We are leaving on vacation in just four days. We're flying halfway around the world to spend three weeks reconnecting with family in some of the most beautiful places on earth. We'll be visiting world class cities, spectacular natural beauty, fascinating museums, excellent restaurants... Yet as I try desperately to gather together the thousand disparate pieces of daily life that need to be organized, sorted and packed before a trip like this, I find myself wondering - what will be the moments my children remember? What memories will we be creating?
When they look back on this vacation many years from now I suspect that it won't be the beautiful scenery or the wonderful museums or the glittering cities that they remember. I suspect that what will stay with them the longest are things that I can't even begin to guess at as I sit here at my computer.
Maybe it will be an afternoon spent blowing bubbles, or getting caught in a rainstorm, or the day we burned the dinner. Maybe it will be riding on a ferry, or roasting marshmellows over a campfire. Or maybe it will just be using a coin-operated washing machine.
It's the little unexpected moments that we weave together to form our memories. The trip to England where we got stuck in a railway car full of drunken female rugby players who sang "Allouette" for 6 hours straight. The silver and turquoise ring that I bought on a trip to New Mexico at age 7 - my first purchase with my own money. Sailing leaf boats in the Delaware River for hours on end. The time the motorhome got stuck on the cottage driveway. My mother trying to explain a mechanical problem with a rental car in France, when all she could manage to say to the mechanic was "chugga chugga". The Hungarian couple on the train to Florida. The cute waiter in the restaurant next to the souffle place in Paris who treated an awkward 14-year-old me like a beautiful woman...
These are some of the things that come to mind when I think of vacations I've taken over the years. The chateaux and the castles? Beautiful, but they eventually run together. The hikes? Same thing, unless I recall how very sore I was after hiking the 18 kilometer Samaria Gorge in Crete (all downhill - deceptively easy, leaving me feeling very betrayed when I could barely walk the following day). The museums? Room after room of beautiful art, but which painting was where? It's hard to remember now.
In the end, it's the little moments that make up our memories - of our vacations and of our lives.
As I write my packing list, I wonder which memories will be the ones we take away from this trip. When my children sit and reminisce many years from now, what will they remember?
Whatever the pictures woven into their memory, I hope the common thread that unites them is one of love, of joy in spending time with family, and of the wonderous feeling of endless possibilities awaiting discovery.
This post has been submitted to Michelle's May Write-Away contest. The theme this month is "vacations".