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In search of the quiet birthday and vacation

It struck me this week, as I celebrated my birthday while on vacation, how my expectations for both have changed as I’ve gotten older (I’m not sharing my age, but my fun fact: I was born the same day as NFL star Tom Brady). 

As a kid, birthdays and vacations are high-energy: For birthdays, you have parties, or see a show or visit an attraction with a group of friends. There’s a LOT of sugar and it’s go-go-go for the day. Youthful vacations are the same – sightseeing, constantly on-the-move, and normal eating and sleeping go out the window.  

I grew up with a pool in the backyard, so all summer was a vacation, but when we went anywhere it was a trip to an amusement park or an attraction (the Strasburg Railroad was a favorite, for my Lancaster County readers). My husband grew up spending a week each summer in Ocean City, Md., which is full of boardwalk treats, mini-golf and amusements. 

Over the past few years, I’ve wanted peace and quiet for both vacations and birthdays. 

Since I have children with all the aforementioned energy, we try to strike a balance on vacation. Luckily, my kids are easily amused. We spent the past week in Damascus, Va., because we like the mountains and the Appalachian Trail, and the girls were happy as clams playing at the town playground. Sophie, my 9-year-old, was thrilled because we were close to the state line and she got to go into not one, but two new states (Tennessee and North Carolina).  

But for me, being able to sit with a cup of coffee and stare out the window at beautiful views soothes my soul. We saw sights and tried the local cuisine, but taking a break from constantly having to be somewhere at a certain time was the goal. Can I do that at home? Kind of. But in my own house, I’m  constantly struck with thoughts of things I “should” be doing.  

And my birthday? I wanted to sleep in and abdicate responsibility for the day. I’m content with the opportunity to get outside and I don’t mind “doing,” as long as it’s in a leisurely manner and I don’t have to be in charge. Since we were on vacation, we meandered up to two old train stations on the Virginia Creeper Trail (trains are 6-year-old Annabelle’s jam), wandered the trail and ended up on some back roads through the mountains.  

I should add that I think COVID has played a part in my changed attitudes. Two years ago, we wanted a change of scenery after lockdowns, but many destinations weren’t open and we weren’t up for anything too “peopley.” We found a rental house uphill from an orchard in Virginia, with a big yard for the girls to run around in. We explored, but only outdoors, like the Natural Bridge and a short hike on a new stretch of the AT. We enjoyed it so much – and relaxed so much during a stressful time of our lives – that it’s become the norm for our vacations.  

I’ve always tried to get my girls to appreciate the simple joys of life.  I’m not always successful, but I think the highlight of this vacation was feeding the chickens that wander up to our porch. Maybe I’m doing better than I thought.   

 

Jen Deinlein
Jen Deinlein is a self-professed “Jen of all trades and master of none.” She’s a SAHM to 8- and 5-year-old daughters, a freelance writer (you can also see her work in CPBJ) and head cheerleading coach at Penn State Mont Alto. She and her family live in Guilford Township, Franklin County, with a golf course in the backyard where they frequently rescue lost golf balls. You can reach Jen on Instagram: @groovypq; Twitter: @jlbd77 or by email: [email protected].

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