Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What the dog did on our April vacation

Considering how many school vacation weeks have found our family traveling absolutely nowhere – due to my work schedule, financial restrictions, or both – I was thrilled that this year’s April vacation, which fell last week, saw the kids and me hitting not one but two different destinations. First, we traveled south to Washington, D.C. for four days to visit my sister Sarah; then, after a brief layover at home to check in on Rick and the dog and do some laundry, we headed north for an overnight stay in Portland, Maine.

I was delighted that we had these opportunities. Mostly, I was happy to be able to offer the kids some new experiences and cultural enrichment and adventure, but I have to admit a tiny part of me was also happy that they wouldn’t once again return to school to hear about all their classmates’ adventures and admit that we hadn’t gone anywhere. Not that this has ever seemed to bother them in the past – they always pull up accounts of a daytrip to the aquarium or a hike at a local nature preserve to shore up their end of the “what I did during vacation” classroom conversation – but in truth, I was a little smug thinking that they too would name cities in other states when it came time for class sharing.

Eagerly, I asked my 7-year-old about how school went as she ate her afternoon snack yesterday. “We all talked about our vacations,” she recounted cheerfully. “Sammy went to the Caribbean, Jamie went to California, and Maggie went to New York City.”

“And did you tell about our trips?” I asked.

“No, I told about how Belle threw up.”

“You mean you told that she threw up,” I corrected automatically.

“No, I mean how. What she had been eating before and what it sounded like and everything.”

Wonderful. I took my kids to our nation’s capital and all Holly got out of it was that it almost caused her to miss being there when the dog threw up.

It wasn’t the first time that the kids’ penchant for literary realism has made it difficult for me to look their teachers in the eye. Earlier this year, Holly wrote a short story about how eating a particularly juicy and delicious pear made her reflect on how she often wishes she could run away because her mother (that’s me) acts like she doesn’t really love her. Holly’s teacher was troubled enough to call me before Holly brought the story home. She wanted to forewarn me. “Oh, that’s okay,” I said breezily. “It’s not as bad as the story Tim wrote in kindergarten.” Tim’s epic account of life in our household had started off like this: “I had a bad cough, so I took a long shower with my dad and then got into bed with my mom.” He even illustrated it.

Fortunately, I suspect our kids’ teachers grow accustomed to these too-close-for-comfort snapshots of their students’ domestic lives. Still, I feel like protesting that we really did have a very culturally enriching vacation. We visited the Natural History Museum. We biked all along Portland’s waterfront.

But Holly’s right; the dog threw up also. All were components of our week off, and I suppose I’m glad she doesn’t have my tendency to focus on only the show-offy parts of our vacation.

Besides, it does somewhat take the pressure off me as I look ahead toward summer. Ideally, I’d like the kids to spend some time in day camp, take musical instrument lessons, and sign up for a reading group at the library, plus the four of us are planning to go to Colorado at some point. But if Holly has her way, something gross will happen, and that will be all she needs to make it another great summer.

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