I grew up by the water, always going to the beach. It’s kind of funny that I wasn’t a better swimmer considering that fact, but as the baby, my mom always made excuses for me using anything from my allergies to my asthma to my often infected ears to explain away my inability to swim well. She also blamed it on a former church member of my dad’s church who threw me into Long Island Sound from his boat without knowing that I didn’t swim well. But that’s another story.
When summer hit, Mom was always making her way to the town hall to get her beach sticker. We would spend many hours at the beach and our church would even have an annual picnic and baptism at the beach. I have some very fond memories of growing up at the beach.
But it wasn’t just the beach that I frequented, I grew up with three ponds within walking distance of my house. In fact, one of those ponds was literally in the backyard, right next to our house. I grew up fishing, ice-skating, and throwing stones. I remember floating toy boats down the stream that led from one pond to the other. As we got older, we wouldn’t settle for something as calm as floating the boats down the stream, we instead chose to destroy them with rocks or, better yet, fireworks if we could get our hands on them.
I never knew my dad’s father, but while my dad was in college in South Carolina, he adopted a couple who became surrogate grandparents to my brother and me. We took many a road trip from Connecticut during the summers growing up to visit our “grandparents.” My grandpa was always an avid fisherman. The big question every time we went for a visit was, “When are we going fishing?” Everything I learned about outdoor sports like hunting and fishing was learned from my Grandpa Deese.
The added bonus of our trips to South Carolina was that fireworks were legal there. That was fun for us for a while, until my brother nearly turned me into a girl with his bad aim, but that also is another story.
Last night, my father-in-law and I went fishing with my boys on the lake where he grew up. It’s only a few miles from his house and some of the family still lives on or near the lake. My boys were so excited to go fishing. Casting was a bit of a problem, but they were okay letting us do the casting for them as they reeled in the lines. Sadly, the only fish that was caught was by me and it was a Sunfish, hardly the trophy-winning kind of fish, but I think the boys had fun anyway. They said that they did.
For those who don’t or haven’t fished, it’s not for those lacking patience or needing constant amusement. It’s just a lot of waiting. But that’s half the fun of it, fishing is an experience. More often than not, stories are generated and told over and over again to friends and family, often with some amount of fabrication to make it more interesting than it really was. At least that’s the way fishing has always been for me. It’s never really about how many or how big the fish are, it’s about being together.
All the manly men out there are saying, “That’s the phrase of someone who’s not a good fisher.” That may be so, but I still stand by the fact that there is something beautiful about sharing such an experience with your kids. Unplugged from the internet (although I did have my smartphone), no Wii, no computers or televisions, it was just us and the outdoors. It’s certainly enough to make a person think and appreciate all that he has.
As I went through this experience, so many memories came flooding back into my mind. It felt like an awakening of sorts, being reminded of the fun and joy that I had when I was younger. It made me want to run out and buy some fishing rods. It made me appreciate just what I have in front of me that’s so much simpler than I try to make my life. Too often, I overcomplicate things when an easy solution is staring me in the face. Too often, the most fun things in life that make memories are not the ones that cost us a fortune. Instead, they can be had by simply taking some time and pulling together something as simple as a fishing pole and some worms.
This is the first time in a while that I can say that I have relaxed while visiting family. It’s not that my family wears me out, it’s just that we always try to do so many things. This time, our schedule was pretty relaxed, no real agenda, and it’s been fantastic. I realized how free and open it was when I got an email from someone trying to track me down to get a reference for a friend who is candidating for a new position and I realized that I really didn’t know what my days were going to hold. Instead of freaking out, like I might normally do, I snickered to myself and enjoyed the ride.
Vacations aren’t really about how much I do, how much I see, how much I eat, or even where I go. Vacations are really about “vacating,” finding a way to escape, a way to recharge and appreciate the little things in life that get forgotten. True vacations help us to find that the things that we have been so caught up in are really things that are more insignificant than we let them be.
There is nothing that can compare to the joy in my children’s eyes as they experience some of these things for the first time. That same wonder and joy are things that I need to remember and recapture myself. Jesus’ words in Mark 10:15 ring true here, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” The innocence view of a child is exactly what we need sometimes. The question is, can we stop, unplug, rest, relax, and slow down long enough that we refocus our viewpoint again. This week has helped me to do that, how about you? If you’ve not had the chance, find it sooner than later.