Along for the Rye’d
No Need for the Family Vacation
By Annabel Monaghan
Pullquote:“Voluntarily go away somewhere to spend time with just your family unit this summer? Not a chance.”
In prior years, I have looked forward to summer because of everything it brought with it – a looser schedule, an opportunity to write, more time with my kids. Summer always carries a certain laziness and a murky sense of time. It’s hard to know when to serve lunch when breakfast is at noon. This quarantine feels like an endless summer, albeit in sweaters and flannel pajamas.
Never has my schedule been so loose. No one has to be anywhere, or up, at any particular time. There’s still a rhythm to the day – wake, walk, eat, write, feed, feed, feed, wine, sleep. I do not check the time or the date. The next event on my calendar is four weeks away, and it’s been cancelled. I am swimming through one long summer day. Like the ice cream truck of summers past, the recycling truck should play a cheery song to announce its arrival and to remind us that a week has gone by.
People talk about summer trips to places like “the Cape”, “the shore”, and “the lake”. These are special destinations for reclaiming concentrated family time away from school and friends and activities. These places are distraction-free, and a family has no recourse but to make fun together. It’s on these vacations that people enjoy long family dinners and share stories of generations past. But this summer that particular kind of catching up feels unnecessary.
In fact, now that we’re two months in, I’m wondering if anyone will ever take their family to “the cabin” again. Send the kids to the cabin so you can have some peace and quiet? Sure. But voluntarily go away somewhere to spend time with just your family unit? Not a chance. I am not so concerned about the future of travel – heck, if I could get out of here I would – but I am concerned about the future of the family getaway.
Of course, I’ve longed for extra time with my teen–age children. In general, their favorite place is somewhere else, and their favorite person is anyone else. I am the sort of mom who lets her kids overschedule themselves and then complains about how they’re overscheduled. I regularly bemoan the fact that there isn’t more freeform time to spend as a family. If only we could have summertime without the confines of a summer job and all that mad socializing. Well, here we are.
I’ve tried to squint my mind enough to see quarantine as just this — the summer vacation of my dreams. We play board games and do puzzles. There’s an intense focus on food, as it’s the only thing that changes day to day. I try to serve dinner in different areas of the house, like we’re going out to try all the new restaurants in this particular Hampton. Chicken in the kitchen, steak in the dining room. Hamburgers are outside, and I like to say “al fresco” a lot, like we’re in Italy. Though I’ve recently learned that in Italy the expression “al fresco” usually refers to spending time in jail. Again, here we are.
As for sharing our stories, every time I go to tell my kids an amusing anecdote about my childhood, they raise their hands to stop me, “You told us that yesterday.” I’m running out of material. I could use a little time away from my family to come up with some new stuff. I’d love to burst into the house shouting, “Guess what happened!” But first I’m going to have to go somewhere.
At the end of my life, I know I will be supremely grateful for this intensive family adventure. But by the time summer starts, I will be ready for everyone to be up and out. I wonder if this is the year that families take separate vacations, either alone or with people who don’t share our last names. We can all get a little fresh air while we build up enough distance to miss each other again. And we can catch up in the fall.