Fantasy Summer Vacation

Photography provided by Lauren Chesley


Do you remember a time when you put your child down and they just stayed put? They were exactly where you left them.

I used to love this time of year. Not just for the obvious signs of spring, but April always promises that summer is around the corner. 

We once had a calendar taped to the refrigerator. Starting April 1, we had our own unofficial countdown to summer. It was a reminder that the long-awaited days of no homework or schedules; no alarm clocks or bedtimes were close. It was a countdown to days spent together. 

We always made a summer “To-Do List.” Watching “The Sound of Music” uninterrupted from beginning to end always made the list. I loved putting my kids to bed still smelling like chlorine from hours at the swimming pool. 

And, once upon a time, summer centered around the Family Summer Vacation. Sadly, I may have taken those days for granted.

Fast forward 20-plus years and my middle-aged self thinks it should be renamed Fantasy Summer Vacation. Getting seven adult children from three marriages (mine, his and ours), plus a 3-year-old grandchild together in one place at one time is indeed my fantasy. 

Wow … how my fantasies have changed. 


How did we get here?

I am 54 years old. I have four children from my first marriage. I was remarried six months ago to a man I refer to as Old Spice (like the brand … genuine, authentic, pure). Old Spice has two children of his own plus a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter. Add it up, and including us that means trying to coordinate schedules with 10 people spread out across the country, from Portland, Oregon, to Providence, Rhode Island. Literally “from sea to shining sea.” 

I am not complaining. I am incredibly blessed and proud that we have managed to raise hard-working, independent, smart, thriving human beings. In fact, my kids will tell you that one of my favorite mantras was borrowed from an old friend: “I give you roots and wings.” I know their roots are firmly planted. I just didn’t imagine that their wings would take them so far and in all different directions. 

Right now, there seems to be no weekend in the coming months when all of us can be together. They are happy doing their thing. I must admit I am also unapologetically enjoying a new life of my own. In this new reality I don’t get to dictate the travel dates anymore. And so the story goes. Summer vacation doesn’t look the same. In a bittersweet way, this is what tugs at my heart.

Yes, to all the empty nesters, the summer ahead looks quite different. Instead of pouting and reminiscing about my obvious out-of-date refrigerator calendar, Old Spice and I are making our own to-do list. Our honeymoon includes visiting five states coast to coast. We are redefining the summer family vacation. Like my favorite pillow that says “Home is where your mom is.” This mom is taking to the open road.

We are becoming seasoned travelers. Old Spice finally has a wheely suitcase and understands what a 4-ounce container actually looks like. I will pack fewer shoes and be more tolerant when he gets stopped in the security line … every time. I’m not sure what he doesn’t understand about the words, “Everything must come out of your pockets.” Yes, by this they mean your cell phone and your keys.

I never imagined a day when everyone wouldn’t flock to home base. Actually, I never imagined a day when I would miss my children so much. Even the laundry and the grocery store don’t seem so awful. 

So, with this in mind, “Operation Fantasy Family Summer Vacation” is underway. 

After all, time spent together is time spent together. We are all beginning new chapters, whether it be an empty nest and a second marriage or finally being grown-up, making decisions and building your own new family and traditions.

As this new, unchartered summer approaches, perhaps it is time to relish the old memories and let new ones begin. 

Lauren Chesley is a contributor to LEAD Cincinnati, Venue Magazine and Make It Better. She is writing her first book and blogging about the journey of being “unapologetically you” post-50 at