We started talking about it years ago. Or maybe it was just me.
We'll rent a big house in our favorite Lake Michigan beach town for a “whole family,” seven-day vacation. It will be just like those movies. Fantastic Mom and Dad and their equally wonderful grown-up children, some with families of their own, gather for a holiday, special occasion, or because that is just what they do every summer.
Last fall we finally did it. We found a great house online, checked out summer 2015 dates with all the households, and sent in our deposit. What we have ended up with is not the whole family, but it’s close: six adults and five children, the latter all under age nine. Eleven people for seven days.
Well, sure, in the movies the families have relational issues to resolve during this gathering. But by the end of two hours they usually have it all worked out and have had a tremendous, meaningful time. Hugs all around. And as far as I know, our family’s time together would never resemble either the angst or antics of any of the films I’m talking about. We’re not that brilliantly funny or dramatic. (See, for instance, Dan in Real Life, starring Steve Carell.)
No, when I watch these films, my thoughts go like this: Just look at that place! Big house, lots of room, a nice yard, beautiful setting. And just look at that fun. Talent shows, board games, and touch football. Yes, if we rent a big house for the “whole family,” it will be just like that. So I spent this last long and cold winter dreaming about the house and what great memories we will make, all with the backdrop of beautiful Lake Michigan and its beaches and lighthouses. The fact that I have never seen anyone in our family play touch football is irrelevant.
Now that the time is here, though, I have a feeling I might have imagined our “whole family” vacation with a little too much idealism. Maybe it won’t be “just like that.” Yes, the house is large, with plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms and common-room space. It has a fenced-in yard for the kids to play safely outside, and it is within walking distance to everything we’ll need or probably even want (though we will also have three vehicles at our disposal). But, well, we’ve never done this before. And we are not actors in a movie with a script.
Eleven people in one house, for seven days. Eleven people eating meals together, for seven days. Eleven people coordinating plans each day, for seven days. Five little cousins, together every day, for seven days.
Oh, I know we will have a great time. Even with the eleven-in-seven reality now rattling around in my head, I am still convinced this is the kind of special gathering that gives families their texture and their stories. One way or another, it will be just like that.*
(See Part 2.)
*But we will miss you, A.