Posts tagged " vacation "

On Solitude

August 21st, 2020 Posted by Tabula Rasa 6 comments

The island’s roads don’t simply wind, they curve like a slinky that’s been gently pulled apart, as I drive up and down the mountainous terrain. Everywhere I look, there is the sea. I stop the car on the side of the road and take photo after photo, trying to capture the vastness of the blue, the glimmer of gold and silver that the sun dusts it with, the contrast of the arid, rocky land so characteristic of the Cyclades. It doesn’t work. Some things are meant to be lived not simply seen. Like touch. Or a kiss. The only reason we sometimes experience electricity run through our body when we see a photo of either, is because we’ve experienced them. Yet I long to share what I see with those I love.

But then I remember, this is self-imposed solitude. And I’m only on day two of five.

The first few hours are hard. My host picks me up at a spot that already feels like it’s the middle of nowhere. Half an hour later, we get to the middle of nowhere. “You look so peaceful,” she says as she shows me to my room. You’re a bad liar, I think to myself. I came to find peace. But I can’t get my friend out of my head. The one that was worried that I’m going on vacation alone because I can’t find anyone to come with me. What is it about solitude that scares us so? Why is it seen as a punishment rather than a reward? In fact, only two out of everyone that I told I’m doing this, and trust me, I told many, did not secretly think that something was wrong with me.

I lay on my bed looking out the window at the sea and feel the need to do something. To be somewhere. I consider watching something on Netflix.

Instead, I get in the car to drive to the supermarket, it takes me over an hour, the roads are narrow for one car, let alone two, I’m terrified that some speeding local is going to pop up from around the bend and throw me off the cliff. Of which there are many. I get back, determined to fight the feeling that being out of one’s comfort zone gives us. I walk onto the beach outside my room and discover that it’s not really a beach, but a bed of rocks. Annoyed, I go back to my room, but not before the three large ducks—two white, one black—make get there faster. I seem to have invaded their territory. I grab my laptop to write in the garden, but it’s so windy that my screen keeps getting whiplash. I start making plans to go home earlier. To cement and heat. I miss my son. I miss my bed. I miss my TV. And oh my god, I forgot my toothbrush. Soon, thoughts start to border on the ridiculous.

Back outside, I stick my head out of the property gate. The ducks are nowhere in sight. I begin to slowly walk on the rocks, past the nearby fence that was formerly blocking my view to the beach that’s two minutes away. I don’t swim, but make a plan to do so the next day. The comfort of its proximity makes my earlier ignorance feel juvenile.

I boil two eggs for dinner, and it’s ok, I light two large candles on the floor by my bed, and open a book. I sleep for nine uninterrupted hours for the first time in a decade, with the window open, to the music of the waves hitting rocks and ducks quaking.

The next morning, I shoo off the black duck that’s trying to get into my car and go back to that supermarket and buy a toothbrush. The roads already seem wider, the turns familiar, the locals non-threatening. I borrow a rusty, torn beach chair from my host, pack a bag with essentials and claim a spot under a tree. A lady just walking into the water starts loudly murmuring to herself about my choice of spot (too close to her towel), my reflex is to yell some obscenities, but I simply move my chair to the opposite branch. A few minutes later, a mom and her teenage son appear, I move to make space for them in the shade, she smiles. The sea is rough and raw, the pebbles range in sizes from peas to watermelons, the waves make it impossible to make a graceful entrance. I’m wearing the ugly beach shoes I dug up in the depths of my storage closet, the ones I wouldn’t have been caught dead with in my not-so-past lifetime. I’m alone. The random hair on my thigh, the fold(s) of my stomach, the un-matching bathing suit (last-minute packing should not be a thing), the whiteness of my skin, suddenly mean nothing. “What are you plans, what’s on the agenda?” says a text. Where will I eat, what beaches will I go to, will I have time to visit all the villages, have a cocktail a the must bar, try the local delicacies, and so on. I don’t have any plans. I want to see one village. I don’t need to eat local delicacies at the recommended restaurants or be surrounded by over-exposed bodies of teenagers and bad music at crowded beaches. And I don’t like cocktails. I want to swim free and naked, I want to listen to music that has been on the SD card of my car for years, unheard, I want to be awed by the blue, I want solitude to be a thing we strive for, I want people to see that if we never embrace solitude, we miss half of what’s around us.

If I wasn’t alone, here, in my divine middle of nowhere, I would have never told you any of this. Now maybe you’ll consider solitude. And I’m still going to post those photographs. I know someone will recognize the magic.

On Beautiful Monsters

August 2nd, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 1 comment

So, what’s up, primary caregivers of beautiful monsters who ask you questions and demand to be fed stuff for at least 12 nonstop hours a day? How’s your summer going? Good?  On vacation? How’s that working out for you? Relaxing on a beach and having candlelight dinners with your partner?

NO?

Me neither.

