For vacation this year, as for 4 of the past 5 years, we headed to the Upper Peninsula for a dirt biking, hiking, beachy, small town, majestic National Forest kind of family vacation.
Ella is clearly no longer “the baby” as she planned the countdown to vacation on her calendar. I know the boys were excited, as they always are, and Julia was happy to stay at her mother’s with her dogs and friends and 20 year old activities, but nothing could outshine the enthusiasm of Ella. She helped pack the bikes on the trailer, and was over the moon to place her booster seat in the “way back” row of the CX-9 — right next to her very own bike (and in front of my Bernina!)
It’s a long drive up here, and every year I am plagued by distant childhood memories of my own: fighting in the car, at home, on the boat with my sister. Feeling angry, lonely, or resentful any time I wasn’t in the water or on the water, and I remember a dominant theme in the word “No.” Sara and I were terrible to each other, and to our parents. As I remember those times, I feel a hot wash of shame and want nothing more than to have a big fat “do-over” of those years for my sister and I to show my parents how much we appreciate what they tried to do for us.
Today’s travel day was nothing like that, however. We packed far less gear and clothing to simplify our prep time. We tried to remain calm as we packed the kids and their stuff into the vehicle, and tried very hard not to look at the clock as we did so. I even slept in until 8 a.m. which is unheard of on a travel day!
Once underway, the kids fell into a nice rhythm. Peter and Jack each listened to their music, I read magazines, and Ella played with her magnetized princess “paper dolls” and a sticker/activity book for many, many hours. John drove the entire way, which in hindsight may have been unfair. Poor guy rose at 5 a.m. to run before packing.
The boys spent the past couple weeks at their other parents’ homes, and Ella missed them so much…after the kids were fed and watered, they were ready to reconnect. It warms my heart hearing how gentle the boys are with their little sister. We stumbled upon a bluegrass station on the radio and enjoyed gas station snacks and intermittent naps for the rest of the ride.
It’s hard to stay sleeping when there’s so much to see up here:
We rent the same house every year, and it’s interesting to feel settled in after only minutes of unpacking. The local grocery store carries more and more of the foods we like and need. (The U.P. isn’t the most veg-friendly). We can ride the bikes right onto the trails from the yard, we enjoy a beautiful pond, and we each have our own space for when we need it.
Hallelujah, Hiawatha National Forest.