Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lancaster, P.A. Revisited . . .

The "old" Lancaster Map

When the girls were much younger, we took a couple of trips to Lancaster, PA aka Amish country. We did all the “tourtisty” things including: the Amish Buggy Ride, tours of the houses, farms and school, experiencing the “family style” dinners, enjoying the “shoo-fly pie” and apple butter. We shopped for souvenirs and assorted jellies, jams, peanut butter. We didn’t leave any stone unturned. However, as the girls got a little older (13 and 16) Lancaster became less enchanting and the simple lifestyle of the Amish more boring. They weren’t interested in going there even for a short family vacation any more. But now, 12 years later, both of them suddenly agreed to come with us for a four day weekend. Granted it was my birthday weekend and I had just finished dealing with a health scare, so maybe they were feeling generous? I wasn’t about to talk them out of it by asking why they agreed to go. So we packed.

The ride to Lancaster was uneventful except for some traffic getting out of the city, which added an hour to the trip. We had a bite to eat, checked into the hotel and then went shopping at the Rockvale outlets, surrounding the hotel. This was not only our first day away, but the first day of a heat wave of over 90 degree weather. That really sums up the whole trip, eating, shopping and dying of the heat. We saw cows, horses, and Amish people. We spent all our cash and our Kohl’s cash too. We had a few laughs. We filled up the trunk of our car until there was almost no room left for the luggage. So why did this trip mean so much to me and fill my eyes with tears?

Nostalgia. Ever since the kids were born we went on family vacations. Almost all of them were along the eastern seacoast, from Massachusetts to Florida. We always looked forward to spending that time together and doing new things. We enjoyed some places so much we went back two, three or more times. In their early years there wasn’t anything unusual about us all eating our meals together at home, it was a regular routine. But, as the girls got older, this ordinary little thing, this routine we often took for granted, has become the exception not the rule. We rarely eat meals together any more. So in Lancaster, as I looked around the table at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and saw my family all together talking and laughing, it brought tears to my eyes. It’s the simple things in life we forget to appreciate until they’re gone.

We escaped to the hotel room, after shopping, to cool off and pick a place to have dinner. We stretched out on the beds and tossed ideas around while my younger daughter, always in control of the remote control, flipped through the tv guide trying to find something we can all watch. We discovered that Lancaster has changed quite a bit over the last 12 years. Some of the old stores and restaurants weren’t there any more and new ones have taken their place. I was looking at our old map to try to find someplace to eat, while my daughter was surfing through her smart phone for menus. She was getting frustrated because quite a few places I mentioned didn’t exist any more. “Why are you looking at that old map?” she asked, “I picked up a new one in the lobby.” I didn’t tell her that the “old” map I was holding had all the places we had been to in the past “circled” in ink. I kept it to myself that while the girls and my husband were revisiting Lancaster, I was revisiting the past and their childhoods. Children grow up too fast. Parents start aging. Instead of my husband and I helping the girls get out of the car, now my older daughter extends her hand to help me get out and then tells me, “I think dad’s back is bothering him, I could tell by the way he got out of the car.” She was right. He was in some pain, the long ride had aggravated his backache. The roles are already starting to reverse ever so slightly, or maybe more than I like to think.

After dinner it was back to the hotel. The shopping and heat had taken it’s toll on us and we wanted to make the most of our time there. Showers, PJs, under the covers watching television together, without laptops, just like the old days. It wasn’t long before we were falling asleep and the lights went out. I look over at the girls. They look so little when they are sleeping . . . at least in my mind’s eye. I can see the young women they are and the little girls they were, all at the same time.

I wish I could turn the clock back and do it all over again, but of course I can’t. It’s the circle of life. My older daughter is almost the same age I was when I got married. Soon she will be married. One day both girls will have families of their own. I wonder if they will take their children to visit Lancaster one day. I hope they put down the smart phones while they are there and take a paper map. I hope they circle all the places they visit and save that map. One day their children will be grown and they will be looking to revisit not just Lancaster, but the past; wondering where all the years went and yearning to have those simple family dinners together that grow fewer and farther in between.

P.S. At one of our meals together, my older daughter got the idea that she and my younger daughter should blog our trip to Lancaster using “my voice,” as though I had written it. Years ago they each wrote a blog in my voice about a particular topic and I posted it. No one seemed to notice I hadn’t written those blogs so I guess they did a good job. However, had my daughters written this blog it would have been very different. They were prepared to write about “peeves.” There are always peeves to write about whenever I leave the house and this trip was no exception. But, I did tell my older daughter that she and I would not be writing the same blog about this trip. I was feeling this trip from a mother’s point of view. There would be no way she could see it the way I did, and hers would be a lot funnier. My daughter’s blog would be full of details that I have already forgotten. She may have changed her mind about writing it, but if she does I will post it.