My dad always used to say that he knew he was on vacation when he could finally take off his watch and leave it off. A busy doctor accustomed to working long shifts and being paged back to the hospital at all hours of the day and night, it usually took him several days to shake the work world and really and truly unwind. But sure enough, after a few walks on the beach and a few meals by the pool (a few beers never hurt, either) we'd see it: the watch parked next to the hotel bathroom sink. He didn't need to look at his watch to know what time it was: relax o'clock.
For me, vacation is all about the things that never even make it into the suitcase. If you could see into my bedroom right now (which I'm hoping you can't, that's just creepy) you'd probably be wondering what exactly didn't make it in, given the giant, bulging bag we'll be hauling to the airport. Not surprisingly, since we are traveling with our two young kids, my own possessions possess very little of the space inside that bag. I've spent the better part of a week packing diapers, wipes, swim diapers, clothes, toys, books, sippy cups, toys, bibs, toys, snacks and toys for two tots to take to the beach. Did I mention the toys? I think they are actually multiplying in the bag at this moment... I'm pretty sure I saw Thomas the Tank Engine making eyes at a Beanie Baby Bear as I attempted to force the zipper shut.
Still, despite the voluminous nature of the bag there are a few deliberate omissions. My trusty blowdryer and flatiron will not be making the trip south. I'll be subjecting an entire island nation to my giant, frizzy, unruly curls, with a mind of their own, which may explain any strange weather patterns that move through over the next 7 days.
Also not joining us: the laptop. And given that my phone could not be less "smart" that means no internet access for a week (Facebook friends, please pray for me). The gadgets and gizmos will stay home, and hopefully after a week we'll all be recharged with enough juice to get through the hustle and bustle that's still to come.
Given the exorbitant luggage fees the airlines are now charging, I thought it would be wise to leave some of my emotional baggage at home as well. That means I'm not bringing my nearly ever-present Mommy Guilt (the large, slightly haggard bag nagging "Why haven't I done enough to feed their minds, bodies, and spirits today? Have I scarred them emotionally forever with whatever decision I did or didn't make?), the Wife Guilt ("Did I even talk to my husband today about anything that didn't come out of a child's mouth or other orifice?"), the Daughter Guilt ("Maybe if I had just skipped that nap, you know the only one I've had in the past month, I could have made time to go visit my parents before we left?") and the Holiday Guilt ("I'm sure I could make things MORE festive if I just tried a little harder...").
There's no space in our luggage for my ongoing frustration over the lack of Me Time ("All I wanted was 1 freaking hour to get a pedicure before we left, is that seriously too much too ask?"), my neurotic fears ("But we can't go because something bad might happen while we're gone!") and my never ending quest for the "perfect" job that will provide personal and professional satisfaction and a pleasing work-life balance ("HA HA HA HA HA!!!"- that's the sound of the universe laughing its head off at me, in case you were wondering). Nope, no room.
So pat me down and scan me up. It's time to vacate, time for a change of mental and physical scenery. Yes, it's just a week and at the end of it we'll have to return to reality, but I'm praying I'll come home with a bag full of energy and optimism, or at the very least a nice tan.
And maybe, just maybe while we're there I'll find the strength to let go of everything, including my watch.