I began planning this summer’s family vacation knowing Troy would be going away to college in the fall. I knew he may have an internship next summer, that this may be our last family vacation together.
I wanted one last time to try to get everything right. I thought back to the camping trips we’d taken with varying degrees of success. I wondered if I’d pushed too hard. Would they treasure the cramped rides for hours on end as I took them to see some beautiful site only to have it turn out to not be what I’d planned or hoped for, those moments sleeping on the ground, fearing the thunder and lightening with just the thin canvas and the metal poles holding it over our heads?
Had I pushed too hard? Had I been too driven? Perhaps I should have stayed home and just read to them, played with them, baked for them, loved them.
Perhaps I tried too much. Perhaps they wouldn’t remember all the good things, the way we learned to laugh despite the rain and the storms.
Perhaps they wouldn’t remember the beautiful people we met at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Kentucky when George went out for that pass and tripped over the fireplace splitting his shin open.
Perhaps they wouldn’t remember in Georgia, the friends I hadn’t talked to in years but whom I had contacted through Facebook “just in case” we needed help – something a smart single mom does when travelling with young children. Those friends had relocated there, friends who didn’t have a lot of material wealth but had hearts of gold. Would my kids remember that these friends didn’t wait for an emergency to strike but had gone out of their way to welcome us, to give my boys an amazing and wonderful free day at a water park where the husband worked? Would they remember these friends who shared an incredibly difficult past, but whose love and light shines inspiring me to this day, years later?
Perhaps they wouldn’t remember the Park Ranger in Georgia who, upon hearing our story, fought back tears because his own son had abandoned a wife and child similarly years before. Would they remember how this old man still carried the pain and the guilt around with him decades later? Perhaps they wouldn’t remember that old man offered us money when our credit card was denied after my ex stopped paying the mortgage and our credit was dropped leaving us with no money to get home.
Perhaps they would not remember the small group of consecrated women we met at Niagara Falls just a few months after my ex left. Perhaps they wouldn’t understand how that meeting led to a lasting friendship with my dear, sweet, albeit far away friend Becci, Becci who reached out to us in our darkest need years ago and continues to do so. Perhaps they wouldn’t understand that sometimes God lets people leave your life so He can bring more faithful people in.
Perhaps they wouldn’t understand that we would never have met Becci or any of these other folk without the circumstances that led us here. Perhaps they wouldn’t understand that we would never have had those experiences if we had stayed in a fancy hotel and simply shut the door behind us. Perhaps they wouldn’t understand that we would never have seen those sites if we had just hopped on a plane and flown by so much life has to offer.
This Christmas vacation, the boys will go to the Bahamas with their father and his girlfriend. I’m guessing it will be their honeymoon with every wish met, every desire granted. For them, money is no object and expensive trips, gadgets, cars, and homes are expected.
I am in some ways glad my boys see places I cannot afford to take them. In other ways, I still shake my head over this woman who pushed her way into our lives and thought her happiness was worth sacrificing a family for. I wonder what price my children will pay for what they’ve bought.
Perhaps my boys will grow up to only like those fancy hotels and room service, zipping impersonally from airport to airport without even realizing what they are missing. Perhaps they will enjoy this one last family vacation with their father more than any I’ve given them. It should certainly be easier than any I’ve been able to provide.
But perhaps one day, sitting around with their own children, they will remember the good times we had, the amazing people you can only meet in the outdoors, in clean air, while doing wholesome activities. Perhaps they’ll pile their wives and kids in their cars too. Perhaps they’ll listen to the grumbling in the back seat because, “there’s no room!” and “he touched me!” and “who spilled the Goldfish crackers???”
Perhaps they’ll pull up to a site hoping there are no bears nearby, set up a tent in the rain, walk to the bathroom with no more than a flashlight
And perhaps they’ll wake up the next morning to discover that when you test yourself, that when you stick with faith and family through the hard times, that when the darkness clears which it always does eventually, even when that darkness seems to last a VERY long time, a clear, crisp, beautiful new day dawns, often brighter than before.
Perhaps they’ll meet a family nearby and their kids will play frisbee and hide-and-seek together. Perhaps they’ll take a giant sling shot to the beach and launch water balloons at each other. Perhaps they’ll swim and collect rocks and press flowers and have kids that sing camp songs just to annoy them.
And perhaps at night, they’ll sit around a campfire they built and look up at the shooting stars one can see in true darkness, outside the city lights and they’ll thank the Lord for what I have been able to give them.
Perhaps they will forgive me my failings and Love me despite my shortcomings, my wrongdoings, my own lack of worth.
Perhaps they’ll look up at that giant darkened sky and not be afraid of the darkness of this world but instead be inspired to look for the shooting stars, to be a shooting star shining even in their own dark times. Perhaps they’ll be inspired by the brightness God gives each star that chooses to stand out. Perhaps they will teach their children to stand out in darkness, to be a light for others, to lead their own families to freedom even when all seems lost.
Perhaps I missed our last family vacation together, but perhaps the family vacation will live on, and my children will see the value and blessings of simplicity. Perhaps they will continue traditions of Goodness and be inspired to move beyond the meager beginnings (not in material wealth, but in Love and Trust in the Lord and appreciation for His creation) that I have given them. Perhaps one day they too will reflect on the Summer of Lasts. Perhaps they will treasure the time even more than I have.
I can only pray that they do.