In the past several years, my side of the family has tried to make a summer trip happen. In 2018 we went to Sullivan’s Island. In 2017 we went to Dollywood. In 2016 we went to Hilton Head Island. In 2015 we went to Edisto Island.
These trips were not easy to coordinate. There were school schedules and activities to navigate, finding the right kind of lodging, etc. I was grateful we made them happen though, and even more so now, as those will always be some of the sweetest memories of my adult life.
Around Christmas of last year, we discussed putting a family trip on the calendar. We believed it was important to continue to put things on the calendar. At that time my dad said he’d prefer not to travel; I can’t blame him. I know when I don’t feel well, I prefer to be around my own home, too. Lucky for us, Mom and Dad live in paradise, so we booked our summer vacation to be at their house on Lake Oconee for June. Maybe we were crazy or just hopeful, but we all expected Dad to be there.
Dad passed away in May, a month before our scheduled together time. While I’m not glad Covid exists, I’m grateful that because of it, we all spent two separate weeks all together, the most recent being to celebrate birthdays and Mother’s Day, during the lockdown that otherwise would have never happened.
With those sweet memories having been made, we were able to come together for this June gathering with a better mindset. One where we are all know life will never be the same and that these times together will always look a little different, but also the mindset of knowing how lucky we are to have each other and celebrate that, the way Dad always did. One of the last things he told us was how lucky we all are and to count our blessings. And while tears sting my eyes as I write that, and as I walked into his closet to borrow a hat for the weekend, I know it’s true.
So this is the lookback at the happy highlights of our time together. The girls and I took off for Georgia two days before David due to his work. We made it by cocktail hour. Long time followers will know we always kicked off together time with Dad’s famous martinis. My bro took over the tradition, and dare I say, it must be in the genes, because he made us all one heck of a martini.
The girls wasted no time joining at the hip with their cousins. With all of them being so close in age (8,7,6, and 4), they always have a ball with the same activities. Playing on the lake mat, squeezing into the old play car, and coloring were some of their favorites.
Mom and I both are the meal planners of the crew, so we had set up each night with a delicious theme. The first night was fajita night! Isn’t Mexican always a great choice? The build-your-own aspect works for everyone.
After dinner, we had promised to introduce the girls to one of mine and my brother’s childhood favorites- Back to the Future! With all of us showered up and in pajamas, we piled onto the couch for movie night. While there is a little language and not every scene is rated G, it was a ton of fun and the girls loved it. (Here’s my list of other classic movies we want to watch with the girls!)
Friday was the epitome of a child’s dream of a summer day. We started with pool time. I never really understood while parents liked going to the pool until this year. When your kids can swim and you aren’t having to hover over them, the pool in incredibly relaxing and enjoyable!
We all had a ball. We let them stand on our shoulders, had handstand contests, and swam around until we worked up an appetite. Is there anything better than a hearty sandwich in the heat of summer?
After lunch, the girls begged to go tubing. This meant it was time for Mom to make her maiden journey as captain of the boat. The boat was always Dad’s thing and his happy place. He was always the captain. Needless to say, it was a bit emotional for us all for Mom to take the helm, but she is a natural and I hope the belly laughs coming from the girls helped ease that transitional moment for her.
We found a cove to anchor in next to a flat-faced rock. It was an ideal location for a swim break (and a beer). The girls took off on an adventure, swimming over to and climbing the rock. The adults played music, cracked open some cold ones, and spent some time floating in the water, too.
We had such a full afternoon on the water and it lined up quite well for the night’s dinner plans- DIP DINNER. We are a family of dippers and making a meal out on layered Mexican dip, veggies and dip, onion dip, cheese and crackers was hands down delicious.
Kris and I both married into musical talent, both of whom brought their guitars, and after dinner we all ended up on the back porch for an evening jam session. Both Hailey and Kaitlyn brought their guitars, too, and with Kyla on keyboard, Lacey Mac dancing, and Kris, Mom and I doing our best to sing along, we were a full fledged family band.
We oscillated between country and rock and let the kids stay up wayyyy too late, but it was one of those nights that was just super special. A good memory for us all.
The last two days were filled with more of the same kind of fun. Tubing and swimming and some fishing, too. We of course had to get in a game of Ticket to Ride, where Nana beat the pants off us all! We grilled burgers, watched a summer storm roll in, and devoured Mom’s famous blueberry cobbler.
Things weren’t the same, but they were still good memories. I’ve read enough to know that grief isn’t linear. I’m embracing that. We are still tearing up and our hearts still ache, but we are also still doing what we’ve always done- looking for the good and creating special family memories. I’m grateful for my mom and dad for creating those values in us, as I hope to do the same with my kids.