I woke up yesterday morning with the sensation that something was over. Oh, my vacation. Only thing is, I hadn’t even left town.
I booked the airline tickets last September, on the cusp of Fall, thinking and dreaming of what a warming excursion our annual trip to Arizona over Spring Break would be after a long Winter. That hope and dream lay dormant through holiday diversions, pleasant as they can be, through a a wet and cold January and February, through the sometimes tedium of work, the lingering curse of the three flights up/ three flights down. And so here I am --- trip planned, hotel booked, itinerary in draft with appropriate white space for spontaneous and unplanned hikes, sunset walks, undiscovered eateries, and long conversations --- and I find myself haunted by a sense of melancholy, of déjà vu. I can see the end of my vacation, the very last day, when we shake the last desert dust from our shoes and board the prison bus back to Life, with all its responsibilities and duties, with all its unpleasantries and disagreeable people, with all its sameness. How bleak!
I am a sad little man.
(from the son): Yes, you are. . .
What would Freud say?
(from the son): Dead white men don’t say anything.
I love traveling with my family. Little epiphanies occur all the time, punctuated by an occasional horrific arguments. At home we argue in brief. We’re too busy to really get wound up. I have to go to work. They have to go to school. There are bills to pay. On vacation you can. . . well. . . follow the thought, see what happens, crank up the volume (it’s only rock and roll), get to the heart of the matter, find out after all what an unsanctified lout you really are, discover the wonder of forgiveness, how soon enough no matter what is said, it’ll be time for dinner and a night out and whatever you argued about falls way way back there in history, as insignificant as what you learned in 9th grade Logic class. And you think how wonderful all these people are that you travel with. And they really are.
(from the son): Dad, aren’t you supposed to pay taxes around this time of year? How’s that going anyway?
(from the son): Where did you come from anyway? Are we really related?
But I digress. I was talking about vacations, their joys, their opportunities to get to know your family better, discover new things, new places, and new foods. All so true. I hear anew some new expression one of my children have had for some time, only I’ve been too busy to listen, or hear about some plan or dream or see how they have matured, only in Life, as it whizzes by, I cannot slow down enough to notice that new tree-ring of growth on my offspring. Or the ever wondrous smile on my wife’s face or the pearls of wisdom that fall from her lips.
(from the son): This is getting sappy.
OK. Back to melancholy, a state of mind that has its enjoyments, its temporal pleasures. I guess part of the reason I find vacation-eve bittersweet is the sense that I am leaving home, and I enjoy this place, this Life, even with its burdens, because most of what I know is here, most of who I know reside here. Indeed, part of who I am resides here. So, leaving here means leaving part of me, and I like me well enough not to want to leave me. Well, that makes me sad.
(from the son): That’s pitiful. Do you just sit around thinking up such stuff?
I love these conversations. He’s reading over my shoulder, chomping away on his chips and cheese, like a prisoner at his first meal after being sprung from the penitentiary. Oh, Education, what have you done to him?
(from the son): More than it did for you.
See, it’s beginning already. That glorious sharpening of iron upon iron. The verbal arm-wrestling. The privilege of insult. I love the boy, his head filling the airplane window, him going forth into all the world and taking dominion.
Did I say my daughter was beautiful? She is. Like a picture, her profile outlined by the airplane window. I love that girl.
(from the son): What kind of picture is that? America’s most wanted? A mug shot?
That’s part of the joy of it, you see? The love of brother and sister, the mutual affection, their deep depreciation of one another. Which brings me back to. . .
Melancholy. Ahh. A vacation nearly over before it begins. I see the end of it now, the returning, and when we deplane I'll see it in the faces of the people walking to their gates while we walk out into the warm Tucson son. So sad.
(from the son): Can we change the topic?
Actually, I think it'll be fun, this vacation, even if it must end. It makes me appreciate home.