The Family Easter Vacation


Tradition! (I can hear the song from Fiddler on the Roof echoing) that is Easter vacation with our youngest son,  a solo parent with five children.  “No, Meeko (the family dog)  cannot come.”  We are adamant about that.

Preparation time: How do I convince my ever lovin husband that seven extra people (they’re bringing a friend)  for ten days will be fun.  I ‘m rubbing his back, my voice is quiet…“Ron, it would be really great if you didn’t go into the bedroom and watch TV the entire time they are here.”  My words trail off.  Now that is not exactly  fair.  If they are interested in wind surfing or kayaking or fishing,  he’s out in the bay with them.  History:   “Sammy’s only five, Hon, I don’t think she’s big enough yet.”

“Ah, she can get the balance, never too young to get the feel of it.”  I shrug, Sammy is lost in the life jacket that hangs from head to toe, her blond hair is pulled up into a pony tail and her eyes are round as saucers, not from fear, of course.

Bringing the dog would almost be a better option than the “friend.”  I don’t care how nice the friend is, it changes the dynamics of the entire vacation, my neighbor nods her head in agreement.  It is no longer a “family” vacation   Both of us old folks seem to fall off the radar as the Trips (three born in the same year…twins and an eleven–month old)  bend over backward to make sure their friend gets her equal share of everything.  Now maybe I’m being a bit churlish.  Why do I feel ignored when all of them are upstairs (with their own TV) hour after hour never coming downstairs unless it’s for food or a fresh towel as they whip off to the swimming pool running pellmell plowing through the jumble of shoes in the front entry only to return to their upstairs  hideaway slamming the door closed.  Now let’s be fair, that is not their entire day.  Their father rousts them out of bed, they run, they go to the work–out room and lift, come home for a quick breakfast and then its onto their bikes to the tennis court for an hour or so of hitting the tennis ball.  He’s their in-house coach.  All play on the high school tennis team.    Maybe they deserve that time up in the bedroom.

But to us it seems we have not a moment of eyeball to eyeball.  I’ve forgotten the color of their eyes.  Whatever happened to “family” activities?  I see the Kennedys out there playing touch football, (don’t think I’m up to that) or on the other end of the scale, Jane and Henry Fonda sparring with each other (no one ever thought that was fiction) in “On Golden Pond.”  My older son’s wife’s family sit and play Monopoly for hours, we used to play Canasta–not any more.   The electronic age has taken over.

It’s not that they don’t do anything for me.  If I call and ask, they all troop downstairs to help set/clear the table, load the dishwasher and then they disappear again.  I know it’s the age (14-15). The oldest grandson has had experience in the food industry and gives me some interesting tips.   I appreciate the help and another good thing…their father prepares them breakfast and lunch (even buys their favorite food).  I have not had to suggest that IPhones,  or whatever the latest electronic gadgets,  are  not allowed at the table. (I think he has laid down the law before they arrived.) The chatter abounds.  I watch Ron across the top of their heads. He actually seems interested at least his eyes haven’t rolled totally back yet.

And what do we cook for dinner?  I refuse to “specialize” to individual tastes.  Not my son.    He dotes.  I can remember my oldest son coming home from college, “Spoil me, Mom, fix dinner.”  His brother not only fixes the dinner, it is special for each one of them–one doesn’t like dark meat so it’s breast, one doesn’t eat rice, so it’s potatoes.  I used to get impatient–so different from our “…eat it or you can have cereal and milk.” (I never could bring myself to let them go hungry) but I do marvel at his loving attention.

I refuse  to wash those towels every time they bring them in, drape them across the patio chars or fling them into the wash room–rather, it’s into the dryer before the next pool visit.  It has taken me years to convince them that wet towels, bathing suits, wash clothes should not be flung onto the wood furniture. I’m pleased to note my admonition seems to be working and there are only a few left–over stains from earlier years.   Any hint on how I remove water stains from the mahogany dresser created from  who knows what?


Hint: Never, I mean Never go upstairs during their visit. Hopefully you have a main–floor bedroom, or at least a very private area upstairs. Never open their doors.  The floor will have disappeared beneath a jumble of towels, clothes, suitcases (forget the drawers in the chest or the hangers in the closet.  What looks like chaos to us is a way of life that they handle very nicely).  An unmade bed is a natural bed. Comfy.  They sleep just fine, thank you; and I have learned that my standards are not theirs.  We are not here to train, just to love and enjoy the show which takes a bit of  “closed-mouth” exercising on our part.

Trees stormSo our backyard barbecue, which was supposed to be beneath the Live Oak, was not met with sun and balmy breezes, but with thunder/lightening flashes, rain whipping the trees, the bay  full of rolling waves.  What to do?   We found the boat house a perfect place for three tables and the grill with neighbors joining in. The children set the tables decorate with flowers  while Ron grills the ribs and chicken. An exotic chocolate cake topped with chocolate covered strawberries  provided by our neighbor is “well received”. I suggest the grandchildren not sit with each other but with the neighbors and they comply happily joining into the conversation. An arrangement thoroughly enjoyed by the “grown-ups.

