My sweet Aunt Inez died a little more than a year ago and is still missed. Recently her estate was divided between her 28 nieces and nephews because she and my uncle had no children. The money we received wasn’t a life-altering sum, no vacation home, fancy new car or the option to quit working, but it was enough for me to think about helping my own scattered nieces and nephews come home for a big family reunion this summer.
[cleeng_content id="642831578" description="Read it now!" price="0.15" t="article"]Those of us on the East Coast have yet to meet the latest additions to the family and there was no time like the present to get things moving. Sleeping accommodations and rounding up car seats were minor points, it was all about being together in one place, sharing meals and stories and introducing the youngest ones to “seeing stars through a coat sleeve.”
This is a trick from my father’s childhood where a kid lies on the floor and looks up through a coat sleeve dangling above him. Unbeknownst to him the person holding the coat also has a glass of water and when he asks the kid if he can see the big dipper tipping over would dribble water down the sleeve and into his face. It never fails to crack everyone up, including the kid with the wet face, even if the in-laws see no humor whatsoever. But it’s part of how our family rolls and here was a whole generation missing out.
I started making phone calls. My brother in Oregon was already coming in for several weeks and it would just mean getting a ticket for my sister-in-law. My Miami niece was off for most of the summer since she’s a teacher. But her other two cousins — the ones with the children we especially wanted to see — proved to be the undoing of our plans. To make a long story short, it boiled down to not enough leave time from work to make the trip worthwhile. Who wants to fly across the country, even if the tickets are paid for, for what might be just a three-day weekend? Of course hearing what airfares would be, I started to question my offer to help out.
It’s a problem that befalls most of us: We have the time for things like a vacation, but lack the money. Or we have jobs that earn us the money, but then everything has to be squeezed into a precious two weeks out of the year.
Americans are known for our cockeyed view of vacations. While entire European countries will shut down a month for everyone to relax, even if U.S. employers provide the time, we fear taking it because we need to look dedicated to our careers. Some of us can’t even go to the beach without packing along our cell phone to receive calls from the office or emails from clients.
I remember a trip to Hawaii several years ago that meant some belt tightening both before and after the trip, made even more so because I took time off without pay. My friends and I hiked to the top of a mountain through bamboo groves with rocky paths. We experienced beautiful waterfalls along the way and when we reached the summit had the ocean at our feet. When we returned to the bottom there was an elderly man standing at the start of the trail. I hoped I was wrong, but guessed that he had worked all his life, never taking time off, expecting that he could travel when he retired. But with his limited mobility, he likely was going to miss all that we had seen.
It’s a hard decision balancing time and financial resources, especially these days, and I feel for my nieces and their families as they try to do the right thing. At the same time I’m optimistic that everyone will eventually be able to get everything in sync, that there will be a balance of adequate vacation time as well as money for airfare so that this newest generation won’t miss seeing stars through a coat sleeve.
— Nancy Luse is a writer and editor living in Frederick, Md.[/cleeng_content]