As I sit in the midst of a mild winter, I can’t help but look ahead. Planning for summer travel begins months before the car is loaded, food packed, and the first mile logged. Reservations must be made. Routes scouted. It becomes a pre-vacation immersion.
We are tent campers. That’s right, I said it. Two seventy year olds who still sleep on the ground in a small tent. We have, of course, made concessions to our ages. Our pillows from home travel with us now. We’ve added a screen house for mosquito-free dining. However, we still sleep on 2-3inch self-inflating pads; not the large kind that could serve as a life raft in a flood! We are old school and proud of it.
About the third week in June, we’ll head out, singing “Summertime, and the living is easy.”
The words are true for me. With bills paid in advance and the house locked up, the car becomes our magic carpet to both familiar and new destinations. Each day opens a door to the potential for widening the circle of places I’ve been, people I’ve met, and things I’ve done.
I get to experience it all with my best friend, my wife. That’s no exaggeration. Nine weeks. 24/7. Every day. Together. Eating, sight-seeing, shopping, hiking, sleeping, and driving. Together. One thousand, five hundred and thirty-six hours. Together. Over eight thousand miles in two months. Every mile. Together.
About the only time we each get alone is in a rest room or shower. Some people might find that suffocating. Not me. If you were to ask me, “Don’t you need some alone time?” My answer would be a resounding, “YES, but not in the summertime!”
You see, eventually, summer ends. My wife goes back to her full time job. I’m retired. I can bask in the quiet. Alone. Play my music loud and dance around the house. Alone. Sink myself into books I’ve been dying to read. Alone. Take walks engulfed by the sights and smells of my favorite nature preserve. Alone.
I have the best of both worlds. Time for adventure, exploring and experiencing places with someone who has similar tastes in food, activities and interests. We listen to books on disc. We talk. We visit friends and family. We sit in companionable silence. Then we talk some more. We love to photograph flora and fauna along the way. Once, we sat for an hour, in the car by the side of the road, watching a grizzly bear asleep under a tree. We hike. We talk, bringing to the surface those thoughts that have to percolate a while before emerging. I have been given more insight into how she thinks and feels during these summer trips than I might find out in the remaining, busy-at-work, months of the year. We play word games. Rummikub is our current favorite. We keep a running score of wins. How do you say “a little competitive, are we?” We do crossword puzzles. All this together.
Then we come home. Then we both have time and space to grow in new directions. Then we pursue some separate interests and foster friendships as individuals.
She has work and school activities to fill her days, while I write, volunteer at a local prison and organize some library programs. Our summer intensity shrinks to parts of weekends. There is still together time, but not in the quantity or quality that summers offer.
I do love the comfort of our bed. I love watching episodes of The Good Doctor with her. I love having a refrigerator and not having to empty and refill coolers with ice. I love arriving at a destination in twenty minutes. All that works for me. But, most of all, I love the balance between summer and the rest of the year. The pulling in and pulling away in healthy patterns, With going on forty-six years together, we’ve figured out what works for us. It’s become a dance. Club music in the summers and Stevie Nicks, John Denver and a little classical the rest of the year.
I need to go now. I think I hear some music.
Copyright © 2020 Gail H. Ouimet