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Are We Having Fun-Again-Yet?
September 8th, 2009 by Christina
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These are my toes on vacation.

I just got back from vacation. Sort of. It was a single-mom style vacation, so the days were roughly twice as exhausting as usual. The girls and I and a delightful assortment of friends were up at the beloved house in the Adirondacks that’s been in my family since it was built by my grandfather in 1912; I’ve gone there every summer since I was born. Because so little in the house and the surrounding landscape has changed since then, the things that do change from year to year–the cast of characters, life circumstances–are thrown into stark relief against the ever-constant backdrop.

R first joined me up there a few months after we’d started dating. It was July 4th weekend, 1989; his immediate and total appreciation of the place sold me and my entire family on him and ushered in the all-about-the-two-of-us vacation years. We were strapping twentysomethings who voluntarily woke up at 5 am so we could hike 14 miles and be back before sunset. During our free time, R would play with wood–chop it with an axe or make nifty things with twigs–while I made the house lovely. We were just adorable in a way that was probably a little nauseating to those around us.

That phase lasted until 1996, when our daughter was born (we baptized her with water from the lake.) Those early baby-makes-three years involved waking up involuntarily at 5 am; if we had any leftover energy for hiking, it would be a brief hike, carefully scheduled around nap time; the pursuit of glorious mountain-top views was replaced by the pursuit of a rock at the ideal height to change a diaper and frantic attempts to keep the baby from toddling off the dock.

In 2001, we added daughter number two and fully surrendered to a child-centered, the-four-of-us life.  We compromised in ways that would have seemed blasphemous during those early years, purchasing a brightly-colored plastic kiddie pool, even though the house is set on a magical lake. Sweet the-four-of-us rituals evolved–popcorn by the fireplace upon arrival, no matter how late; a trip to the library in town the next morning, roast chicken and potatoes for our first dinner. R built a Barbie tree house. We wanted to introduce our girls at an early age to the joys of hiking in the wilderness, but the relative convenience of mini-golf was suddenly apparent too.

So there’s 19 years of summer fun in a nutshell, during which my house became unmistakeably ours. Hence, last August–two months after we separated and the first time R did not join us–we were disoriented. The surroundings were still there, reliably stunning as always, but it was a week of non-stop soy-milk episodes. I knew R wasn’t with us, of course, but still, I wondered “where is he?” Sitting on the dock felt weird because I kept expecting him to do his signature run-jump across it and into the lake. Looking at his assorted twiggy touches around the place made me cry. The first-night roast chicken tried too hard to make everything OK and didn’t taste good. I was certain I would never find my magical summer place fun again.

But this summer, I’m pleased to report, fun started to seep back in (you knew that was going to happen, didn’t you? It would be such a downer otherwise.) I didn’t wait for R to run-jump into the lake and I didn’t cry once during the entire week, not even when I caught a glimpse of the Barbie tree house in the corner of the play room.

I guess the girls and I have officially entered a new the-three-of-us phase–a different one–to be played out against the reassuring, constant backdrop until the cast of characters, or the circumstances, shift once again.

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4 Responses  
Jennifer Fink writes:
September 8th, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Two weeks ago, we had our first post-separation vacation, to the cottage we’ve been visiting every year since before some of our children were born. The trip was planned well in advance of the separation, so after some discussion, we all decided to go: Mom, Dad and the kids. For us, it was a practical decision as much as anything else. Our kids are still young enough that one needs to nap while say, the others go out with the other parent to fish.

It was good, but awkward. And there were definitely moments of sadness. I’d never cried at the cottage before, and this year I did. It’s just funny how a place becomes a repository for so many memories. On the one hand, there’s the year I felt my child move for the first time inside me. On the other hand, there’s the pain of being there with someone I’m no longer “with.”

We don’t know yet what next year will bring (do any of us?), but I’m encouraged by your post.

Christina writes:
September 9th, 2009 at 9:16 am

It is so hard to be in that limbo stage. We also vacationed as a family during the months we knew we would separate and that was so hard–plus we hadn’t told the kids yet, so we had to act like all was normal. It’s so difficult to let go and it can’t be rushed. I’m glad you find my posts encouraging–it makes me feel twice as encouraged!

Noah Carter writes:
September 11th, 2009 at 6:41 am

This is a beautiful post.

Living in Splitsville » Blog Archive » Christmas Tree-O writes:
December 22nd, 2009 at 11:20 am

[...] got our Christmas tree. Pulling out the decorations had a similar effect as the one I described in my post about my country house, where the familiar backdrop forces you to acknowledge the things that have changed in the [...]

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