Last week, my family stayed two nights in Lebanon. We sat on one of the world’s biggest harem pillows eating halvah as we watched a belly dance performancee. After that, we saw a fireworks display over a river. That day, we also picked raspberries as we hiked through the wilderness and swam in a pristine lake, and sampled some of the best guacamole this side of the Rio Grande.
Where were we?
I know. I’m starting to sound like one of those tourism ads of the 1980s starring Bill Cosby. But I can’t help it. My family and I had a great mini vacation in The Garden State, the place of our former residence. New Jersey is conveniently sandwiched between visiting the family back in New York and our home in Rochester. Between our old life and relatively new life.
Ten years later and I still feel a pang when we drive by the exit that we used to take to go home when we lived in Central New Jersey. Every return trip to Rochester, when I see the exit for S. Plainfield off of Rt. 287, I think, we could have been home by now.
My kids are getting older. They have no memory of our tiny Cape Cod in Fanwood. I think they are getting to the point that they are actually enjoying parent-free time (demonstrated by the camp countdown that started 40 days ago) more than hanging with parent time. That’s to be expected. But, damn it to hell, I wanted some happy family memories before we shipped them off.
Now, the highlight of our just-the-five-of-us mini vacation was a four-hour tubing excursion down the Delaware River. A time of family bonding. Togetherness.
Do you see these happy people in the picture to the right? That is not us. It is a picture from the Delaware River Tubing Co., the nice family-run business that supplies the tubes, the mid-river hot dog (or veggie burger) lunch, and the bus ride back up river. We did buy a waterproof camera from them, but I broke it. I would have had much difficulty navigating my tube and photographing the family anyway. On the course of the river, I lost my hat, and nearly lost both of my shoes.
The water was warm. The currents were minimal. It was like a lazy river ride at a water park. Only, the river was real. The kids were – bored.
Floating down a river for four hours with the family taught me many lessons that can apply to being a family:
- You can only control so much. You have to go with the flow.
- Children need solid boundaries. Encourage them to stay in their tube as much as possible.
- You can try to stick together. You may float away from each other from time to time, but eventually, we all come out of the river together.
- Try to go against the current to stop, or go backwards, and you will capsize your tube.
- Always make sure your shoes are securely fastened, or you can lose them in river mud.
- Facing rough waters is always a little better when you hold someone’s hand.
Back on dry land, the next day, on a bridge between New Hope, Pa., and Lambertville, NJ, we watched an impressive fireworks display. Last year, Toby cowered at the booms of fireworks. This year he cheered them on, the louder the better.
“I sure wish we lived in New Jersey!” He said.
I guess he was 10 years too late.