Our family vacation often takes us to the beach – this year we vacationed in Carpenteria, CA. The rhythm of the waves washed over us with a calming and relaxing effect and gave us time to create new bonds and opportunities to reflect and reminisce. The sea-breezes wafted in through the windows and the sun sparkled on the water to re-energize our spirits, decompress our stress and help us focus on connecting the dots between us.
Connections between us grew as we worked together on assembling the pieces of our jig-saw puzzle. Much like our family, the varied shapes and colors eventually came together to create a beautiful picture. Even though some of our family pieces are now missing, we can remember the times past when loved ones, now gone, “puzzled” with us. We also had a new member with us this time. Being 15 in this day and age, means Smartphones, video games and social networking – so it may have been a shock to wind down to the manual task of puzzling – but he was up to the challenge and eventually migrated to the table and was actually quite good at locating pieces – partially due to his young eye-sight but also some instinctive trait that he likely inherited from his father (our daughter’s new husband) who is also quite adept at puzzles. Of course, most importantly, the actual puzzle was secondary to the real goal of sharing across generations and coming together to accomplish a memory.
A hilarious time was had during our family play: Redemption Island (see TRADITIONS for some pics and a link to the script). Getting silly together can really be an ice-breaker. We started with an arts and crafts project to design our own personalized treasure chest. Since our ages ranged from 15 to 74, it was a little bit of a challenge to get them all motivated, but I knew that I could count on their competitive nature to kick in – and by the end of the project, some of them went to great lengths to make theirs “the best”. Next, came the challenge of costumes. They all knew their character in advance, so some of them brought outfits and props and I filled in with some homegrown and inexpensive items. No one, but me, has seen the entire script. I try to weave in parodies of our real lives and personalities to make things familiar, yet also supply a surprise ending – so I keep the script a secret until the acts are performed (and ad-libbing is encouraged). We are all adults, but we acted like kids and hammed it up – it is always a good time.
Food is a big part of our vacation enjoyment and we eat most of our meals at our rental as a family. All of us cook, so we can share the burden (and the compliments). It not only saves some cash when feeding a lot of people, but it also provides an opportunity to share the experience and try new things. Ethnic or party themes (Mexican, Middle Eastern, Asian, Italian, Polynesian, etc) work well to pull together menu concepts and to create more of an “event” than just a plain meal – it is also interesting to pair the beverages and dessert to complement the theme. In years past, I have worked the dinner plan into that night’s play (e.g. BBQ spread with a Western Theme). This year, as something new, we went to the Caribbean one night with some Jerk Pork and tropical drinks. I also prepared some Lentils (see “I Smell a Memory” for the recipe) – which I thought might be a bust, but actually were a hit (and healthy too)! The meals were great, but the coming together of our family was the sweetest dessert of all.
For my daughter there were new experiences shared with her husband and his son as they ocean kayaked, played ladder golf, multiple card games and worked on the puzzle. We introduced him to the game of Cribbage (a family, competitive, tradition), my husband helped him with getting his kite to fly and our son shared some soccer moves. It has been awhile since we had a teenager around, so it took adjustments on all sides, but we hope that he was comfortable and enjoyed his time with us and look forward to future visits together. As a parent, it was special to see our daughter grow into another role as a wife and life-companion. We wish them all many happy years that grow into a strong and lasting bond – vacations, such as these, will give them a good start on lasting relationships.
Like the tides, we come and we go – but we forever carry the fond memories of the special times that we share with each other and look forward to the next time…