What makes a holiday? Is it time off work, or time to yourself, or time with the kids, or a break from the kids? Is it time to read your first book this year or time to get through six? Sunbathing or swimming or sliding or sailing or sleeping? Time off social media, or time to browse uninterrupted? Is it all about the food or all about the sun or all about the views, or just getting away and switching off?
Ten years into parenting, I think I’ve just witnessed what makes a holiday for me.
It’s bare feet all day, lost flip-flops and new flip-flops. Wet swimsuits drying on the deck. Sandy feet and freckled cheeks.
Fish and chips at dusk, still in shorts and t-shirts. It’s eating every meal outdoors. It’s early morning Corn Flakes on the deck with just my book or my small boy for company, as the campsite comes to life.
It’s running to the pool even though it’s lunchtime already, because heat trumps hunger. It’s crusty bread with ham, and tomatoes that taste of tomatoes.
It’s jumping off the jetty, into blue-green water. It’s swimming for hours and begging for more.
It’s towels drying on the railings, ready for tomorrow. It’s a colouring competition on the deck while waiting for the takeaway.
It’s the oh-so-rustic restaurant with the tables on cobbles, and an aperitif on the house. It’s ordering from the grown-up menu because everything is good and nothing costs much. It’s trying new things and finding favourites. It’s paddling at sunset or any time we walk past water.
It’s nights out on the campsite, with Fanta if they’re really good. It’s forgetting flip-flops but not going back. It’s drinks with friends, new or old. It’s mini-discos and being too old for discos. It’s walking home in the dark and staying up late. It’s a quiet glass of wine on the deck when they’ve all gone to sleep.
It’s walking to the village on the last day, to get that amazing Ricotta and Pistachio cake one more time.
It’s racing through the rain for one last swim before we go home.
It’s running by the lake for headspace, and realising I don’t need the headspace quite as much as I used to.
It’s recreating my own childhood holidays – giving my kids some of what I remember of those lost flip-flop barefoot days.
It’s never wanting to leave but knowing we’ll be back. Maybe here, maybe somewhere else, maybe different, but not too different, I hope. Because I’ve found it.