So that was a trip.
I have returned from two weeks holiday; we went to my beloved Florida, and then my newly beloved St Lucia, in a veritable tour of palm trees and of wearing tropical kaftans. Like swigging a restorative tonic down in one, summer holidays are a salve, a balm, a tincture, and all other lightly medicinal things which make your soul feel better. So many thoughts occurred to me there that I want to share here, but I kept them stored up, not wanting to be inside, at a laptop typing (wishing there was an app that could literally record your thoughts, as you have them? Terrifying, but also oh so useful). So I am left with many impressions I want to record, observations, assertions and such like. Taking time away from home is, for me, as the ‘homemaker’, doubly thought-provoking, as the release from the daily work of caring for others creates space in my mind, and it’s liberating.
I learned that I still love palm trees and spent a good portion of time pondering why they represent such happiness to me. I think, like all things, it’s rooted in childhood, when we used to decamp to Florida for extended periods, as my parents ran a holiday home rental business there. We would touch down and my brother and I would race through the airport, through the air-conditioned casing of the place, vying to reach an external door which would allow us a deep breath of humid, hot air (no matter what time of day or night), with the sound of cicadas, and tiny brown lizards scuttling across concrete, and borders of palm trees. It represented safety to me. And amongst the tumult of divorce, there was contrast to home. A whole other empire.
Now, I see my children do the same thing, but for them, it is a satisfying inhalation of family time, where the rigours of home, work and school are suspended. There’s nothing like it. Even more bittersweet with teenagers as there’s the knowledge that the days of this kind of purist family time, all together, may be numbered. Soon they won’t want to come with us, will they?!
In St Lucia, we made lovely friends and spent the week chatting and drinking, and sunning ourselves. We went to Caribbean restaurants perched in rainforest canopies and ate lobster burgers. We fell asleep to the sound of tree frogs. We spent hours in the sea, sometimes flat like a pond, turquoise crystalline-clear, and saw striped neon fish dart around our legs. We spent an idyllic day on a boat, skimming the coastline of sheer black rock, edged with impossible green-blue. Every scene an instagram-worthy feast. Decisions involved which bikini to wear or which drink to have; Mango (rum) Crush or Piton Beer? But there were also airport delays. Travel sickness and a dodgy cod fillet. We got sunburnt and were profoundly jet lagged for the first few days. We argued over where to eat dinner and during playing cards. I forgot to bring enough books. I lamented the blatant and obscene over-use of plastic packaging in both American and the Caribbean (even more sacrilegious for being a small island, somehow). There was that curious phase after the mid-point where you kinda want to stay, but you also know you have to go home. There was the packing and unpacking and all over again.
The good with the bad. The rough with the smooth. But most of all, family, tradition, indulgence and time were ours. We dissected the pros and the cons and wondered how, as a standard we have become people who work all year to escape the lives we should be loving. What’s the saying: cultivate a life that you don’t need to take a holiday from? I needed a holiday. But, I have to say, I have returned fresh and excited and poised for what’s next. So whilst post-holiday blues pinch and pull, and every time I look at social media someone, somewhere is still away, doing what we did, and that grates, I see that it performed its function. And that is to give perspective. To free up the mind. To release. To allow me to take stock. To a writer, what more could I want as I approach September, and the bouquet of sharpened pencils* that it represents?
*in the words of Nora Ephron from the film ‘You’ve Got Mail’.