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Last night after work we celebrated my husband’s birthday at home with a homemade chocolate and strawberry cake, his meal of choice (pizza), iced tea, a homemade card from our 5-year-old, and a small smattering of largely practical gifts like new flip flops and work shoes. It was an affair put together with love, but it was certainly on the modest end of the spectrum as far as birthday celebrations go.
We couldn’t help but chuckle a little at the contrast to how we celebrated his 40th birthday exactly a year prior. That particular birthday was celebrated over a period of a week with around-the-world flights in premium cabins, time on a private island in the Maldives, friends in both Amsterdam and the Maldives, and the actual birthday itself was celebrated with friends over an outdoor chef prepared private dinner at one of the nicest resorts I have ever personally experienced.
In fact, when comparing the two events that were just one year apart, about the only similarity was that the cakes for the 40th and 41st birthdays were both chocolate.
It may sound like I am lamenting this year’s modest celebration in comparison to last year’s extravaganza, but in fact I loved them equally because they were both exactly what was right and desired at that point in our lives. While the rest of the post may ramble a bit, that is actually the message I want to get across. When the stars align to make the time right to take that big trip you want, don’t put it off as the stars will invariably change course again. This is true for everyone, but especially true for families who are dealing with so many more moving parts.
To put it another way, not all moments in time in family life are created equally. If nothing else over the last year that is a lesson that has been engrained in my soul. I could have had no clue sitting there on the beach in the Maldives in early May of 2014 what all would transpire over the next 12 months. Thankfully we are all still healthy, which I don’t take for granted in the slightest, but so many other things have changed in ways that would have made that exact trip and type of birthday celebration completely out of the realm of possibility today.
For starters, I am now clearly too pregnant to comfortably jet around the world, much less head to a remote private island. That was something we hoped for a year ago, but there was never any way to know how it would play out. Next, my husband has gone from having a job with some tenure and flexibility to one where he is very much the new guy on the totem poll with no vacation days or flexibility. We have gone from the luxury of his working from home most days, to one where he spends close to 3 hours a day in the car commuting. Among other things, this means we are all tired (especially him), and have to relish and protect our weekends and days off at home more than we did in the past. Consuming long weekends with trips away doesn’t work nearly as well when you have to hit the road again at 5AM on Monday to start another very structured work week.
Let’s also not skip over the reality that we know unemployment and a loss of income are always just a day away. In recent weeks we have seen so many of our friends go from stable and well paying jobs to unemployed, and we know that it could again be us at some point, any point. Some vacations paid for with miles and points can have virtually no out of pocket costs associated with them, but our time in the Maldives was certainly not one of those trips. It was expensive even though we used points, so I know that expense couldn’t be justified given our recent history and upcoming new addition to the family. I’m so glad we did it when we did, because I will always remember it even if we can’t repeat it.
Starting in July we will have yet another reason that big trips like that just won’t make sense for a while. Yes, we absolutely plan to travel with our baby, as well as sometimes leave her in the arms of a Grandma, but not to head off to a remote island for a week. The following month our oldest daughter will start Kindergarten, and while she will continue for one more year at her current private preschool that affords more flexibility than public school, her schedule certainly will only become less flexible in terms of travel as time goes on.
As we celebrated Josh’s birthday last year we were on the horizon of a whole summer of planned travel adventures. We went to Alaska the day after school finished, headed to Washington DC and NYC shortly after that, then visited family in Kansas, and rounded out the summer with an amazing week in Kauai.
This summer? We have nothing planned as far as travel goes. My last scheduled flight is next week and then nada. We hope to drive to Hyatt Lost Pines for a night or two before the baby comes early in the summer, but so far that’s it in terms of anything booked.
There is some tentative work related stuff we may travel for in August, but for most of the summer we will be playing in the neighborhood, hitting the pool, and either waiting for the baby to arrive, or adjusting to life as a family of four once she does make her appearance. And no, sadly I will not look like the Duchess of Cambridge just 10 hours after delivery, though I will happily accept a hair stylist into my hospital room if one was offered.
In many ways yesterday was just another day, but it also marked a specific point in time where it was easy to look back at where we were 12 months prior and sort of marvel at the changes life has delivered to our family. Some of those changes were welcome and exactly what we hoped for, others were much more mixed blessings. Our days look very different now. Our way of looking at many things has changed. In just a couple months the make-up of our family will be forever changed. Of course our travel patterns have also changed along with all of that. What made sense then would not now. What kept us happy and fulfilled now may not have been enough then.
I don’t know what our lives will look like 12 months from now as we again celebrate Josh’s birthday, but I know for certain it will look different than today. There will be a high chair at the table. There will probably be bigger bags and darker circles under our eyes. There will hopefully be even bigger smiles on our faces and space in our hearts. Where we have traveled, where we want to travel, and what we want to do with our spare time (if we have any) will all be changed from today’s reality. The only constants I am pretty certain of is that travel will still fit in there somewhere, and the cake will still be chocolate.
The trips of yesterday may have to remain in our memories and our cameras, but Lord willing there will always be new adventures still to come.