but I looked 15.
We went to an inexpensive drive-in that specialized in second-run films. We propped Chris’s foot on a pillow and watched “Barefoot in the Park.” I had never before seen Robert Redford. I approved.
Every evening, Mary and I brewed another pot of coffee and retired to the porch. Most nights we sat on that porch till 3:00AM, whispering and giggling and telling secrets in the dark.
She wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be a nurse.
“I think you will be something else,” Mary said.
She was right.