SALT LAKE CITY — The kids go back to school in exactly five days (not that I’m counting), and summer vacation has officially lost its sheen. Incidentally, so has my face, which has recently taken on a slightly maniacal, I’ve-completely-lost-my-mind look. I’m hoping it won’t be the only thing my kids remember about me this summer.
Yesterday, when levels of discontent reached record highs, I herded three kids into our van and drove them to a self-service car wash. I went there for the vacuums, as there is no possible way that any of our wimpy home devices could have tackled the remnants of our summer.
Frankly, I secretly hoped that one of the car-wash vacuums would “accidentally” ingest a certain kid. He’s skinny and the suction is powerful, so there was a chance. But despite my (I mean “his”) best efforts, only about half of his shirt made it into the tube. Too bad he had eaten breakfast — an empty stomach might have been the game changer.
Before my kids got to brandish vacuum hoses, they had to climb into the van and manually remove over-sized road trip debris. I instructed them to throw everything away, regardless of personal attachments to half-eaten cookies or travel brochures.
In the end, they asked me to reconsider two items. One was a ridiculously overdue library book. I owed slightly less in fines than the cost of its replacement, so figured it was worth returning. The other was a rock my daughter found wedged under a seat. She held it up, declaring, “We have to keep this!”
The small piece of marble is bright, white and sparkles in the sun. We found it this summer while on vacation in Marble, Colo., a teensy town located smack dab in the middle of nowhere. For all that it lacks in population (131, according to the latest census) and convenient proximity to a grocery store (45 minutes), it absolutely makes up for in breathtaking views and mountain air.
Because Marble gets its name from nearby marble mines, we experienced marble on a whole new level. It was common to see random slabs of marble in creeks, lakes and mountain fields. Enormous blocks of marble are mined, brought down the mountain and deposited in a shipping yard. We wandered through an outdoor marble carving convention, fascinated by marble artists using their tools to create clouds of white dust and extraordinary sculptures.
The coolest thing, though, was finding our own small pieces of marble in river beds. This is why I responded to my daughter’s plea with an immediate, “Absolutely!”
In addition to our marble adventures, we spent the week kayaking, fishing, four-wheeling, hiking, eating, playing games and guitars, and talking.
All of this with no cell phone coverage and intermittent, super-slow Wi-Fi. We hadn’t been apprised of this before arrival (initial cries of distress were heard as far away as Denver), but it ended up that being disconnected helped us better connect with one another — which is exactly why we were on vacation.
The awesome location wasn’t what made our vacation awesome, though. Since we were together and away from our normal surroundings, relaxed and happy, our interactions felt different. Better. More open, more patient and more loving. (I speak in general terms, of course, because “too much togetherness” can and did happen.)
The biggest vacation payoff for our family comes during the school year, which brings with it a whole new level of busyness. This is mostly great, but sometimes it’s not. Kids get stressed, I get grumpy and life gets tough. When that happens this year, I’ll hold up the piece of marble my daughter rescued from the vacuums and ask the kids for Marble memories.Vacations aren’t always easy to plan, finance or execute — but they’ve always been worth the effort for me.
They’ll likely recount events like hikes, kayaking and marble sightings. And in the process of recalling, I’m hoping the emotions they felt while in Marble will also resurface. Feeling relaxed, accepted and loved, for instance. This should reaffirm to them that the members of our family have each other’s backs — absolutely and completely — to help them navigate the worries, disappointments and difficulties that will inevitably come their way.
And that their mom is there for them, always, no matter what — even if my end-of-summer face didn’t exactly convey that message.
OK, I admit I’m probably expecting too much of a rock; waving it around won’t solve all our problems. But there’s a good chance that it’ll help to some degree, however small.
So our marble from Marble is in the kitchen, where I’ll be able to grab it whenever the need arises