As I write these words, the morning sun is playing hide-and-seek with dark clouds racing across the early April sky. The furnace just kicked on and the heater is running, pouring warm air into the townhouse and bringing an official end to our first, brief taste of spring. Hard to believe it was 65 yesterday when today might not even reach 50. We can expect showers off and on, and – if we’re lucky – a clap of thunder or two, and perhaps some hail. I wouldn’t feel so bitter over this if my kids weren’t, at this very moment, some 30,000 feet in the air, headed to Florida for spring break with their grandparents.
I’ve never been to Florida. While my offspring will be enjoying sun and sand and surf next week, I’ll be stuck at home looking for jobs. Oh, and I still have to do my taxes. I’ve got that to look forward to.
Something is clearly wrong with this picture.
My parents enjoy spending time with their grandkids, and spring break has become something of a tradition with them. For years now, they’ve taken Rusty and Audrey on mini-vacations during their week off from school. However, in the past, they have only ventured as far as the Oregon coast, where they typically rent a beach house for a few days. Florida is a whole new ballgame. My dad’s brother owns a condo in south Florida – Palm something-or-other, all I know is it’s not far from Miami – and my folks stay there often. This year, they decided instead of dealing with a rainy, windy, and cold spring break at the coast – as it has been every year (and, true to form, promises to be next week), they’d surprise the kids with a trip to Florida instead. The airline tickets were their Christmas gift.
First thought: how freakin’ cool is that? Rusty and Audrey were excited beyond belief, and have been counting the days ever since December 25th.
Second thought: hey, wait a minute…these are the same parents I had when I was a kid, and they never took me or my brother on a fantastic vacation during our spring break! What gives?!
I realize that things are a lot different now. They’re both retired, and have nothing but time on their hands. My dad receives a nice monthly pension from the Air Force, their home is paid for, and they both still have their health. If I were in their shoes, I’d be traveling, too. Hence their fantastic grandkid-included April vacation while I have not even set foot on an airplane since prior to 9/11.
I’m not really complaining. We did a lot of fun things growing up. Lots of camping trips when we lived in Ohio. Visits to family on the east coast. I can proudly say I have…
A) Touched the Liberty Bell.
B) Climbed to the crown of the Statue of Liberty.
C) Visited the observation deck at the top of the World Trade Center.
In Hawaii, we lived on Oahu but would occasionally fly to some of the other islands for a vacation. I have watched the sun rise from the top of Mount Haleakala on Maui, and strolled across black sand beaches and volcanic craters on the Big Island. I’ve been on catamaran cruises and hiked through bamboo forests and scaled Diamond Head. I’ve snorkeled and boogie boarded and flown in the back of a massive, windowless C-130 transport airplane where the seats faced backward and our meal was served in a brown paper bag. I’ve been to Disneyland and Alcatraz and Mount Rushmore and Devil’s Tower and the Gateway Arch and the Grand Canyon and the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. I’ve visited the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky; swam in the Great Salt Lake; been atop Pike’s Peak; and walked the streets of Juarez, Mexico when it was still safe to do so. In a way, I feel like Forrest Gump, only without the run-ins with historical figures. In short, my life has not been lacking in adventure. I have been fortunate enough to see a lot of really cool sights across the U.S. and have done things many people yearn to but never get the chance.
Only, all of those things happened a long time ago…
There have been a few memorable trips in recent years. Crater Lake, Seattle, and Bend. But mostly life has been busy happening, and it hasn’t all been a bed of roses. Divorce and unemployment take their toll. As a result, I find myself craving a new adventure in a big way.
I want to go somewhere, do something. I was telling my parents a few days ago I’d love to hop in the car and take a road trip across the country. Maybe revisit some of those places from my childhood – and check out new sights, as well. Like the South. I’ve never been there. Or Florida (grr). On the one hand, now is the perfect time to do this, since I’m not tied down to a job. On the other hand, now’s an awful time to do this, since I’m not tied down to a job (and therefore have no money other than too-small unemployment checks). So, this feeling of wanderlust that is currently gripping my heart is going to have to be satisfied in smaller, incremental doses.
Perhaps a drive to the coast next week. Or a day trip to Astoria. Clam digging on the Long Beach Peninsula in WA? Always wanted to do that.
In the meantime, I’ll try not to think about all the fun my kids are having without me…