I’m posting this as we fly home from Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic. This was our family’s first “pure” vacation. We didn’t go because the location is on Charley’s bucket list and we better get there before travel becomes too difficult. We didn’t go because someone else planned it and invited us to tag along. We went because it was a long and cold winter, we found a place that looked relaxing and beautiful, and we could make it work within our budget. So we took off. The simple act of deciding to take a vacation for no other reason than just because was liberating, like a weight was lifted from our shoulders.
Our trip was as perfect as a family vacation could be, under the circumstances of course.
Weather? Check! 86 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze every single day.
Beach? Check! Completely unspoiled powder-white beaches with turquoise waves just big enough for a thrill but not so big that Charley couldn’t handle them.
Food? Check! To our sheer delight, the VRBO rental we secured included an incredible chef who cooked us fresh fish in coconut sauce, skewered conch with vegetables, and tacos with delectable side sauces. With every meal, she presented a huge platter of juicy pineapple, mango and papaya. (Charley alone probably polished off five pineapples.)
People? Check! The Dominican people we met were incredibly friendly, conversed with us in Spanish to help us learn the language, and were happy to give us directions or let us snap a photo.
Culture? Check! The nearby town of Las Terrenas was chock-full of guys hand-rolling cigars, women balancing huge tubs of supplies on their heads, empanada stands, school children playing the streets, and fisherman toting their daily catch.
As will always be the case for our family, Duchenne’s specter did not entirely dissipate. One of the most talked-about excursions in the Samana Peninusla is a reportedly spectacular but steep hike to El Limon waterfall, which of course we could not attempt. When someone recommended an authentic lunch place “a short walk down the beach,” we knew that was not an option. Swimming in the ocean is thrilling but stressful, as we are always on high alert to make sure Charley is within arms reach at every moment.
But as I always tell my kids, life isn’t perfect for anyone. The trick is to focus on the great stuff and let the negative recede, which wasn’t very hard in one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I have ever been privileged to visit.
This morning Benjy and I took one last swim in the ocean, desperate to fill our brains with visual images of the astounding landscape, our noses with the salty aroma of the sea air, our pores with the warmth of the sun. The kids stayed in the condo to pack. When we returned, there was consensus amongst them that although the vacation was amazing, they couldn’t wait to get home. All three were looking forward to getting back into a regular routine, which for Sam and Maisy meant soccer games the very next day and a full social calendar for Charley (meeting friends for lunch in town and then hacking around on the town basketball court).
Although I am wistful that the vacation is over and could most definitely have spent more time there, the fact that the children were excited to get home filled me with joy. They love their house, they love their friends, they love their school, they love their lives, even under the circumstances. And that is a beautiful thing.