Dear Travel mates,
Let’s talk commitment. It’s never come easily for me, and even less so now. Meanwhile my son is the opposite, and that makes for trouble in paradise. But before we get to that, there’s a lot to report. Since we spoke, we’ve been to New Mexico – Santa Fe, and Arizona – Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Scottsdale.
I’ll give you the highlights:
Trying to get eight presents for three kids during a pandemic while traveling is a nightmare on wheels. We couldn’t go into stores and weren’t in one place for long enough to order stuff. Luckily, the Chabad in Santa Fe set us up with a comprehensive Hanuka kit complete with a menorah, latkes, dreidels and soup. Lesson: Always call the Chabad when your Judaism is in jeopardy.
To make things worse, smack in the middle of Hanuka was my eldest’s birthday. So how do you make it extra special to compensate for the guilt of even taking him on a trip he doesn’t want to be on and to pretend like we aren’t experiencing the pandemic of our lives? Well, first you do a remote escape room with family (not a terrible experience actually). Then you do a Kahoot for cousins and friends (my son got three wrong on the quiz I made ABOUT HIM.) And then you find a woman who organizes scavenger hunts in the town and you take a chance on it.
A what? Yeah, not sure what I was thinking. But it was an outdoor activity and my son likes deciphering clues. So there we were running around finding the Snoopy shaped mountain and taking pictures in a cowboy store. I think it was a success?
We did a birthday ATV ride a couple days later. To get it for free, we sat through a two hour timeshare sales pitch. One woman’s hell is another boy’s heaven. My son took notes throughout the presentation and later excitedly talked about the different sales methods used – imagination, identification, practicality, guilt. It might have been his favorite part of Sedona.
Right after New Years was my husband’s birthday. What do you do in Scottsdale to make an extremely undemanding husband feel special? Well, not that much. I booked him a massage on our patio, we played foosball and basketball and sat in the jacuzzi. Then he and I went on a proper date and sat outside at a restaurant. As usual, we spent half of it enjoying yourselves and half obsessing about whether we were too close to the natives.
We’ve seen some amazing sites. Sedona was a playground of red rock climbing and beautiful views. Did we feel exceptionally balanced and rejuvenated from the vortexes? Dunno. I meditated, I focused, I tuned in. And I kept hearing the song from The Chorus Line “And I felt nothing…”
The Grand Canyon was indeed grand. My husband tried to reconcile being on a family trip with his true desire to rough it on a trek by sneaking out early one day and doing a blitz 12 mile hike on his own into the canyon. That afternoon he limped through a shorter hike with all of us. I also got to have a whine-free solo hike into the canyon the next day and smiled under my mask the entire time.
A few days ago we did a nice hike in Scottsdale. It was a much different view than we’re used to at this point. The top gave us a vast landscape of suburbia and faraway mountains. 80% of the hikers were NOT wearing masks and the trail was narrow and crowded so we may not be doing a lot more of those. In general we haven’t been impressed with mask compliance in Arizona. Maybe that’s why their numbers are highest in the country right now? Nah.
Believe it or not, we rented a house for a full MONTH in Scottsdale. It’s testing my commitment issues. A week was long enough. But a month? The routine! The hum drum! The monotony! It just doesn’t suit me anymore.
But you know who it does suit? My son. I haven’t talked about it yet on the blog but this trip has been hardest on him. It’s a confluence of factors. He’s 12, which means he’s just heading into his tween need for independence. And beyond that, he’s a lot of things I’m not – an introvert who doesn’t like surprises, a planner who likes to set and keep to a daily schedule, a home body who would rather settle in one place than explore new ones. And a kid who doesn’t like hiking. At all.
It’s tragic really. My husband and I are in sync. We’re spreading our wings the way we’ve been dreaming about for years and it feels right. We lazily check houses and hotels the night before we leave our current one and relish in the unknown. We explore a new place by walking into nature. My two youngest go with the flow. They like hiking and climbing. My middle has gotten into photography and the youngest into bouldering.
But not my eldest.
So what do we do? It’s taken us a while to figure this out but at this point we let him stay home whenever possible. We try to tell him the plan whenever we have one. We’ve minimized our hiking a bit. We schedule days of staying home all day, playing board games and watching movies. We empathize. And sometimes we also get impatient, angry, and forget to consider his needs. It’s a work in progress.
I keep hoping that one day he’ll get it. He’ll develop the same love for exploration that I have. He’ll look forward to a car ride that takes us to a completely new place and leaves the old one behind. He’ll take pleasure in adapting to new situations. But so far no such luck.
Will he one day look back on this and take satisfaction in the fact that he was able to do this trip? Or will he consider it the worst year of his life? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, I’m singing along with Meatloaf – “Two out of three ain’t bad…”
So here we are for a full month in our mini test for suburban life. The pool is numbingly cold but I’m not complaining about sitting outside with the laptop gazing at the water.
I’m also not complaining about pausing for a minute, not packing up, ordering bigger milk cartons, having an address to order new hiking boots to, and vegging out in front of the TV watching old Sex in the City episodes.