Friday, August 17, 2007

How Compulsive People Plan Vacations


We spent last week in New England, and stopped by Wellesley College. It started like this:

One cold rainy day last winter M and I sat in our kitchen with a couple of glasses of wine, thinking about how fast D was growing up and how short the period of time is while your kid is old enough to be physically competent and intellectually eager, but emotionally not-yet-screwed up. This lamenting grew into a travel conversation, you know, the "wouldn't it be great to take D to nepal" kind of discussion. Given 1) finite resources, and 2) limited overlap of free time between M's and D's school schedules, and 3) the alarming speed with which we seem to be hurtling through time, we decided we'd better get organized about vacations.

It would help to know that we feel obligated as parents to travel with our child, as frequently as possible. This might be just a ruse for us to travel as much as we can, but we like to pretend it's all about providing a multicultural experience for D. Anyway, in dreary January we made a list of places to take D before he gets too old to want to travel with us.

The List includes foreign travel to Japan, Australia, Great Britain (particularly Scotland and England), American historical sites like Washington DC and Boston, scenes of natural beauty or general coolness like Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon, the Canadian Rockies, and Hawaii, and repeat trips to Alta, New Zealand, Italy, and Alaska. Whew!

Several months later we were watching our summer calendar fill up with the usual Jedi camps and family visitors and hiking weekends and we thought, "Yikes! Quick! We need to schedule a family trip!" We dutifully got out The List and picked Boston. Why? D was born there. We lived in the area from 1990 to 1999 (and in Western Mass from 1978-1981). It has easily accessible history dating back several hundred years. It's very close to Cape Cod. And it's much cheaper than just about everything else on the list.

I will NOT describe trip details, even though I'm sure you'd all be fascinated to read them. I started to write this blog about visiting Wellesley College, so, sorry, that's all you get.

Wellesley is gorgeous. Actually, New England is gorgeous. I had completely forgotten about the trees. Here we have very beautiful tall dark trees that look best when mist is whirling through their branches. In New England they have very beautiful short fat trees that look best from underneath with the sun poking greenly through.

Wellesley has many of these trees -- ancient beeches and sugar maples and white oaks -- growing luxuriantly between perfectly maintained gothic classroom buildings. I used to work in the science center, which we found open on a Sunday afternoon. We went inside and found my old office and looked at pictures and comics and quotes proudly decorating the doors of my old colleagues. We wandered through a computer lab with the same old signs (Save Often! Don't Forget to Log Off!) and the Victorian-era greenhouses where we found displays that couldn't have changed in 50 years. And I felt a pang of homesickness. Mainly I miss the sense of establishment, of an institution deeply rooted and cared for, stately and elegant like the trees on the lawn.

Bothell is not charming. But it's beautiful in its way. Our trees are tall and straggly and wild and they get tossed around in November wind storms. Blackberries and horsetail grow like crazy beneath them. Foxes and deer and eagles and hawks and great blue herons and weasels live in and around them. I like to think that UWB is like that - vibrant and scrappy and growing and resilient and nurturing, all at the same time.

I was happy to come back, happy to throw in my lot with the scrappy frontier adventurers. It was fun to work at a place like Wellesely, but it never really felt like home. Now I just need to bring in some pictures of D and cut out some Dave Barry quotes to start a trend in office door decoration!

22 comments:

Gardner said...

A wonderful post, Betsy. Our son is 16 and our daughter is 12, and I think we've just eased past that window of traveling-with-mom-and-dad is fun. Fortunately we made it to the UK/Ireland twice, and there was a memorable family trip to San Diego in 2004. And we've been to DC a bunch--as well as to some memorable rock shows together. Not bad, but not as (what's that Frye word) intentional as we could and should have been. These years go by very, very quickly. There's always time for the routine stuff. The magic times--those I need to be more intentional about.

Thanks for this beautiful post.

Jo Thomas Blaine said...

Ah... how blogging and googling and parenting and climbing New England trees connects us through the years... I remember one in the Magic Field we saw best from above and within! Do you remember?

Betsy said...

Jo! Yes, of course I remember. And in a somehow not-surprising way, Hampshire keeps coming up lately. In some ways it, and all the magic that happened there, was the beginning of "It's all connected

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