"Look, you can see the whole world from up here!" my 5-year-old exclaimed with sheer delight, just after the plane took off for our eight-day vacation to California.
It was the same quotable child who later, when we were discussing his older brother's admiration for the Pacific Ocean, eloquently said, "He loves it like it's his home."
We have the pictures that show the fun: Snow White hand-in-hand with our starry-eyed, 3-year-old daughter, escorting her through Disneyland. Our three young delighted kids, with their faces painted, grinning. Dinner with a beloved aunt and her friends from Sri Lanka, after a fun day at the beach.
Yes, these were some of the beautiful moments of our most recent family vacation. Perhaps, actually, all of the beautiful moments.
At one point in our hotel room -- which sure didn't smell like it was non-smoking -- my husband and I made the astute yet pointless observation that individually, our children are really neat, nice and kind-hearted people. They should just never be in the same room together. This most recent trip was, as many families find their vacations to be, chaos punctuated by some truly meaningful moments.
You tend to forget the hauling around of 8 million pounds of gear, the desperate search for bathrooms, the confusing road signs, the long lines and the sweaty people in those long lines.
My daughter getting her hand stuck in the elevator door was definitely not on our agenda. As terrifying as it was, it was better than when her brother (then 2) got stuck in a brand-new elevator with a malfunctioning release button on a vacation to Virginia Beach. Five hours and five firemen later, the elevator was fixed. Or so they said. We didn't dare test it.
And how about the businessman, a charming and really patient gentleman, who got the aisle seat, right smack between our family of five, on the four and a half hour flight home? His head is probably still reeling! He endured hours of puppet shows (featuring the air sickness bags as characters), got more exercise than he probably had in his whole life (getting up to let our people out to use the restroom) and conversed with our children for what seemed like forever. The good news: Nobody threw up on him.
When my brothers and I were young, my parents took us on a vacation to Gettysburg. When we arrived, we heard a man bellowing, "Tours of the battlefield! See the re-enactment of the battle!" After seven hours in the car with us, my father said, "We've already seen enough battles!"
However, when asked about our recent vacation, I notice a gradual softening in my tone. When we first arrived back at the Buffalo airport, I said that we would save a lot of money by never vacationing again. But by the next day, our trip looked really good. And then we got the pictures back, and it was even better.
Now, a month later, it was really a beautiful thing. We remember the special moments, and discuss them quite regularly. I'm already planning our next trip. The adults will take ear plugs. We will use stairs, not elevators. I will take a flask. We will get a suite. But, by God, we will live. We will make memories. We will have a blast. We are a family. That's the beauty of it, isn't it?
Julie Ottaway Schmit lives in Clarence Center and advises travelers to steer clear of her family's vacations.