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Tourists, but at home

Our kids were out playing with cuz, so we went to a fine restaurant and I tasted my first absinthe. Sadly, I did not go insane upon drinking it. Same old me!

Our kids were out playing with cuz, so we went to a fine restaurant and I tasted my first absinthe. Sadly, I did not go insane upon drinking it. Same old me!

I’m often struck at how different our children are when they’re not with me. Actually, I remember that as a child, I enjoyed interacting with other people when my family wasn’t around. I felt like I could actually be myself, because amongst all those people who knew me best, I was stuck in a pre-determined role.

Our last night in DC, my husband’s cousin offered to take our kids out for dinner and a movie… without us. So my husband and I had to do the usual amount of hand-wringing about our children’s abysmal behavior, their annoying food habits, their unwillingness to follow instructions when out in a strange city.

Cousin took the kids to his favorite chili joint where, our daughter later happily declared, they got “food that is really, really bad for us!” Then they got on the Metro and went to a 3D movie.

We had worries about every step of the process. What if she decided suddenly that the only thing she’d get is macaroni and cheese, regardless of whether they had macaroni and cheese? This happened to us a few days ago and caused a rather unpleasant lunch. What if he was talking obsessively about computers and she threw a fit about it? That happened, well, probably every day in the last year!

Of course, nothing went wrong. Cousin declared them a joy to be with, and though they woke a bit tired from their late evening, they seemed exhilarated by the experience.

Travel in general is like this: we worry about all the things that will go wrong, how difficult our children will be, how exhausting it will be. But the result is always growth that we can’t predict, a sense that life doesn’t have to go on with a numbing sameness.

Here we are in Florida, and things seem slow by comparison. No up-and-get-on-the-Metro. Here, it’s all about the beach, which we haven’t spent much time on, and talking about and acting like you’re spending time on the beach. You can tell the actual residents by their baked skin (if caucasian), their languid air, and the fact that since there are some clouds today, they’re wearing sweaters.

My son and I walked on the beach and we found many beached jellyfish. This one was still trying to get back into the water, but I wasnt feeling foolish enough to try to help.

My son and I walked on the beach and we found many beached jellyfish. This one was still trying to get back into the water, but I wasn't feeling foolish enough to try to help.

You can tell the visitors by their pale skin (of whatever shade), their sunburns, their sundresses bought just for the occasion, their stopping to exclaim at each palm and flower they pass (at least for the first day).

It’s weird to be a tourist when you come from a tourist town. When I was young and traveling in Europe, I always attempted to fit in. I watched the other women carefully and mimicked their dress, tried not to sit with my legs splayed like an American girl, kept my voice low. Then I started visiting places where I couldn’t possibly be anything but a tourist, so I gave in. Fanny pack, crushable hat, and camera slung across my chest, I was ready to take it all in.

But we’re not really tourists here. Just visiting Grandma, who happens to live where everyone wants to go for two weeks in the spring. It makes us feel a bit strange, like we’re watching someone else’s vacation. Our vacation of choice was Washington, DC. Florida is just visiting family, though instead of going home to visit family, we’re going on everyone else’s spring break.

As with every trip, the last day is a strange one. On the one hand, you’re tempted to shove as much in as you can. On the other, you have to get up at 5 a.m., so perhaps you’ll just take it easy.

So instead of spending the rest of our day with the other tourists strolling the beach, baking their skin, and shoving each other at the street fair downtown, we’re hangin’ at Grandma’s pad. It’s a good way to transition into being home. We’re home…. or at least, we’re at someone’s home.

Posted in Parenting.


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