I do it all for the stories.
I love stories. I love collecting them and mentally filing them away so I can marinate in them whenever I want. I love telling stories, both via the written word and through old fashioned word of mouth. And I like retelling them years later, even to those who have already heard them and know them by heart.
Stories are my currency, my stock-in-trade, and they become our historical record long after we shuffle off this mortal coil. They are the thread that weaves together generations and the wind that gently carries whispers of the past. They are the closest any of us will come to immortality.
But before our stories can be told, they have to be lived.
It is amazing to me how the entire concept of vacation has changed since becoming a parent. If you’re like us, you have one family vacation per year. Assuming you take family vacations up until your kids are 18 — and factoring in most kids don’t remember much before the age of 5 — that leaves a measly 14 vacations. Fourteen chances to create lasting memories that give your children Kodak Moment level goosebumps. Just more than a baker’s dozen opportunities to make and collect your stories.
For me, it’s all about “That Time When.”
I think back to family vacations when I was young and there was that time when we went to my aunt’s beach house on Cape Cod but ended up playing a billion games of Ping Pong in the basement because none of us liked the beach. Or that time we went to Six Flags and I instantly overcame my fear of rollercoasters because a 13-year-old girl in a bikini asked me to ride with her. And who can forget that time when we went to Amish Country and ended up fighting with a buggy driver after I called him a hypocrite for being against the consumption of tobacco for moral reasons, yet having no issue profiting off the smoking industry.
But now I’m a dad. A working dad. A working dad who knows my countdown from 14 has begun, and desperately wants to create some “That Time When” moments for his own family.
With some help from HomeAway, I was able to do just that. Instead of staying at a hotel, we used HomeAway to find an absolutely perfect, pet-friendly lakefront cabin in Vermont. We had a kitchen to cook our meals instead of paying for room service, a beautiful pond for swimming and fishing instead of a hotel pool, and we saved money by not having to board our dog. All that for roughly $150 a night. Cheaper than a hotel and better than a hotel.
Now, here are our moments.
That time when dad dropped the kayak on his foot and could barely walk for a day.
That time when both kids and dogs were totally entertained by the local wildlife.
We paid for the lake cabin, but the wildlife is free of charge. @homeaway #wholevacation A photo posted by Aaron Gouveia (@daddyfiles) on
That time when Sam was having trouble traversing the roots on a path in Woodford State Park, so Will (on his own) activated Big Brother Mode and held his hand to steady him, while dad silently took a picture through misty eyes.
That time when we caught the smallest fish ever.
That time when we pulled up to the cabin and Will exclaimed “IT’S BEAUTIFUL!” And then it was a mad rush inside to claim bedrooms and explore our rustic cabin found via HomeAway.
That time when our first (fur) baby was so relieved she could come with us and not have to be boarded for a week, thanks to HomeAway’s idea of #WholeVacation for the ENTIRE family.
Two problems here: 1) She thinks she’s a 70-pound lap dog. 2) Mama is 31 weeks pregnant and her lap has disappeared. #dogsofinstagram #pregnant #dogs A photo posted by Aaron Gouveia (@daddyfiles) on
That time when Will and I kayaked down the Deerfield River, checking out coves like explorers. He is infatuated with The Beatles at the moment, so I turned on the Beatles channel and we glided down the river to the strains of the Fab Four. And I felt more at peace than I had in months.
That time when Sam, who isn’t even 2 yet, fished for the first time. And yes, I’m counting waving his little pole around like a maniac and then tossing it in the water as fishing.
That time when I realized Will wouldn’t be riding in the canoe with me as much as I had hoped, because he wanted to do it on his own. He said “Dad, I can do it myself. I really can.” And so it goes, the journey away from the parental dock began. Or, to be more accurate, continued. But even if the safety of the shore is an illusion, it’s still tough watching him set sail under his own steam. But it also filled me with immeasurable pride. And so the kid kept paddling. And I silently vowed to continue being the wind at his back.
And finally, that time when none of us wanted to leave. Because why would you ever want to leave this?
So my story collection continues to grow. The re-tellings will be epic and prone to exaggeration (that kayak weighed 1,500 lbs and I nearly lost my toe), but these will serve as the foundation of childhood for the boys. The first summer vacation memories Will is going to hold onto. The last vacation we’ll ever have as a family of four, once Baby #3 comes along in a couple of months.
Our stories — our lives — are constantly being written. I’m just grateful for all the positive chapters, like this one.
***I was compensated by HomeAway for this post. However, the review of the cabin and all other opinions are 100% my own.