A few weeks ago I ran away and I brought my family with me.

It’s become my favorite thing to do for my birthday week.

Nestled neatly between the end of the school year and the beginning of the longest stretch of summer, for years that week has provided my family and I with the perfect freedom to get away.

There are four simple rules for this escape from our normal lives and they are always the same. Our location must:
1. Be located in a climate with palm trees.
2. Require an airplane to get there.
3. Have a swimming pool.
4. Provide opportunities for lots and lots of time with the 4 of us together.

This year as I floated in the vacation pool with my champagne margarita in hand, I realized that although those four rules are constant, we never travel with the same four people.

In fact, two of the guests on this trip are completely different each year.

This year we traveled with an almost 17-year-old, complete with his driver’s license, and a 5’11” 13-year-old with long flowing hair that would leave even the 1969 version of Paul McCartney completely jealous.

A few years ago, we traveled with a soon-to-be high school freshman and a soon-to-be first-year middle schooler, both eager and nervous to start the next stage of their educational and social adventures.

And it wasn’t that long ago that we traveled with a real-life 7-year-old pirate and his 10-year-old Transformers-obsessed brother.

Somehow it really feels like just yesterday that we were traveling with two tiny children: Pull-Ups, blankies, and pool floaties jammed into our suitcases as we lugged strollers and car seats through airports.

But this year instead of little voices shouting “Mommy watch this!” the pool was filled with the manly voices of my teenagers and my husband playing one of their many games of intensely physical pool basketball.

While they played, I sipped my cocktail and smiled at the sounds of their booming voices shouting out to each other.

And every once in a while, I closed my eyes and could almost hear the echoes of the small boys who used to travel with us.

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Because those little versions were still there too.

The truth is if I look closely enough, I can always see those versions everywhere.

They are in the dimples on their faces

They are in their sweet expressions when they fall asleep.

They are in the way they throw their heads back when they find something truly funny.

They are there in their still favorite blankets.

They are there every time they choose to sit down beside us on the sofa to play music or watch a movie.

They are always there—no matter how old their current versions get or how many inches they tower over me now.

And what a gift it is to watch the sweet merging of all those versions of my babies.

I wonder who will join us next year. 

Originally published on the author’s Facebook page

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Jenni Brennan

Jenni Brennan, LICSW is an author, podcaster, college professor, therapist, and mother. Her work centers around the topics of grief, health and wellness, relationships, and parenting.

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