Our Trippy Vacation

View from the Ferris Wheel, Newport Beach

View from the Ferris Wheel, Newport Beach

So we just got back from our summer vacation. Not an everyday vacation adventure , but a real do-it-every-couple-of-years-and-spend-a-lot-of-money kind of vacation.

In my neighborhood, the mommies have a question that we ask each other when we get back from a trip. We huddle together in someone’s yard and we pour wine and we ask, “Sooooo, was it a vacation or just a trip?”

When my kids were younger, it was always a trip. It was work. It was work to pack, to load the kids in the car, to clean their messes out of the car, to pack snacks in the stroller, to keep the kids quiet in restaurants, to keep them entertained during long, hot car rides (which always smelled of moist feet and onion potato chips), to cajole them into politeness when we stop off to meet long lost friends or relatives who don’t have kids or toys or backyards.

But the last few times, because life with little kids does eventually get easier, we’ve enjoyed a vacation. An actual vacation. Because the kids read and crochet and watch DVDs in the car. They laugh and make us laugh and help us with their sunscreen and seatbelts and even help to lighten us up when we’re feeling snarly, which everyone feels sometimes on a vacation.

But we just returned from a vacation and I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation – and that usually happens only with trips.

To begin with, it was a long trip, by which I mean 7 days. And we went someplace far away, by which I mean about 1000 miles. Oh, and we drove. And we went to a big city.

I think maybe I don’t like to go places that are too far away. I feel energized when places are familiar enough to be somewhat comforting but new enough to be fresh and exciting. Also, they must be far enough away that I don’t have to go home and cook.

As a rule, we aren’t much for tourist destinations. My kids like to lie on the beach and chase seagulls and search for shiny shards of shells under the surf. But this time we went all-out tourist for a couple of days.

I’m not sure why we did it. We knew better. But I guess we did it because that’s what you’re supposed to do when your kids are 6, 8, and 10.

At one of these touristy places, we spent $175 on a meal that featured old meat and waxy cheese. At another, we spent $340 to wait in long lines and feel the sweat drip down our backs.

But the highlight of our vacation/trip cost us about 75 cents. Because that’s what we spent on a certain wayward sausage.

This one:

We were sitting in a little open air café eating breakfast about a block from the beach, where my kids were finally feeling relaxed and happy. At one point, my daughter tried to put her sausage on my plate for some reason (I don’t eat tubular meat very often) and I was talking with my hands, and my hand accidentally batted this little piggie, and it went soaring out of the window.

So for the next 30 minutes, the kids crouched by the window, trying to hold back hysterics, to watch the plight of the sausage. Would it get eaten by a dog? Squished by a bike? Swept away by the restaurant manager?

All of this allowed my husband and I to enjoy another cup of coffee together and a bit more conversation.

This little piece of breakfast meat somehow brought them together and lifted the pressure of packing too many things into our vacation.

So we lay on the beach all the rest of that balmy summer day.

We swam in the ocean and we chased seagulls and we searched for shells and we laughed and we wondered whatever became of that sausage.

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