Tomorrow we depart for Peru and my stomach is churning. Thankfully, it’s just nerves… now. The stomach bug that laid me low, low, low last weekend has mostly passed. This does seem to be a dastardly bug that lingers for days. After eating, my stomach still cramps up and feels uneasy, but overall the worst has clearly passed. Now I’m feeling a mix of excited, anxious, nervous, revved up, and anticipatory. Strangely India did not cause this level of uncertainty, though it’s hard to remember. I keep realizing that I’ll soon be in a place that does not speak English as a main language (as they do in India); where the altitude remains a big scary question mark, and where I’ll be called upon to put forth a physical effort that is well outside my general comfort zone. In case I haven’t been clear: I’m not an athlete. Serious cardio strain is not my thing. Ask me to come root for you while you run a marathon, and I’m your girl. Ask me to run with you and you’re in for a big let down.
So as our family convened in Vermont at my brother and sister-in-law’s super amazing eco home, tucked away on one of the most beautiful parcels of land possible, butterflies of doubt and anticipation kept mixing in with my on-going gut thingy. As one improves, the other intensifies. It may be an indication of age that I find myself more uncertain about adventure than I once was. In theory, the idea of seeing Machu Picchu and the Amazon thrills me to the core. It’s the idea of getting to both places that triggers self-doubt and nerves. But ready or not, tomorrow depart.
This week was as successful a family get together as one could hope for with our posse. We’re a complex group of personalities and desires, but we never fail to entertain each other. There is a lot of laughing, which often includes the inhalation of liquids (or clams), snorting, fits of giggles that cause others to stare, and a deterioration of all propriety. We are a goofy lot, or goofy a lot. This week was no exception. With three young teen boys, there was no shortage of Beavus and Butthead humor, and with too many exceptionally smart people (they would say) there was no shortage of debate about anything from global warming, the Paleo diet, sustainable living, Jenga strategy, the Paleo diet, frogs, Mexican train game strategy, biodiversity, the Paleo diet (mostly trying to talk sense into followers: Come to the dark side and eat these maple donuts with us!), potential future family vacation destinations, the weather forecast for Cuzco Peru (Smart Guy needs to proclaim the weather forecast or he isn’t really alive) and an endless list of other diverse subjects. We can argue debate discuss any subject to death and still end up in ridiculous bursts of laughter.
(<–The view of the perfect pond, from a perfect house) Vermont is an exceptionally beautiful state and our family has been meeting there, in various locations, forever. Now that there’s a really special house to visit, it’s all the more alluring. It’s a state that forbids billboards and prided itself on earthy-granola-environmentalism long before most other states caught on. Sadly it was cold and rainy while we were there, as my brother-in -law wisely chose a property with a pond. He and I never met a pond or lake that we wouldn’t jump into, and
so he made sure there’s always one to jump in. With the bad weather however, we got to watch the peaceful scene and listen to the abundance of frogs that their pond is home to, instead. We walked the 100 acres, went for gelato, checked out Dartmouth (last time I was there was in college. I was young and single; this was a different kind of visit), played endless rounds of Jenga /Bananagram/and Mexican train game, sang Benny and the Jets more times than I can count, and ate an awful lot of BBQ while being lectured educated as to why all that meat was much better than carbs (Paleo nut. Nuts are good). No doubt it was all that anti-carb rhetoric that led us right to Captain Jack’s (in Easthampton, MA) on the way back to CT for fried clams. Ok, maybe we would have gotten the clams anyway, but we felt much more entitled to eat all those fried carbs. If truth be told, we ate a lot of french toast carbs as well. <–Smart Guy’s mom was the queen of french toast. Since her death two years ago, his dad has stepped up and taken the crown. Good stuff. Basically we have activities that kill time between meals.
If you like lush greenness and pastoral splendor, it’s hard not to be happy in Vermont. Black and white cows dot the endless green hills and amazing barns, many of them 200 years and older, are common. Living in WA state, it’s easy to forget that people live in really old houses back East. At home we think something’s old if it’s from the 1940s, but here 200 years is not at all unusual… especially in places like Hanover (where Dartmouth is) and the surrounding area. My brother/sister-in-laws house had lots of floor space for all the teens, and the rest of us rented an amazing house on a hill looking out over the area. It was a dream house with cozy spots to curl up and read or daydream and a killer rope swing that we all took turns on, before leaving. On the way out of town we also got to make a quick stop at Dan & Whit’s. “If (they) don’t have it, you don’t need it.” The place is packed floor to ceiling with anything you could possibly think you need. It made me dizzy just walking around. And finally, the icing on the carb-free cake was the fireflies. Most of them seem to live in my brother/sister-in-law’s meadow, and when it got dark it was an amazing show. There were hundreds of twinkling lights! One little guy got caught inside and we all watched him blink on the ceiling, as we oooh’ed and ahhhed.
There are times like this week when I wonder if we should have settled back here, where we are both from and where we always imagined we’d live one day. It’s great to see my kids laughing and fooling around with their cousins. It’s great to see us laughing and fooling around with our siblings and their families. These visits are rare and special; and in the moment it’s easy to imagine leaving the place we love and being closer to all this goodness. It’s so wonderful to joke with my nieces and nephews (who I adore) and, feel like I’m surrounded by people who have known me since I was a kid… or a kid as young as my kid is now. I met my sister-in-law when she was in high school; now she’s one of my best friends. Her husband is forever my side-kick as we smirk and parry our way through visits. My brother-in-law and I were dear friends through college and now he and his wife have children close in age to our two younger kids, and we’ve shared many years of familial story boarding. Each year, as we all age mellow it gets better and better. It’s good to be where you are known and accepted for the good and the bad. The fact that these are places that I spent my childhood and youth only adds to the magic.
Still I know that when I land back in Seattle in two weeks, whether I end up trekking all the way to Machu Picchu, or survive the potential anacondas and biting ants of the Amazon, I will be happy to be home. I only wonder about our decision to move so far away, when we are all laughing and having a good time here. The rest of the time I am certain that I am where I should be. As for tomorrow, the butterflies are bound to cause some difficulty sleeping tonight (that, or the fried clams). It’s all very exciting, despite any trepidation I feel. One of my nephews said to us today: “You guys are always going to such exciting places; we only go to moldy houses on the Cape!” (For the record: that’s not true; though they tend toward more traditional destinations). In the meantime, before we leave there’s a lot of laundry to do, re-organizing of bags, and getting all the dressy stuff from this past week packed and ready to ship home. When we board the plane to Peru tomorrow, we do so without computers and cell phones. There’s bound to be some withdrawal to work through as we test ourselves on the Inca trail. There will be lots of amazing stuff to post when I get back, of that I’m certain. In the meantime I’m trying to get my mojo back and hope that this week of being laid low doesn’t bite me further on the trail. Testing myself will ease the sting of family withdrawal. I’ll be missing all these good laughs and knowing glances, the rib splitting moments that will hopefully sustain me when we land in the land of high mountains and magical jungle. It’s been a great week, but tomorrow the real adventure begins.
Family reunion/vacations: wonderful or challenging? Do you live close to your family and where you grew up or did you move away? What brings you home? Does your family take adventurous vacations or stick to the comfortable path? Leave a comment.
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