Is summer really gone? Ah, yes. I am back in the classroom now, back in the serious shoes, so, yes, I guess it is gone.
As a teacher I have those glorious stretches of time known as summer vacation. Ever in need of some sort of structure in my life, I have in the past assigned a theme to my summers. I am a hard-working pony, but one that needs fences around the very large ranch of summer, lest I wander off and become completely feral.
In the past I had Summer of Service, Summer of Reading, and Summer of Health. This summer was Summer of Travel.
Thanks to the internet, planning trips is ridiculously simple. It’s fun and easy to prop yourself up with five pillows, computer on your lap, calendar on your right and credit card to your left, and plan trips from the comfort of your bed.
I first planned a trip to Portland on the train, simply because I wanted to travel on a train and sleep on one. Brian was game. I booked a trip on the Coastline Starlight. The next trip to was to see my niece and her family in San Antonio. She had recently moved there, has adorable children and Southwest was kind enough to offer me a nice fair. Boom. Done. Next my friend Jim mentioned to me that he wanted to go to San Diego to see the Shakespeare exhibit there. Why drive when you could take a train ride? Next, I planned a trip to Kansas to see a friend and pick up two of my sisters and a niece and drive to Oklahoma to see another sister. Road trip! Our final trip was to Boston to see Brian’s son and daughter-in-law. Five glorious days in Boston? Yes, please.
My summer of travel was a great success. I spaced out the trips so I had time between each one. I loved all the beauty I saw along the way. The adventure of getting places was a bonus.
On our trip to Portland I sat in the observation car and saw the beauty of the Cascades. In Texas we explored streams and woods. Kansas and Oklahoma were gorgeous. Ever a Midwest girl at heart, my heart fills up when I see rows and rows of corn, and long sweeping vistas of green, gold and blue. The bustle of San Diego was fun. I stood and looked at a 400 year-old collection of Shakespeare’s work, open to one of my favorite passages from Hamlet and thought I would weep. Then on to Boston. What an incredible city. We walked Freedom Trail, went to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument, and rowed a boat out on one of the large ponds there.
Yes, I saw some beautiful scenery and breathtaking historical monuments. However, a letter from my friend Jim got me thinking about my Summer of Travel. Jim wrote that he loved the Shakespeare exhibit but his favorite part of the trip was playing cards with me on the train. I smiled because I had thought the same thing.
Portland was great but my fondest memory is sitting with Brian on the train, holding hands and talking, watching the scenery go by.
My favorite times in Texas? Sitting on the floor, reading books to my great-niece and my great-nephew, their little bodies leaning into mine as we read book after book. Their tiny hands turned the pages; their bright voices sang to me as they asked questions and laughed.
Boston was one big, beautiful city and yet, the memory that comes to me time and time again is sitting around the table with Brian’s son and daughter-in-law, at their home talking about nothing in particular, just being together and laughing.
I thought about my trip to Kansas and realized that my favorite part was hearing my sisters’ voices drifting through the night air as we settled in our beds, calling out to each other and giggling ourselves to sleep, just as we had long ago, in another house very far away.
The deck of cards passed between old, familiar friends, that square of carpet with books spread out and children nestled, waiting for the stories within, the hands that hold ours as we pass through tunnels, those familiar faces around the table, the sweet voices wafting across the air to wish us happy dreams. That’s where the real sweetness in life is.
It’s true I traveled thousands of miles across land this summer, but more importantly, I traveled deeper within life. Those are the journeys that matter the most.
I am grateful for it all.
Rowing with Phil and Brian.
Swimming with the sisters.