It started well. I followed the “let them be bored” mantra that has swept over the already exhausted population of summer parents. It seemed like a valid concept, but they forgot to mention that letting them be bored can be more tiring than entertaining them. But I stuck to my guns, pulled through, drank the KoolAid, felt proud of my accomplishment. His boredom led to a fascination with tiny Legos. Currently, I have an airport landing strip running along my living room floor, which I’m not allowed to move. There are heliplanes, fire truck garbage trucks, and bulldozer cranes on display, for anyone who dares to come visit us, which truthfully is pretty much noone.

During rest time, we began by watching “Sid the Science Kid.” The past week, two farting and burping larvae in the gutters of New York have been playing on Netflix all day. I have stacked my New Yorkers back into a corner, unread, and reached level 1000-something in Farm Heroes, which besides slowly killing my brain, has also affected my eyesight. A random burst of noise from the plastic electric guitar or our favorite harmonica, usually signifies that rest time is over. And it’s Lego time again. Today, I suggested we sit together while he builds his vehicles, and I read a few pages of my book. He eagerly agreed. We all know how that went.

Basic errands, such as buying two liters of milk a day for my growing angel, take hours instead of minutes. It’s reached the point where two different shoes on feet is completely acceptable, as is trying to carry Teddy, a coloring book, a sticker book, a fire truck and a little plastic bag of tiny Legos in tiny four-year-old hands and dropping them multiple times on the way to the car. All of these things end up in my handbag by the time we reach the entrance of the supermarket. The supermarket, another horror, was the place I began to teach my kid the value of money not so long ago. You know, the old song and dance about how we can’t buy things all the time, nor can we buy yogurt that comes with Smarties just to eat the smarties and throw the yogurt away. And then claim that we ate something healthy. Not so slowly, this deteriorated to us leaving with him carrying his own little bag of stuff. Tomorrow, when we go on the milk/wine run, I will offer to buy him something.

Then we have the lunch/dinner situation. When school closed, we sat down and made a schedule of each week’s balanced meal. I don’t know where that schedule is, actually, I ‘m not so sure anymore that we made it. And today’s lunch featured a donut from Starbucks.

Bedtime begins shortly after lunch time, for me at least, for that’s when I start thinking about it.

“Mommy, I want to do something exciting! Mommy, what are we going to do today? You know, like the zoo, or the trampoline, or the beach!”

We did all of those, multiple times. The zoo in 35 degrees celsius. The beach, where by 11am, there are hundreds of school-free little monsters, louder than mine. Grapes covered in sand, sand stuck in little pink gums, three bags of crap to haul back and forth from the car, hours to spend in the warm, shallow waters while getting a special back tan that leaves the rest of you as stark white as you were in December. The trampoline that opens at 3pm, not an ounce of shade, but a four-year-old doesn’t care, until sweaty and exhausted, he passes out in the car on the way back and bounces off walls till way after bedtime.

Bedtime, yes, that’s where this began. It finally happens, and you feel like something magical has occurred. You suddenly have options, such as do I shower, do I clean, do I pour wine now or later, maybe I should have a glass now, then shower and have another one, do I watch half an episode of a girlie, brainless show before the spouse comes home and assumes that that’s what I do all day, or do I play some more Farm Heroes?

You pick one, and then your partner comes home. Excited to tell him about your day, inspired by the fact that you have spoken to nobody all day but your child, you begin to recount things completely insignificant to anybody with any inch of sanity. When I personally do this, my husband sits and stares at me, blankly. As if wondering why he married me, or if this is really the person he married, or counting to ten, or 100, until he knows that I will stop rambling. Because really, I don’t have that much to say.

The highlight of my day today was running into my OBGYN at the local mall and explaining to my unprepared child that this is the woman that brought him into this world. Yesterday, it was telling the cashier at the supermarket that my mom is coming at the end of August. She doesn’t know my mom. Or me. But she asked. Probably something irrelevant to my answer, but she was a grown up, and she looked pretty sane.

I sit here now, in the silent darkness, with what I think is a tiny yellow Lego piece floating in my glass of wine, a slinky hanging off the banister, and another month ahead of me, and as every night, try to relive the amazing things that happened today. I taught him that “passing gas” is a much better version of “fart,” he made his first phone call to his best friend, he blew up his first balloon, walked around his room (way past bedtime) in the tacky, furry fuchsia flip flops he made me buy, and he hugged my neck right before he fell asleep with his little beautiful arms. My husband will be home any minute, and I think I won’t have to tell him about the OBGYN, at least not until later, because I’ve told you. Good night, primary caregivers of beautiful monsters. September is right around the corner, and some of us still have a family vacation to survive.

On Light

August 29th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

We all have a place, a place that maybe we’ve been to one too many times over the course of our lives, a place that holds too many dark memories, or maybe just one. Maybe somewhere we’ve been once but never want to return. It can be a home, a city, a street corner.

My place is an island, actually a little village on an island, which over past 30 years has grown into a vibrant tourist town. I spent endless summer vacations there as a child, at 18 swore to never return, and for most of my 30s, lured by friends, found myself living strange moments on its shores, after which I made myself and adult promise to wipe it off my mental and spiritual map.

