My previous post focused on the concept of vacation and the way we preserve family history through our memory of special vacation moments. As I looked forward to our first family vacation, I described my excitement about the memories I was on the verge of making and reflected on stand-out vacations from my childhood.
We’re back from Disneyland and, in spite of my meticulous preparations, our family vacation didn’t quite go as planned. On the positive side, friends and co-workers have asked the standard question of “Did you have a good vacation?” and my unequivocal answer each time is “Yes!” I watched my kids delight in their first airplane ride. My heart swelled as their little eyes registered awe of the phenomenon that is Disneyland. I beamed as they gleefully met Mickey, Minnie, Peter Pan, Snow White and numerous princesses. We explored Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica as only tourists from Oklahoma can do. Knowing that I sometimes forget to take good pictures, I kept the camera ever-ready and took 150 pictures during the first 3 days of our trip. Yep, I was proud of myself for diligently capturing these precious memories so that our family can share and revisit a special time in our lives.
But that’s only part of the story. On day #3 while at the beach, something happened that I didn’t anticipate. As we strolled obliviously along the picturesque beach and blissfully reflected on our vacation thus far, someone stole our camera. In a split second, we said goodbye to the tangible connection to our vacation memories. While I am an emotional person by nature, our misfortune evoked heavy-hearted tears from a place deep in my gut that only kicks into gear during rare moments of extreme helplessness and frustration. My heartbreak only worsened as we spent the next hour talking with vendors and on-site law enforcement personnel who said that it’s far too common for vagrants to come to the beach with thievery on their brains and tourists in their sights. As the day went on and our camera remained missing, I had to continually remind myself to keep some perspective. No it was not the worst thing that could happen. Yes, the camera was gone but the children were unharmed, something for which we should be thankful. Yes, I put in a new SD card for the trip which meant all of our other pictures were safe at home. No, this shouldn’t ruin the rest of our trip. As responsible adults, Jason and I told ourselves all the “right” and “logical” things. That said, we couldn’t help but feel incredibly sad and a little like the trip didn’t even happen without the accompanying images to share with friends and family.
Long story short, we knew we could either mope around and feel like victims on the very vacation we were relishing a mere few hours earlier OR we could take control of the situation. Life doesn’t always go as planned and we realized the opportunity to learn this lesson on a small scale is far preferable to learning it on a large one. Always the problem solver, my husband suggested we make an unplanned trip back to Disneyland to take new pictures and make new memories. Now, this wasn’t budgeted and wasn’t an easy decision because of that fact, but we found a way to make it happen because the pictures were important to us. We returned our rental car a day early and put that cash toward admission. We packed fruit and pretzels in our backpacks and made the kids promise not to ask when we were going to have “real” lunch (the kind that would cost us $50-60 at the park). Jason talked with the accommodating staff and negotiated reduced-price tickets, saving us almost $100. I then used my iPhone to capture all the requisite landmarks and poses, and we even got to experience some attractions that we simply didn’t have time for on our previous visit. We felt relieved and restored and, when the trip came to an end, the stolen camera was far from top of mind.
I’ve thought quite a bit about what would have happened had the circumstances been different and the trip had ended on a sour note. We very easily could have decided a trip back to Disneyland was too expensive or we might not have had the luxury of time. I won’t try to fool you by saying I wouldn’t have wasted our last day being sad, but I am confident I would have eventually pulled myself out of the dumps and been at peace with the simple memory of all the fun things we did together – pictures or no pictures.
And I also know that it’s impossible to capture some of the best moments in a picture. When it comes right down to it, the problem with pictures is that we tend to take them of the activities we want to share with others and fail to capture the more simple moments because they aren’t exactly camera-worthy. I am certain that I did not think to take a picture of my ragged and exhausted family cuddled up in one of our two hotel beds, sharing root beer and peanut M & M’s and watching who-knows-what HBO Family movie, laughing hysterically as the kids attempted to tell knock-knock jokes. And, just like my childhood vacation memory of eating that fabulous pizza on the floor of our hotel room in Hawaii, I will vividly remember this as one of many moments that does not have a glossy picture to commemorate it.
Even though I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to recapture some of the camera-worthy memories of our Disneyland experience, I also want to remember and cherish those small and simple moments of togetherness. I am thankful I have the ability to remember even the smallest details and now fully understand why my family has rehashed our vacation moments so many times over the years. Time goes by so quickly, but the more we talk about fun things that happened, the more vividly they remain in our memories.
Yes, I’m still sad about our camera and trying not to think about some creepy guy (or girl) looking at pictures of my family. More likely the SD card was discarded or wiped clean within minutes of the theft so the camera could be sold on the street. However, if you live in or visit Santa Monica and see a low life carrying a hot pink camera case, please drop kick him and steal back my SD card. THAT would be a fabulous moment I’m certain I’d remember forever!