Harry Potter landrticle-1213793-06722D97000005DC-558_634x489A family day at Harry Potter’s castle gives us old folks some quiet time.  Pictures of their gleeful faces provide us with pleasure. We did not miss the four-hour drive with 7 people in the car or, the 90 minute line to experience “the” ride.  I listen to one of our equally aged neighbors describe her excitement.  She went three times. I shake my head in wonder.  Perhaps  I’ve lost something in my life’s journey, or have I?  It’s not that we are “rocking-chairgrandparents.  Ron still windsurfs and skis at 80, I’m a couple of blips behind him and have just taken up Pickle Ball and am still into landscape development and gardening.  We are “comfortable and challenged” with our choice of activities.  I may not be dancing around an imaginary campfire, like Katheryn Hepburn, but I can still burn the leaves and debris mother nature deposits in our yard and build fairy houses with our youngest granddaughters.

Easter basketNo,  I have not given up my Easter Bunny suit.  Thought it was outgrown last year with the grand children in their teens and early twenties.  Not so. I am informed by their father that they’d be “devastated”, his word, if they didn’t get their usual baskets and have the Easter egg hunt, ($’s inside plastic eggs with one special $ prize going to the finder, the rest divided amongst the players.)  It is still dark as I creep about the yard, hiding pink, purple, yellow baubles in the bushes.

The Easter Egg hunt is always eagerly awaited. The rules are laid, the baskets clutched and off they go. I’ve hidden THE prize right in plain sight in the mouth of a lily.   The oldest wins the prize. Fitting.  He’s turning twenty-four, starting his own landscape business and can use the $’s.

Easter morning, their last day.  We all sit for pancakes Ron has cooked with bacon and ham, watermelon (yes) and french fries, (left over from Harry Potter’s venture).  The departure time arrives.  Bags are tied on the rooftop (no room inside) and we  cross our fingers hoping the knots are secure.  Seven people climb into the SUV with pillows and throws.  A wave and a honk and hopefully, twenty-one hours later, they will be home, exhausted, a bit sun burned, all stooping to pet and hug  Meeko who greets them as only a dog left alone for ten days can.

As the car fades from sight, we sigh,  shake our heads and enter the house. Our early ventures of overnight drives are hazy memories.  Now we take two nights on the road and a lot of pit stops to cover the same distance.   Ron grabs the vacuum, I mop the kitchen, remove the leaves from of the table, stack the extra chairs in the closet.  Within two hours, three loads of towels and sheets are being folded, three more loads await.  I find some of the contents of the Easter baskets I created (from the dollar store) left behind (limited car space?) It is the “idea” of waking up Easter morning to the basket by the foot of the bed.

The house is quiet now,  the front entry has but two pairs of shoes.  The clock chimes.  No sound of laughter, or our son’s voice on the phone trying to sell a house. The silence echoes.  We wait for their call.  Five beautiful grandchildren growing through the most difficult time of their lives…I revel in the compliments of the neighbors regarding their “old-fashioned” politeness, their heroic father raising them the best he can while mentoring, loving, and trying to do the work of two parents:  provider, teacher, and nurturer.  The one thing I love about the children the most?  They love and take care of their father.  What more can a mother ask.

A perfect vacation?  Not exactly.  A quiet time with our son hearing of his life, his joys, his frustrations would have been nice, or to have had some conversation, eyeball to eyeball with the grandchildren, no e mails, texting (we don’t) just old fashioned voices, seeing their eyes fill with dreams and plans, but–Ron did come out of the bedroom, only ate by himself one meal and, well, I wasn’t going to mention that we got into a little twit over vacuuming the stairway.  He’s a “do-it-right” person and I’m a “good-enough” person. Glad it was only the vacuum  he threw down the stairs.  He still has those moments, but, after almost sixty years of surviving our differences, this too shall pass, and, as vacations go, I think it went rather well.




Over the years most of us have gone to reunions, high school/college.  Those early ones to impress classmates with successful jobs, handsome spouses, beautiful, intelligent children…all trying to out do our classmates like final scores on SAT’s (which we didn’t have to take way back then because most of us didn’t go to college which was for the rich (no student loans) or “very” smart.)  As the years passed, we finally outgrew the one upsmanship (most of us any way) and began to celebrate survival.  I enjoy the light–hearted  tone of  the following rhyme:

