Every time that I look at the pictures we took of these canopies at a beach-side, shack restaurant in Goa, I feel happy.
In mid-March, the four of us went on a 5-day vacation to Goa. I felt like I was in a different country. While Goa is definitely part of India– an overnight train ride for us, to be exact– there were a handful of things that made it feel like I had left the subcontinent, and entered a new reality. (Certainly, the fact that everywhere we went we saw a bunch of white people driving around on scooters influenced my sense of place and reality!) Goa is one of the more touristy, beachy, vacation spots of India. I saw more flesh in Goa, during 5 days, than I have seen all put together in nine years of travels throughout the country! I ate pizza in Goa, and it was good. I played at the beach, wearing a bathing suit. I swam in a beautiful pool at the the restort where we stayed, and it was cool and refreshing, and simply put: glorious. All of these experiences made me feel like I was in a different country, but vacation, is what made it seem like a different reality.
Vacation has been a formative part of my reality. Growing up, my family took a vacation each year. We weren’t rich, so vacation meant “camping on a shoe string.” However, despite the modest, leaky camper and tent accommodations, and the outdoor cooking, we adored our vacations. I loved to wake up in my sleeping bag, and hear the sound of pine needles falling on the canvas roof of the tent. I was mesmerized by the maze of those fallen needles. I could smell them, baking there in the sun, on their canvas skillet. I loved to rise up and eat pancakes from the griddle. I loved our long, lazy days at the beach, and the evenings spent peddling my bike round and round the pavement circle that housed the many campsites. I loved the hamsteaks on the grill, complete with buttered sweet potatoes. I listened eagerly to the ghost stories my dad made up around the campfire. And, I liked to sit as long as the grown ups allowed, around that fire, burning the tip of my “smoking stick” to ash.
Vacation. I was free as a bird, brown as a berry, happy as a clam.
I’m not exactly sure how it happened, maybe just a change of seasons in my life, but I nearly forgot about vacation. I almost forgot about that free and happy self that bubbled up toward the surface of my life during vacation. JP and I have not been good about taking proper vacations. We find ourselves on the road, travelling, quite often– both in the US and in India. Somehow, these travels tricked my brain into thinking it was vacation… but I don’t think my heart was ever fooled. In Goa, my heart remembered the goodness of vacation. It is another reality. It is a place where tension rolls down off tense shoulders to a sandy floor, and stays there. It is a space that opens up inside me, and feels like warm sun. It is a taste of food, different food, rich and filling. Vacation is a smile on my face, and a song in my heart.
I want my husband and my children to know the goodness of vacation. I once learned that Jewish mothers, at the end of the Sabbath, would place a candy on the tongues of their children so that they would remember the sweetness of the Sabbath. I love that image. I do believe that God blessed us with our vacation rest in Goa. Even now, the sweetness of it lingers on my tongue, and the stress that rolled off my shoulders remains on that sandy beach. I am grateful for Goa, for the things that it reminded me of, and the things that it blessed me with, and for the things that it helped me hope for.