Last month, our family flew cross-country to join my husband’s family for a reunion-of-sorts on Sanibel Island. (We realized afterwards that our trek was very nearly the longest possible travel that could be undertaken within the contiguous United States – we live out west, and all the way north close to Canada, Sanibel is in southern Florida. It’s a long-ass journey to take with two preschoolers.)
But I digress.
For the sake of full disclosure, I will admit that I don’t particularly care for Florida. There, I said it: It’s not my favorite destination. It’s hot, muggy, buggy – and they have FREAKING ALLIGATORS! Jesus. I can’t even think about the pythons. Makes my skin crawl. Definitely not my first choice. However, Sanibel Island is all kinds of amazing.
Sanibel is this ridiculously gorgeous little island (actually, two islands, Sanibel and Captiva). It’s picturesque, quaint, pristine – and seemingly well-monied (the thrift stores there are incredible – wealthy people having lots of valuable castoffs – and driving around ogling the mansions is super fun as well). White sand beaches, countless seashells, the beautiful rolling gulf tide. There’s really nothing not to love about Sanibel.
My husband’s family has been coming here for decades – like, since the early 70’s (before I was born). So bringing our kids here, to spend time with their grandma, and aunts and uncles and cousin, was deeply meaningful to his family.
It was meaningful to me, too. I think, as parents, it’s important to share with our kids that things that make up our own memories. I love taking my kids to our historic family farm in West Virginia, where my sister and I, as little girls, used to pump water from the hand pump and drink from a tin cup on the front porch where my ancestors used to farm the land. It give me shivers to be able to bring my kids into those memories.
So Sanibel was special for various reasons. We rented a couple of condos near the waterfront and just hunkered down for a week of fun, sun, way too many baked goods, just enough wine, and a very special unicorn birthday party for our daughter, who turned 4 while we were there.
We tried to get a few nice family pics, but ended up just settling for this:
This was admittedly one of the best vacations we’ve had, to date.
It helps that the kids are a little older, and it’s less stressful traveling with them (hello, iPads!) and it was the first family vacation we’ve taken where my husband (freelancer) didn’t have to work, but also it just felt so nice, being with family, sharing meals, jaunting around town and to the playground together. My kids got to spend time with a cousin they’ve never met, and they had a blast playing together. It was just so . . . nice.
What it has me thinking about is community. While we love where we live – it’s beautiful and serene – it’s also very far from friends and family, and it’s been difficult to really tap into any community, living as remotely as we do. We have amazing neighbors, but we are still very isolated.
I don’t know what the answer is – we’re just really beginning to identify the question – but it’s definitely something we want to figure out. How can you live remotely, enjoy land and privacy and at least some illusion of autonomy, and still maintain those critical regular human connections? Technology helps, to be sure, but spending a week and a half in the company of loved ones felt a lot different than face-timing with them would have. We want our kids to grow up with a sense of community (for me, it’s been a huge part of my personal development, just understanding where I come from and what my network of support is), and will work to create that, however we can.
But for now, we are still basking in the glow of the memories from our Florida trip (never thought I would say those words) even while our tan lines are fading. Maybe we will go back one day soon, or perhaps we will make new memories in some different locale. Either way, it’s nice to have a little break now and then from real life – no chores, no deadlines – and just soak up all the beauty and wonder this world has to offer.