Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Vacation

It was not quite “10 Days That Shook the World,” but it was a great 10 days, vacationing in New York (plus a couple of days tacked on at either end in Washington, DC). Perhaps not unlike some other unmarried people my age, I don’t really have a “home” to go back to. Certainly I don’t have anyone anymore in my old neighborhood in the Bronx, and this fall it will be seven years snow since my mother moved to California to be near my sister and her family. So the “home” I come back to (and eagerly embrace as such), when I visit my “hometown” of New York, is inevitably the Paulist Motherhouse on West 59th Street. Certainly it qualifies as a legitimate claimant to “home,” since I did after all live 13 of the past 20 years of my life there.

Not having classmates or other close friends to vacation with and not being independently wealthy makes “vacation” an ambiguous concept in any case. If one thinks of vacation in terms of travelling to interesting places, doing fun things, and meeting new people, probably my best vacations have in fact actually been work-connected – the pilgrimages I went on as chaplain while at St. Paul’s in the past decade, my summer program at Windsor Castle in 2005, and even earlier my summer program in Israel in 1993 and my Spanish study program in Mexico in 1988. These were all “work” (or at least work-related), but they were different from my day-to-day life, and exposed me to new and different people, places, and experiences, most of which I would almost certainly never been exposed to otherwise – all of which certainly sounds like one definition of “vacation.”

As those opportunities have diminished somewhat, I have come to look forward to vacation as a time to reconnect with a few old friends, do a few things I don’t get to do much anymore (like walking around the city), and just relax with only the most minimal demands on my schedule. I’m guessing that was how earlier generations of Paulists saw their summer sojourns at Lake George, and as I age I think I am coming to appreciate that experience more and more.

I am not a hot-weather person. (Woe is me, in this era of Global Warming!) It’s fair to say I’d prefer the summer vacation period to be maybe half as long as it now is. That said, there is also, I recognize, certainly something to be said for the slower, less demanding pace summer allows. ( historic adaptation to summer heat before air-conditioning). I first came to appreciate this in the 1970s in graduate school. Not only was the campus emptier and quieter in summer – with mainly us grad students and hardly anyone else around, it was also a time when we grad students were more relaxed – working in the library much of the day, but free to socialize more with one another. Graduate school at Princeton in the 1970s was surprisingly something of as community – and was most so in the summers.

So a cheer for vacation – however one spends it – and at least half a cheer for the summer season that makes it possible!

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