I'm talking about a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the astounding rock formations of Cappadocia. Celebrating Margaret's 13th birthday in the resort town of Bodrum. And spending an entire week on a boat cruising the Aegean and the Mediterranean. Throw in an ancient city built entirely underground plus two short days in Istanbul and you start to get the picture of our remarkable experience.
This was no small trip, and our eyes, ears and taste buds had something new to experience every day. I won't soon forget the sound of drums parading through the streets of Istanbul to wake the faithful in time to cook and eat a meal before sunrise during Ramadan. Or platter after platter of fresh, juicy peaches that made my supermarket versions seem like nothing more than mush and fuzz. And the sight of hundreds of majestic mountains coming right down to the edge of a brilliant blue sea.
It was stunning and unforgettable. We loved it.
But vacations are also work. They throw us off a bit with necessary adjustments to our schedules and our habits, as they offer up something we can't get at home. Forgoing my crisp Washington Post and cup of Constant Comment tea each morning was an easy trade for the sights and sounds of Turkey. Putting my ailing shoulders to sleep on airplanes, in shuttle buses, hotel beds and a boat was worth views I'd never seen before nor will likely again.
The adjustments we make in order to travel remind us that we are not wed to the way things usually are, day in and day out. We sacrifice some of our stability to embrace a new experience.
And sometimes these changes are particularly uncomfortable.
I could see this most clearly from my daughter's perspective. A nervous stomach makes 8 plane rides, a 7 hour time difference, and bus trips on windy roads cause for anxiety. New foods and the back and forth motion of a boat (ask me about the dingy ride from hell someday!) are cause for concern.
But every stomach dropping, dry mouthed, clammy-feeling moment was under girded with, "We are in Turkey!" "This is a trip of a lifetime!" Jet lag doesn't last forever!" And photos of happy teen aged girls jumping off the side of a boat on "One, Two, THREE!" will always tell the tale of the summer when we ventured out with our dear friends and experienced a different part of the world. We put our daily lives aside for a while to experience something new.
Our continued discomfort and grief navigating life without Jack makes us feel off kilter too, even at almost three years out. Watching Margaret with our friends' teenage son reminds us of what we used to see each day, two brown heads together, leaning down, laughing. A happy birthday song with sparklers crackling on her cake throws the question into the atmosphere, "Is your older brother still older when you have now turned thirteen?"
And these feelings seem to increase rather than lessen over time. Yes, we can eventually grow accustomed to the rocking of a boat, so much so that by the time we reach shore again, our bed will sway for days afterward. But can we ever wrap our brains around a family of three? Will this ever feel normal? Will I always look at moms at the airport, whether they are heading to Riyadh or Spokane and silently count, one, two, three, sometimes four or five small heads and think, "Good, Mama, good. You won't be leaving one all alone if...if... if something goes horribly wrong."
In traveling on this most unwelcome journey, we face discomfort and change daily because we have no choice. But there is no reward for buckling down. There is no grand pay-off of an incredible vista, precious photograph, or historical site if we just dig deep and move forward.
There is just a life that needs living. So we do it. And there is laughter. Great new memories. Time shared with beautiful, generous friends.
But things are hurting worse right now.
Is it because we just flew halfway around the world, yet Jack's experience of a great vacation was a fountain coke and a Hampton Inn? Is it because we are once again in summer, and the feeling of dread of fall, September, and the accident weighs heavy on us once again? Or is it because in life, there are discomforts, rearrangements, modifications that are worth it, but this one, which has left every area of our live so very different, will yield fruit, but will never, ever seem worth it to us?