Tuesday, August 14, 2012

birthday getaways

When we lived in Monterey, it was hard to find places to go on vacation. Let's face it. The Peninsula and the Big Sur coast are some of the most beautiful places I can think of.

When we were planning our honeymoon, the weather was also a consideration. It would be August and so thoughts of hot and sticky also limited our choices. We ended up in Ecuador – you know, equatorial and all pretty much solving our worry over weather extremes. And while Monterey lacks the Amazon rainforest, it has many other flora and fauna in common with Ecuador.

We were there over my birthday during which we stayed at an old hacienda that had a lot of llamas, as I recall. Or maybe they were alpacas. Frogs and toads. Bees and wasps. Porcupines and hedgehogs. I'm not that good at the world's oft-confused animal pairs.

It's the kind of birthday that sounds interesting enough to write about, but in reality, it was somewhat drafty and kind of lonely, like we had booked one of the California missions for ourselves. They also insisted on making us an “American breakfast” which involved many, many eggs.

The countryside was pretty, but familiar. There were ferocious aloe bushes (that's not a poetic descriptor, that's the name of the plant), callas and crocosmia flowers, just like the ones I'd left rotting at home in the form of my wedding bouquet.

This past weekend I was chasing yet another birthday celebration. It's worse than New Year's Eve for me – always trying for the ideal fun time. I just wanted to go away overnight somewhere close. I tried to think hard about what could work with the kids and still be fun for us. A simple, pastoral Bed and Breakfast, I thought, that took kids. A pretty place with a chair and a book.

There are in fact many, many New England B and Bs that claim farm and family fun. They mostly have 2 or 3 or possibly 4 rooms and exist at various stages of wonk. Two-hundred years old, 300 years old...they compete for status. We found one about an hour away with a lake.

Like our last family vacation (the June camping trip), it poured rain. Poured. Did I say “poured?” Because I meant POURED. All day. All night. At first it was charming, but the bottom line was no lake, no trails, just us stuck in the house.

Around the time I was observing Isaac enjoying the collection of Happy Meal toys proudly displayed in the sitting room, I realized that when you live in a wonky, old house in rural New England, you don't need to go on vacation to a wonky, old house in rural New England. What they have, I have, minus the Happy Meal toys. The ability to crack my head on the upstairs slanted ceiling – check. Creaky floor boards that threaten to wake the baby – check. Clawfoot tub – check. Lightswitches that never turn on the closest, most obvious light – check. Children running down the hallway screaming, dressers that need refinishing, screens that let in bugs - check, check, check.

The harder I try to escape my life, the more I seem to run smack into it, THIS is why I watch reality TV. You'd think I'd have been forewarned when the places we looked at suggested things in our town among the list of “what to do during your stay.” Sometimes, people, you have to throw large heavy objects at me before I get the picture. Bricks, maybe, but that's for another entry on renovation.

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