Until I got married, I did not take very many vacations.
In my first parish, I did take the required vacation time, and not just because it was required. I needed it. But, as a single pastor, I had a hard time figuring out where I could afford to travel, and would like to travel, by myself. So I often took vacations either to visit my sister or to my home town, where I still had friends.
As a child, I only remember taking two significant vacations with my family. My dad had his own business, a small Television Sales and Repair Shop, and he just couldn't be gone. (I also suspect that we couldn't afford to travel that much.) But when I was going into the 5th grade, we took a two week vacation out to Seattle, Washington, to visit my aunt and uncle and their two small children. My uncle had gotten a job at Boeing. It was the first time anyone from my family had moved so far away.
This was a Big Deal in many ways. My dad had never left his work for so long, and I'm sure it made him anxious. We drove out there, and it took us three days in the Rambler. I figured out that Montana was a Really Big State. It was the first time I ever saw a mountain, or an ocean. We stayed in motels every night, but just looked for blinking "vacancy" signs. On the way home we stopped at Yellowstone National Park and saw Old Faithful. My aunt and uncle took us to the ocean, the Space Needle, Mount Rainier, and other places that I don't remember any more.
The second major vacation was a family vacation to Disneyland, when I was 16 years old. This was about a year after my dad's business had gone bankrupt. He was working for someone else now, and had actual vacation coming. And this was the One Dream Vacation for our family. My dad got us hotel reservations all the way out to California. We stopped for an extra night in Denver, Colorado, to visit friends who had moved away. At Disneyland, we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel -- the height of luxury for us -- and had a tour guide for our first day at Disneyland. I was in total awe of her abilities, as she would speak to us, and then turn and speak to another set of tourists in french! I decided then and there that I wanted to be a tour guide at Disneyland when I grew up.
I sewed a little back then, and sewed myself three new pairs of shorts, two halter tops and one midriff blouse especially for our trip. Thus began my obsession with having "something new to wear" when I travel.
Since getting married in 1999, I've travelled more than in my previous forty years combined. I've been to San Francisco, to Pennsylvania twice, to Disney World in Orlando, to Door County, Wisconsin, and to the North Shore of Minnesota. We've headed out to the Black Hills and Chicago by car, and to Albuquerque and the Grand Canyon by plane (haven't taken the train yet, though).
And since being up there at Lake Superior for the umpteenth time (and it never gets old, by the way), I've been thinking of two of the pleasures of vacations: there is the humble pleasure of discovering something for the first time, of realizing how little you really know about the world, and expanding that world just a little bit again. And there is the other pleasure of going back again to the place you've been before, the joy of returning to a familiar place, with its familiar mysteries.
I've been to the North Shore many times, but always a little later in the summer. This week was the first time I've seen the lupines bloom here.
I wonder if heaven will be that way too: familiar, but also full of discovery, comfortable, but strange.