It’s called Paros, the town is Naoussa, and it may well be one of the most beautiful spots in the Greek Cyclades.

After six years of sticking to my promise, I suddenly missed the island’s crazy winds, its encompassing crystal waters, its winding roads, its sounds, its breath. Vic and I packed our carry-ons and set out to what could have been the worst vacation from our family vacation.

Only nothing was bad. We spent four days carousing, sleeping, eating delicious food. I knew its every nook and cranny, it was like coming home after a decade in a foreign land. The beauty that I’d taken for granted, disregarded, distracted by things internal, screamed at me, I walked around like a stupefied tourist turning everything I saw into a memory on my phone.

On Light 9

The darkness was gone, yet nothing had changed.

 

On Light 3

Except me. I’d let go of the past. And when darkness disappears, only light can remain. And it’s refreshingly blinding.

 

On When You’re So Over the Family Vacation

August 20th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

So there I am, legs hanging out the trunk of our car, parked on the shoulder of a national highway, looking for the grapes. I find them and wash them using a plastic bottle of water. I’m wearing normal clothes and shoes for the first time in ten days, not a cold, wet bathing suit, yet the wind and dust raised by the speeding cars disrespect that, covering my legs and feet in stains.

The first few days were magnificent, carefree, happy. For the kids. We’d gone to an island where our fiends and their kids already were. By day six, I was done. I never again wanted to change a wet bathing suit on an excited, giggly, sun-kissed child. Or a cold, tired, whiney one. Our beach towels that were originally, soft and fluffy, but has turned into a salty planks of cotton wood. Sand was everywhere, on the floor, in our beds, in the shower, in my bra. I’d dipped my head into the water a total of two times, the wind had blown and turned my hair into a artful bird nest, I knew it would remain so until my hair mask and I were reunited at home.

At least all children’s palates begged for spaghetti and rice, limiting our time in the kitchen. A few slices of cucumber and tomato, and we no longer felt like a bad parents. Soon, bedtimes became painful, pre-dawn risings even more so. On the last night, I feel asleep in a chair. A feat I had not accomplished in 40-odd years.

So on the shoulder of that highway, a highway which in many countries would be considered a side street, I was happy to wash some tiny village grapes while buses of tourists sped by. My son whined in the back seat, faster mommy, I’m hungry, I miss my friends, I want to go back to our village and swim in the sea. I handed him the fruit, dreaming of its alcohol-infused juice in the fridge at home. We drove off, and I turned back to look at him. His blond hair was blonder, longer, it covered his twinkling eyes, his white skin a light shade of bronze, his little feet kicking my seat to the rhythm of the music, while he swallowed the sweet grapes.

It was his first time, his first real summer vacation, and even though I’m over it and the next ten to come, I only hope he remembers every moment of it, because none of it, was for or about me.

Me and my Monkey

April 25th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

Spring break. No, not the Florida one. Nor the one where you and your boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife/friends fly to Rome for a long weekend. I’m talking about the one where your children’s school suddenly transforms in your mind from a haven to the center of all evil, having left them under the 24-hour-two-week long supervision of one person; you.

It’s only day one of official Easter vacation. And here’s a little glimpse at the state of affairs.

We have a monkey puppet. We love monkey. Monkey needs to eat with us, as in he needs his own plate of real food, watch TV with us, play with us, we show it our toys, we share, we ask him what he likes best, etc. Usually after a weekend, monkey takes a rest because the other monkey goes to school. But as today would have marked day three of me walking around with a furry extension of my hand, I decided to go to the beach.

The beach is a cold place at 9.30 am. For an adult. For a three-year-old it’s a place to run up and down the frozen waters beating against the shore, and scream “Mommy! I love the sea!” over and over again, as if he’d spent his life in a dungeon. After speed walking a good couple of kilometers, at the demand of the enthusiast, feet red and numb, I dug them into the warming sand and made sandcastles. Then collected seashells. Then got sand out of toes, provided refreshments and snacks and dreamt of monkey.

The bucket of seashells came with us for our nightly bath. He dumped them all in the water right after I washed him. Something began to smell of grilled octopus that’s gone bad. The largest seashell, the only one still intact, was oozing some sort of dark gooey stuff into the tub, crazy amounts for a shell its size. It was one of those smells that you know will stay in your nose hairs for days, maybe even prevent you from eating seafood for a while, maybe food in general.

And that’s where I am, right now, on day one of vacation, having spared you the stories of nail painting with permanent marker, the supermarket run, carwash, kiosk, and lunch.

Years ago, in early summer I overheard a woman on the beach freaking out about school being over in a week, and being stuck alone with three-year-old twins. I was appalled, immediately judged her as a bad mother.Yeah, let that be a lesson for me.

Pieces: a novel

“Pieces” is the winner of the silver medal at the 2017 Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY), and a finalist at the USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards.

When Clouds Embrace: a children's book

All proceeds from the sales of "When Clouds Embrace" will go to Giving for Greece, a foundation that works to help the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece.