It’s been less than 24 hours since we’ve returned from our annual Aruba vaca and all three of the kids are gone, which means it’s time to accept that vacation is officially over [insert heavy sigh].
As I exhale from the above noted sigh, I recognize the whirlwind of emotion blowing up inside of me.
The last seven days have been filled with: karaoke, flat tires, the Macarena, finger blaster, pelicans, Bulashi beer, strawberry daquiris, mudslides, iguanas, tree frogs, crystal clear water, snorkeling, card/drinking games, one-liners, sunblock (or not), sunburns, movie quotes, flaming parmesean, snapchats, powdered sugar like beaches, breathtaking sunsets, flip flops, giant anchors, fresh seafood, edge of the earth views… but most importantly laughter, pure happiness and togetherness. Memories!
So, why do I feel like crying? I laugh and tear up at the same time. Our kids are grown up. Each of them so unique and talented in their own ways. And, oh are they all so funny! Rick and I have so much fun with them and we’re pretty sure the feeling is mutual. We witness so many wonderful things unfold before our eyes as they are becoming adults. Their thoughtfulness and individuality is the most inspirational. They are so mindful of others and enjoy getting to know people and sharing their smiles and compliments with others. Don’t get me wrong, they are total 18 – 22 year olds, but they know when it’s appropriate, and when it’s not, to behave a certain way. They love each other but they can also agree to disagree. They stand up for each other and more importantly themselves. And, they don’t always feel it necessary to back up their beliefs with die hard facts or evidence. “This is what I feel or believe and that’s just that. If you feel that way, that’s your prerogative.” But, the disagreements don’t harbor negative feelings. In fact, it draws them closer as they each feel like their own person and build respect for one another; more so than they already had.
We witnessed our youngest’s extreme wittiness. He should do improv. The comments he comes up with on the fly stop you in your tracks making you wonder where did he even come up with that. But you don’t really care because you’re laughing too hard to think much anyway. Here’s an example. We did some sightseeing our last day making the trek to the ‘back side’ of the island. Aruba is very desert-like and has many goats that roam around this area. As we were all aww-ing and ooh-ing over the baby goats and watching all of the activity among the older ones and noticing the many, many mama goats (we knew they were mama goats thanks to their teets;-)) and someone asks, “I wonder what the ratio of female to males is?” And without a breath, Ethan responds, “Its like 10 to 1.” We all laughed so hard. And Taylor some how gets out, “Have you even studied goats? How the heck do you know what their population is?” This clever comeback kid did this the entire week. I only wish I would’ve scribbled down all the other hilarious moments he spewed out. Ethan was of the legal drinking age but (i’ll admit, surprisingly) he drank responsibly. He also proved his well known quality of being the most adventurous (YOLO) of us all too. On the second stop of our snorkeling excursion he dove down to the shipwreck, grabbed a hold of the railing and just searched for all the sea life he could catch a glimpse of. No one else was doing that. He was also a complete gentleman around his mama. Making sure I wasn’t in the back of the line, unless I told him to go ahead or that I wasn’t carrying everything. He may be the baby of the family but this trip he proved he is just as much an adult as the rest of them. He is ready to take on the world, so look out!
Our daughter’s new love is named Nick and watching the two of them interact was truly heartwarming. They have a sweet relationship but absolutely filled with their shenanigan obsessed personalities. Nick is an early riser. Maranda, not so much. He obviously knows this, but he would still come into our room (we’re not condoners of sleeping in the same room/bed when not married so Nick slept in my parents’ room) early in the morning, give her a little kiss and make some funny comment in one of his many hilarious voices to get her up out of bed. We were on this beautiful island and he was determined to enjoy every minute. But she often didn’t comply to his early morning wake up calls so he would wait for her to wake up or go take a stroll on the beach himself. We were so proud of their partnering with each other’s spending allowance. They both shared the cost of their vacation always working together to take care of their bill. They budgeted money for souvenirs, food, drinks and most importantly bingo. Maranda’s supreme hostess skills were in constant play as she made sure we were down at the pool bar right on time for karaoke. She had no problem getting the party started by singing songs like Respect and Superstition. Maranda’s heart is infused in everything she does. She’s generous and complimentary and very proud to have two strong-willed brothers on each side of her.
And our oldest, Taylor. He made his flight. Traveling alone can at times be a bit chaotic for him (and us) but not this time! He’s working so hard in school and since it’s his senior year, he took full advantage of all the down time he now had. And being in Aruba is no reason to slouch in that arena (when’s happy hour again?). We see how the decisions he is soon to be faced with is creating a bit of overwhelming concern for him. All that he has to consider will determine the course of the next 3-5 years potentially. We see the weight of reality sinking in with him. Taylor played out his role of big brother with Ethan in what can be construed as somewhat aggressive or provoking but we knew it was mainly to ensure Ethan stood his ground, to not give into anyone. And, he didn’t. Ethan had no problem standing up for himself and keeping Taylor in his place. Taylor reminded Nick as he would tell Maranda how gorgeous she was or how he loved her [insert body part] by saying things like, “be careful what you say, Nick, that’s my sister you’re talking about.” There’s no doubt a part of Taylor that we notice that misses his family and longs to be around us and wants to share us with his close friends.
They each have their unique ways of telling/showing each other how much they love one another. Maranda gets freaked out when Taylor gets too close the edge of the cliffs and includes Ethan in everything she’s doing. Taylor pokes at his little brother and compliments his sister’s beauty. Ethan stands up to all of them and makes them all laugh at the same time. This is the very thing that we love more than anything – seeing their love for each other displayed in their very unique and individual ways!
This vacation was so much more than tropical drinks, breathtaking sunsets, the sounds of crashing waves or birds singing in the constant breeze, it was seeing our kids in a brand new light. We look at them and immediately remember when they were little babies toddling around. Then we blink and are quickly brought back to reality seeing them all grown up in their adult bodies. And just like the waves crashing onto the beach, we are overcome with the realization of the where we are in our lives, we’re in an entirely new place. The place that now requires us to just sit back and watch our parenting skills, or lack thereof, unfold. What a scary thought! How’d we get to this place? We don’t even feel old enough to be here. Didn’t we just figure out where we are supposed to be?! But then the storm of emotion calms down and I’m overcome with gratitude that no matter what happened and how we got here, we’re in this place TOGETHER!
May you be filled with feelings of gratitude during this Thanksgiving and holiday season. There’s plenty for each of us to be thankful for!