 Class Reunion

bday_balloons_bus_card.338122604It was my class reunion, and all through the house
I checked in each mirror and begged my poor spouse
To say I looked great, that my chin wasn’t double,
And he lied through false teeth, just to stay out of trouble.
Said that neath my thick glasses, my eyes hadn’t changed,
And I had the same figure just a mite rearranged.
Said my skin was still silky, though looser in drape,
Not like smooth satin, but more like silk crepe.
I swallowed his words hook, sinker, and line,
And entered the banquet feeling just fine.bday_balloons_bus_card.338122604
Somehow I’d expected my classmates to stay
As young as they were on that long–ago day.
We’d hugged farewell hugs, but like me, through the years,
They’d  added gray to their hair, and pounds to their rears.
But as we shared a few memories and retold our class jokes
We were eighteen in spirit though we looked like our folks.
We turned up our hearing aids, dimmed down the lights.
Rolled back the years and were young for the night
Donna Presnell/ Elizabeth Lucas

 The notice came in the mail the other day…60 Year Reunion!  Come celebrate It can’t be.  I go to the basement (it needs cleaning, of course, but I remind my husband that it was in the fine print on the marriage certificate: “I don’t do basements.  I know it’s here somewhere.  I move the old ice cream maker.  Haven’t used that since the kids left home–the oldest just celebrated his 58th birthday, but we might sometime (use it that is)  Then I move  the five jugs of water (you never know when that predicted catastrophe is going to happen) that sit in front of the boxes that hold  “who knows what. ” It might be there, my 1954 high school year book.

After opening a number of boxes of outdated treasures, gotta throw these away someday, I note mentally, I find it.   My old “Maroon”.   I pull up the old rocking chair– Granny’s.  The canes are broken across the back but I can have it re-caned and who knows, maybe one of the grand kids would like it. I settle back,  brush off the cover.  The years roll back with the dust.  Mustang logo

FLASHBACK”  A kaleidoscope of images: white bucks and saddle shoes, boys wearing jeans so low that “pantsing” had to be outlawed by the authorities (kids would sneak up behind an unsuspecting buddy, grab his pants on both sides and jerk…exposed! Ankle- length peg skirts so tight our walk became a hobble and we had to hike them up to bend our knees to go up the stairs…no running down the hall…cashmere sweaters if you were rich enough to own one with scarves tied neatly about our neck. Dress Code? No slacks for girls, skirts and dresses only.

There was the usual “class distinctions.  The jocks, the students, you know, the ones that belonged to the Math or Chess club, ran for student body offices, worked on the year book. There were the hot rodders who drove around in their  supped–up cars at noon, wore their hair in exaggerated duck tails slicked back with grease, had their pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of their tee shirts, and yes, even a few tattoos.  These boys our mothers warned us about…I remember Midge married one…divorced (physical abuse?), a single parent raising two girls.

There were the clandestine beer parties in the park…I pause focusing inward on Hazel’s 16th birthday party, Roger grabbing my hand dragging me out the back door as the police, who the neighbors called when someone fell through the plate glass window, came in the front. Never told my children about that episode of my “well-behaved” teen–age years.

Our senior year. I rock in the chair, close my eyes remembering our “coming-of-age” dramas  where we learned of sex (yes, Gerry was pregnant at graduation– they just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. ) We fell in and out of love, wore men’s over sized white shirts, and our boyfriend’s letterman sweaters and then we, Milwaukie High School, like the Hoosiers, won the state basketball championship and became the Class that made Milwaukie  famous.  Images of the welcoming-home parade come into focus and I can feel again the thrill of it all when we (cheer leaders) rode on the flat bed truck with the team waving our maroon/gold pom poms.POMSMBG

 The faces and times swim before me in a haze.  I was going steady with Bill, the class super hero, tall, handsome    all-around jock: basketball, track. The camera winds forward.  He marries Bunny, two children, divorces, dies in  1995. Clairene, his twin sister, the first Longshore woman in Portland, Oregon, the only person I  know who  doesn’t have a “social” face, stays in touch after all these years.

  LIFE:  I thumb through the pictures:  Roger marries Kay/ divorces,  daughter murdered by fiance, son killed on a motorcycle.  Stan marries/divorces/remarries Marge who died of breast cancer several years ago.  Don, who became a big wig in banking, flew Roger in a helicopter to his private club to play golf…later barely survived the Savings and Loan debacle.  Sherrill Houser, class president, becomes our most famous member.  World renowned sculpture (Big! sculpture, not him) over 4  stories high! Bronze, Conquistador on a stallion,  El Paso, Texas.don-juan-de-onate-statue-el-paso-airport  I guess it was natural for him to think big, his father was second in command in the creation of Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.

I turn the pages.  Stories of far away places, success, failure, grief, joy reflect the years of our lives.  Reunions?  They are like time warps and for a few moments we return to the years of our becoming.  We squint at faces trying to connect them to the name tag. We girls will have our hair “professionally” done for the occasion, buy a new dress to wrap around a body that no longer resembles our youthful mystique.

I hear Ron upstairs moving about the kitchen.  Time for dinner. I replace the yearbook,  push the rocking chair back into its corner.  The reunion is in Oregon, I am in New York.  The time and distance echoes.  I sigh.  Too far, too long ago–I won’t be going to the reunion.

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