Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Vacation 2009

We've been back a few days now from summer vacation. Ten days in Pennsylvania. I had debated going to Orlando instead, which was next year's plan, because I was afraid to miss out on the many good deals being offered to military families right now. However, when our friends' wedding was planned in PA for a Saturday in July and Jason's family reunion was planned for the subsequent Saturday, also in PA, the vacation plan basically outlined itself.

The hard part was that the wedding was scheduled on the Saturday following the Friday that ended summer school. So, there was little time for extensive planning or rest before hitting the road. I wrapped up the semester in record-time, deposited the check in the bank, did some final packing and hit the road. It was a smooth 6 hour drive to Harrisburg, a central spot we decide to camp (not literally) at for the week, before moving north for reunion. It was one of those drives that made us question why we don't travel more often.

The wedding was an absolute fairy tale. It was like a movie- everything that a wedding "should" be. The service was at St. Patrick's Cathedral. I realized that it was the first time I had ever been in a Catholic Church... and likely to be the last. The formality of it was so foreign to me. Mother Theresa is one of my personal heroes so I am not doubting the ability of a Catholic to form a close relationship with God. However, I don't feel that I could in that atmosphere... not too mention that I am just too fat and lazy for all the stand up, sit down, and kneeling. The reception was at a country club trimmed with all the traditional events... plus an open bar. There was no one there we knew, except our friends; they expressed such gratitude that we made the trek to their event that it made me all the happier that we did also. I was glad too that the boys were able to be there and see how such things were, being an only child myself and Jason's family not being the most traditional bunch, it's probably one of the few chances they will get until their own friends are marrying.

We went to Gettysburg for two days. This is the part of the trip I was lamenting the most. I had even contemplating staying at the hotel and sending Jason with the boys for the day. I dread anything related to history, only in part due to my complete ignorance of it. Jason didn't believe me the previous week when I told him I didn't even know what Gettysburg was. I was being honest. Surprisingly, it was my favored part of the trip. When we arrived, Jason made the offhand comment about how different things may have been had the South won the war. I concede that my images of Confederate flags and stereotypical rednecks may have been excessive. What really made me think though was the tour guide's emphasis on how this massive war was one in which Americans were killing Americans. That, was a devastating concept to absorb. So much of the area has been untouched that it was easy to imagine the battle scenes being described- well, as easy as could be with my modern mentality. The battlefields are peppered with monuments to the fallen soldiers and battalions. The second day that we went back to the area, we spent the greater part just driving around and looking at the memorials. I learned that Gettysburg was the turning point of the war, even though it continued for the next two years. I learned that General Meade was the winning force at Gettysburg for the Union although he had just taken charge, reluctantly, three days prior to the battle. We did a bus tour of the area that was very educational. We also bought a package of tickets to 6 museums that were complete tourist traps. I saw enough wax figures that we could melt them down to make candles to light birthday cakes for every person in America for the rest of their lives.

We also spent a couple of days at Hershey Amusement Park. Now, that was as dreadful as I imagined it would be. Cameron doesn't like to do most rides and that is accompanied with Jason's frustration because he won't. Add to that the fact that I have stopped doing rides over the past few years... because I fear those signs "Ride will not accomodate guests of larger size" applied to me. I spent most of the two days walking from bench to bench to sit and read. I did don a bathing suit and hit the wave pool one day though... for a very brief time until a mom (of a possibly terrified toddler) told me that you could see right through the back of my bathing suit. Upon closer inspection in the changing room mirror, I learned if you have been wearing a bathing suit for three (or more) years, you really need to check the material for wear... especially in the obscene places. I think Jason and Justin did all 11 roller coasters, and by the second day I had coaxed Cameron to give a few a try, which he did, and enjoyed (thankfully).

We went to Lancaster for one day, Intercourse and Bird-in-Hand. We didn't have a real itinerary so we hung out in the town center for the most of the day. We saw some movie about the Amish and toured through a (set-up) house. We had lunch and did some shopping. I was quite disappointed to discover that everything closed at five, and I was unable to get a pretzel. We did manage to find a late buggy ride though... unfortunately, I completely forgot how allergic I was to horses until I was wheezing in the back of the carraige, gasping for air. Interestingly, Cameron says this was his favorite part of the vacation. What I found most interesting was the juxtaposition of simple life to modern life, such as the buggies and wagons (and scooters!) alongside the cars on the freeway. An 85 year old woman with more than 100 grandchildren was having a funeral right on the outskirts of town that day, so we saw a lot of Amish "traffic." I was worried that I was objectifying them, but when Jason talked to them, they seemed perfectly fine with the money that tourists provided to their economy. My guess is that they have become much more assimilated to mainstream society than Amish communities in more remote areas. The simplicity of life is fascinating to me, but I am no fool to think it is a life I would want.

The final leg of our vacation was traveling to Meadville for family reunion. I realize I probably sounded like I was a complete grump this entire trip, because it seems I am complaining a lot in recounting it... and while I am sure there were days I made it less bearable, overall, I tried to keep the perspective that the boys were enjoying it and that was my goal. By the time for reunion though, I really was just ready to go home already. Jason only recently connected with his father and that side of the family, so this kind of event is important to nurturing that bond. We went to dinner and to see Harry Potter Friday night. On Saturday, was the picnic reunion. Both nights, I tried to go out with Jason and his brothers but was just so exhausted that I didn't make it at all on Friday and just for leg one of the festivities on Saturday.

On Sunday, I drove the 9-hour trek back to Virginia. That's rather amazing for me, seeing how I can barely stand to be enclosed in a car for more than an hour. However, I was anxious to get home, especially to my parrot, and didn't want to listen to Jason's radio choices anymore. So, I enjoyed the quiet drive... although my mind kept creating mental lesson plans and calendars for the school year.