We returned from “vacation” earlier this week. And I use the term “vacation” loosely as it was clearly a trip.
Re-entry has been a little bit of everything. There’s the good: watching The Kid’s anxiety recede and his comfort level skyrocket as he happily inserts himself between his trucks. There’s the bad: a carpenter ant-led attempt to take over our bathroom. And there’s the ugly: an hours-long period at night reminiscent of the newborn weeks, during which Little Brother awakens from a sound sleep to scream his protests at jet lag, followed by TK’s entrance into our room at around 4 am to grab one of us and pull that parent into bed with him. (Something I swore I’d never do, naturally. Along with a thousand other plans I’m being challenged out of. Hello, reality–nice to meet you. Pass the salt, for I will now eat all my words.)
We’re tired. We’re behind: on sleep, time, work, getting my hacked website permanently fixed, picking up groceries. We’re testy. I think a man at Sprouts yesterday followed me around the store to make sure I wouldn’t hurt my yelling kids. (I ran over him in the parking lot. Or maybe that was just a dream.)
The road home isn’t always easy. Or flat.
And neither is vacation. Because it’s no longer the Bachelor-esque dates of yesteryear: sunset dinners on the beach, kayaking through bioluminescent waters, planting a drink flag in the sand. Now “dinner” is a hurried feeding around a table grimy with fingerprints; activities include laughing at the idea of kayaking because, you know, our kids, and also, that’s for people who get sleep; beach play is rushing to pluck a hat from the sand to cover a baby’s head. It’s iPads on the plane and walking up the aisle with the baby in the Bjorn and getting scolded by a flight attendant and punching her in the face (or maybe that was just a dream). It’s handing them off to each other and “did you forget that toy?” accusations and grocery trips in the morning just to keep them busy. It’s ups and downs and, sometimes, the feeling of circling a drain more than getting rejuvenated.
Recreation is a funny word, isn’t it? Re-creation. I always associated it with fun; but in my experience, being re-created? Being redeemed? Is more often painful before it feels healing; it starts with destruction before leading to glory. It’s only when I’ve planted my feet firmly in the terra firma of home (and adjusted to the time change) that I have the hindsight–the sight, period–to see the beauty in being recreated. I’m not there yet for this trip, blisters still healing from the run and LB confusing his days and nights and TK screeching his frustrations. TH rushing off in the morning because we all slept late and working on my website into the night and oh yeah, our anniversary is coming up and maybe instead of a helicopter ride over New York City we’ll just…sleep it off at a hotel? In separate rooms?
I go back to the half-marathon in my mind often, as I do with all my perceived failures, and I’ve come to realize one of the “problems” I faced: that of the conditions being too optimal. The beautiful scenery, the flat roads…they lulled me into a sense this would be easy. They left too much room for me to retreat inside my mind–a scary place even in good conditions, and downright terrifying otherwise–and what should have been easy became complicated; what should have been beautiful became difficult.
Sometimes optimal is overrated. Sometimes perfect is nonexistent.
But the good news there is that it creates an opening where sometimes complicated and difficult turn out to be their own opposites, too.
There are moments on the trip, oases in the desert, that make it feel more like a vacation…or at least help you remember that vacations haven’t gone extinct, they’re just different for now. There are the two hours you get away to watch a movie as a couple and you know that marriage can be work but that dating? Was sure as hell no vacation either. There’s the moment in the park with a friend you’re just now getting around to meeting, and she tells you her story, the challenges her own child faced, and if ever Jesus was hugging you, it’s in this moment, in this discussion of the Psalms and how they were also a little bit of everything, how David was such a complainer that he reminds me of someone I know (hello, mirror) and that grace doesn’t pick just nice guys with perfect resumes but lands on those of us who are a little bit of everything.
There’s the moment in the run when the endorphins kick in and you realize you probably aren’t going to die and you may even run again. One day. There’s the moment when he grabs your hand and leads you to his bed and you’re exhausted but he looks you square in the eye and squeezes into the crook between your head and chest and it’s heaven at 4 am. And there’s the moment at the airport, when we’re waiting for TH, and I’m the mom with one kid strapped to her chest and the other attached to her hand, but I’m not the one (this time) who’s Angry Mom, yelling at her kids to straighten up, and I’m not the wife of the one twisting off his wedding band now that he’s in a different area code, but the one crazily singing an improvised song about being off the plane and being home and I feel a tug on my hand and it’s TK, doing a dance of joy, his knees bending in rhythm with my song, right there at the return gate, signing “more” so I’ll keep singing.
We head to baggage claim and climb into the car, driving through the darkness to a house where we’ll all sleep, two boys in two rooms side by side and TH and I in one bed, no matter what kind of day it’s been. And there’s the moment, and all the ones after it, that are a little bit of everything, but it’s our everything. And that’s what makes it home.