Family Vacations and (sort of) Fireside Contemplations

BuzzFeed quizzes have often asked me whether I would want to live at the beach or in the mountains. And while there are few things that could ever replace the ocean view of a sunset and ice cream on the boardwalk, after this week my answer will forever be the mountains.

Something about the beach always feels temporary. You want to stay there forever, but life always calls you back to suburbia.

But a mountain cabin holds something exceptional, more permanent, within its crisp air and marshmallow clouds.

This post is coming to you from two locations: colorful swings on the deck above a fire pit where my dad and cousins are roasting s’mores for the second night in a row and my bedroom back in reality of daily life.

We just got back from our first full family vacation ever. As my cousins and I have gotten older and they’ve started their own families it has gotten increasingly more difficult to get everyone together for multiple days at a time. But alas, we did it.

And it was the best week of summer so far.

Even though I go to school in the Laurel Highlands I now recognize that I haven’t fully appreciated the wonderment that comes from living in the mountains. My 10-person family that included myself, my parents, aunt, cousins, and three children under the age of 5, spent a week at a family friend’s cabin at Deep Creek Lake. We had never taken a vacation like this where everyone was able to come, and to say it is a special time would be extremely understated.

This dichotomy that lives inside my heart of wanting to, albeit the cliché, “see the world” and be an independent full-adult rather than my semi-independent-college-fake-adult and wanting the comfort of being with my family seemed to be quelled during this week in the mountains. The ability to embrace my wanderlust through hikes and waterfall searches in the morning with dear ol’ dad and then coming home to little ones blowing bubbles, learning new words, and making valiant efforts to roll over for the first time was the perfect way to spend my days.

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When we started planning this vacation earlier this year our key word was flexibility. Coming from a family of planners, this task was difficult but extremely refreshing. A few of us had a bucket list of things to do, but there were no set plans.

I brought along my camera and was going to film our family getaway and preserve these precious memories. But that didn’t happen. I usually find myself drawn to a camera and already thinking of the final video product in my head before an event even begins. Instead, my camera rarely left its bag. And after a few days with a lack of footage, I decided to just be in the moment with my family rather than worrying about angles and lighting and the white balance.

I had also thought I would be able to make a serious dent in some recently acquired for-pleasure-not-school reading material, but I often found myself swept away to my cousinly duties of tickles for giggles, live readings of the Gruffalo, and chases around the deck. The smiles from Bella, Anna, and Eliza are worth more than every word on those pages I would have read.

I am so blessed that my mom and her sister are so close because not only do I have another fierce, strong, womanly role model in my life, but I have two older cousins who have been like brothers to me since I was born. It’s like growing up with the same amount of closeness, but with a lot less of me being picked on (at least from what I can remember). Seeing Keith and Korey with their kids gives me a glimpse into what my own toddlerhood was like growing up with them.

When Keith started dating his wife, Britt, I was in fifth grade and thrilled that there was another girl around. One late cabin night we reminisced on the early days of Britt teaching me how to do algebra with positive and negative numbers. She and I have shifted our focus of conversation to my navigation of my 20s, dating deal breakers, and the Five Love Languages. I am extremely grateful that my cousin has become more like a big sister.

And simply seeing my mom relax and be in her family element is a gift that makes my heart smile.

As long as I have company like this, I could live just about anywhere. But the mountains will always be at the top of my list.

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Keep on shining,

Syd

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