I'm about to steal one of my pastor's stories.
Every year, my pastor Kenton Beshore goes to Texas to spend six weeks with his kids and his wife's extended family. They boat, fish, swim, wakeboard, and eat. One year he was relating vacation stories and he said something that stuck with me:
"It takes work to have fun."
Then he described a family member who was prone to lounge-chair sitting and beer drinking while all the other men where helping get the boat in the water. One of the feisty Texas women in the family walked by him, smacked him in the back of the head and said, "Cowboy up!"
I thought of this today as I surveyed the pile of gear stacked in my backyard in preparation for our camping trip, for which we depart tomorrow night. My daughter caught me sighing as I was packing today and said, "Don't worry, Mom. Soon we'll be on vacation, and then you won't have any work to do."
True, darling daughter. Except unpacking the car, setting up tents, cooking food over a live fire, doing dishes in a plastic tub, bathing your three-year-old sister in an outdoor shower, and supervising you both so neither of you fall in the river or expose yourselves to poison oak, and then packing it all up again in four days and driving six hours home.
Being the good mommy that I am, I didn't say this out loud. I don't think.
But today I was seriously wondering if this is all worth it. Especially since two out of four people in our family have had strep infections this week, and another a cold and fever.
But just when my camping mojo began to wane, I got a vision of my girls sitting on the picnic table in Big Sur eating the tiny packets of sugary cereal they're so excited about, swinging their little footed pajama feet. I saw myself drinking camping coffee by the fire, and my husband floating down the river in his new inflatable boat. Suddenly I felt that I could go on.
My fondest memories from childhood were of spending time in my grandparents double wide mobile home (quite luxurious for the 1960s when they bought it) at Lake Havesu. We'd wake up in a sleeping bag mosh pit of cousins on the living room floor, have a huge breakfast, and head out for an entire day of swimming, water skiing and picnicking on the cove. We'd come home ravenous and eat a huge barbecue dinner.
Now as Mommy, I remember what was only in my peripheral vision as a child: the army of aunts, marshaled by five foot tall General Grandma, all cooking, packing, list-making, and tidying up around us and we reveled in vacation bliss. They were a bunch of tough women: skilled in the kitchen, strong of heart and arm, and hell on skis. And the last I remember as a central part of those great times: My mom and all her petite sisters, taking a break from their labors and getting back to their adolescent selves, tearing it up on a slalom ski.
So, it's my turn now. It's vacation time, and it's up to me to make it happen. Time to pack, cook, pitch tents, and hit the river with my paddle. It takes work to have fun. Cowgirl up!