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  • Writer's pictureShelly Sanders


I should have known better. I should have known the odds of all three of our children materialising for a family vacation were around a thousand to one. Good thing I don’t gamble. Our eighteen-year-old son, Ian, who wasn’t given a choice, ended up as the only offspring on our Martha’s Vineyard summer vacation, the three of us sprawling in a rental house that slept eight.

As we explored the nooks and crannies of the cottage we’d call home for two weeks, I watched my husband’s pragmatic, sky-blue eyes calculating the money we could have saved by renting a much smaller place, and winced.

When you’re dealing with kids in their early twenties, you can’t make plans more than a week ahead of time, let alone eight months, when I’d booked our house, gleefully envisioning all five of us (as well as our oldest daughter’s boyfriend) together. While I was happy to get two full weeks with Ian before he headed to McGill University for his freshman year, my stomach lurched with nostalgia for past vacations when our children were young and we were all together.

“The view’s incredible.” Steve opened the glass sliding door and stepped out to the covered porch at the back of the house that overlooked Sengekontacket Pond. His appreciative gaze told me he’d come to terms with the fact we could’ve managed quite well in a house half the size.

I joined him and took in the emerald-green marsh that lay between us and the pond. “It’s what I loved most about this house,” I said flatly. “The view.”

“You can’t expect the girls to travel with us anymore,” Steve said in a reproachful tone.

“Obviously. But it sucks, knowing family vacations are behind us.”

Steve planted his hands on the waist of his shorts and sighed. “You’re right. It sucks.”

A pounding sound of feet clambering down the winding staircase, from the second level of the house. I turned and saw Ian through the window, and was struck by his scraggly whiskers that drove me nuts. Beards were in, and they looked fabulous on other men, like my daughter’s boyfriend and Andy Garcia (extremely good on Andy Garcia), but not on my youngest, my only son. My baby.

Ian spotted us on the porch and raised his brow. “What’re we doing now?”

His words jolted Steve and me to attention.

“That panel discussion, remember?” I said. “With journalists talking about covering politics.”

“Oh yeah.” Ian nodded.

I glanced at my watch. “We have time for a quick dinner before we head over to West Tisbury.”

“Okay,” Ian said agreeably. He would be studying political science at McGill and hoped to work in the field when he graduated.

View from our rented cottage in Martha's Vineyard.

“I’ll go for dinner, but not for the panel,” Steve said. “It’s the first day of my vacation.”

“Don’t you think it will be interesting?’ I said, deflated. “The journalists sound amazing. One even has a Pulitzer.”

“Nope.” Steve sauntered back into the house and stuck his bare feet into his black Sketchers. “I just want to relax tonight.”

Ian slipped into his deck shoes and gave me an expectant look and I realised this was a golden opportunity to spend time with him before he launched into university. Next summer, he’d be working full-time and could easily have a girlfriend. Next summer, my husband and I could be back where we started, twenty-six years ago. Vacationing by ourselves.

“All right, then,” I said, my voice rising with anticipation. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, with just the three of us. We had lots of room to spread out in the house, two whole weeks with our son, and a long list of events planned, including two documentaries, a few art galleries, the beach, and tickets to see author, David Sedaris.

I fastened the straps of my sandals and followed Steve out to our car with a newfound buoyancy in my step. I wasn’t going to let the absence of my daughters get me down. I was going to enjoy every minute of this vacation. Nothing would get in my way. At least, that’s what I thought. But you can’t schedule perfection any more than you can plan vacations with adult children.

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