As I write this article, I am in South Dakota for the week, visiting my son’s family. It seems that the New England states may be the only region in the country to have so many school vacations; in addition to the week between Christmas and New Years, we have a week at the end of February and a week at the end of April. These two weeks, of course, become the reason why we’re still in school until at least mid-June and often even later than that. June 28th is the latest that I remember getting out for the summer; the date is always different and never predictable since it depends on how many days are cancelled because of snow storms or other weather-related conditions.
People I meet from other parts of the country are always quick to ask why we don’t just eliminate the vacations from the school calendar in order to be done earlier in June, but I have been quick to defend the practice. I am always more than ready for the break from school and our students are, too. Maybe that’s because we know the time is already there, waiting for us, and we all, albeit unconsciously, make it a goal, thereby measuring the year in those pre-determined chunks.
After this year I won’t be limited to traveling during school vacation week visits, and I know I will like that a lot.
So, here it is and here I am, loving the gift of time to spend with my three grandchildren and my son and daughter-in-law. This week is being measured by the children’s schedules and activities, rather than class periods and meetings, and that’s a welcome change. I’m going to teach the girls how to knit; Ellen already loves to sew, and she’s eager to make a scarf or a blanket for one of her dolls. Annie is really looking forward to our “donut date,” when we will go out for donuts and then to one of the craft stores to buy stickers or new art supplies. Sammy, at two, just wants to run around and yell and laugh, and knock down block towers. The girls are home schooled, and I will enjoy talking with them about what they are learning. This week they’ll start to learn about Egypt and that will be fun.
Another of my Grammy Visit highlights is the individual time I get to spend with my son and daughter-in-law; we always set aside uninterrupted chunks of time for adult dialogue, to re-connect and to find out about what we are each thinking and hoping for. There will be some great “teacher talk” with Geoff, who is a high school English teacher, and I always love talking with Kiersten over tall mugs of coffee.
My winter visit to South Dakota is one of only two I get each year (my husband and I come together in the summer for a longer stay), and it’s always hard not to be able to come more often. It has become a habit for us to think about how we might be able to manage spending more time here; we would like to do six months here and six months in New Hampshire, since we have family at both ends of the country. We have a small motor home that is fine for a month or two at a time, but it can be expensive paying campground fees, and the increasing cost of gasoline is a concern as well.
We CAN take it one year at a time, or even one season at a time. We don’t have to do the same thing every year. I don’t have to decide now what the rest of my life will look like. We have great plans for this summer (see “Looking Forward”) and when we travel we greatly enjoy being vagabonds of a sort, deciding each day where we might go next. As I have contemplated over the last 18 months all the different possibilities for what I’ll do after I retire, there has always one consistent thought: I have to write. I know that no matter what else I do, I will also write. I have always loved to write, but now I find that I also have to write. I need to write. Writing gives me joy. I can do it anywhere. The rest is details.