I don’t often write follow up Reflections, but the number of comments I received on my last one about vacations moved me to do so.
Last week I wrote about our recent family vacation. I asked if it really is a vacation when it is with the family. It was a humorous assertion but it does have a slight bit of truth to it. That is, although it may not be the put-your-toes-in-the-sand and relax type of vacation, it was nevertheless a highlight of my year and my life. The centerpiece of difficulty – sharing a queen size bed with my active 6-year old whom I nicknamed Sir-kicks-a-lot – is, perhaps paradoxically, the center of precious memory, too.
As a result of that column, many people shared their favorite vacation stories with me. Some of these folks have been on very nice, empty-nester, vacations. Yet, when recalling their favorite vacation memories, they don’t mention the trips to France, the Mediterranean, or European river cruises. They talk about being stranded in Yellowstone with a flat tire and screaming kids during a lightning storm. I heard stories about sharing beds with children and finding themselves sleeping on the floor with only a bath towel for a blanket. I have a friend who had to sleep on a hammock strung across the two front seats of his family’s camper. Others had to fold down the rickety kitchen table of their travel trailer so their kids could sleep on lumpy cushions. My parents reminded me of our trip from Tacoma to Denver. The day we left, the starter on our VW van went out. We had to push-start the van during the entire trip. To this day I can push start any vehicle that has a manual clutch. These are the vacation memories that we hold onto. And I got to share in many such memories just because I wrote an honest column about the ups and downs of family time together.
This view on family vacations has given me new insight into reading the Bible. What if each story of the Bible is like someone remembering their family vacations. We don’t hear about the times that Jesus walked into a town and everything went smoothly. Or the places where Saint Paul didn’t get arrested for proclaiming Christ crucified. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. But, we don’t hear about the times they got along or what the sunset looked like.
One of the most remembered stories of Jesus is when he calmed a storm. The disciples were in fear of sinking the boat and drowning while Jesus slept. They woke him up, he calmed the storm, and then asked where their faith was. They made a lot of boat trips but we only hear of the family-vacation type events. I imagine that years later, they’d say, “Hey, do you remember when we left Jesus and then he had to walk on water to catch up to us?” Yup, the family vacations with the flat tires, broken starters, and kids in bed who kick. And since we Christians are a family of sorts it all makes sense.
Fr. Tolley shared stories with me on Sunday afternoon. With a twinkle in his eye, he told me that in twenty years from now, I’d probably give anything to go back to the vacation where I had to share a bed with Sir-kicks-a-lot. I’ll bet my friend would love to go back to the time he had to sleep across the front seats of their camper. I yearn to go back to my teenage years for one more sailing trip with my Dad.
Years after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, I imagine the apostles yearned for the boat trip when Jesus calmed the storm. We seem to know only in retrospect there’s nothing better than family trips.