I am lucky enough to live with a man who loves adventure and creating memories with and for his family. His zealousness for constant activity is sometimes met with resistance by me. I am a homebody, I've come to realize. Or at least that is what I look like in contrast to his constant need for fun and stimulation. Usually when he is coming up with fun vacation ideas or outings, I grumble about cleaning out the garage, or staying home to do chores. Boring.
Never have I been more grateful for his pushing and prodding for more vacations than I was last summer. The summer of 2015. Our last summer with Charlie before he died.
Our summer of 2015 was filled with family, friends, vacations and outings. Charlie was just a toddler. A busy, exhausting toddler. Vacations sounded fun to me, but they also sounded like a lot of work and I am the first to admit that the thought of extra work gives me anxiety. Vacations require planning, packing, loading, flexibility in sleep schedules, laundry, driving in the car for a loooooong time, money, etc. Sometimes it just sounds easier to stay home. But Troy was insisting on a few trips, and I knew we would just have to make it work to accommodate all the needs of our children.
One of the first pre-summer trips we took was to Disneyland and Southern California. True to his personality, Charlie was so easy going at Disneyland. We really didn't do many activities tailored to him, but instead he was content to follow the older kids around and watch what they were doing. I do remember taking him on one kiddie ride, Dumbo. The trip wouldn't have felt complete without letting him ride that iconic ride. He was ecstatic. It was at night and all the magical lights of the park were below us. It didn't take long for him to find the control stick that made Dumbo go up and down. He and Sam fought for the control. He wasn't a wildly expressive boy, but you could certainly tell by the smirk on his face when he was elated.
He also loved the beach. We spent a day at Crystal Cove and another at Three Arch Bay. He loved the water and wasn't scared of the waves, which put us on high alert. At 3 Arch, Troy dug him a huge play hole of water to splash in with the other kids. He loved jumping in and filling up buckets of water. At the end of a long beach day, I wrapped a towel around him. He LOVED to be wrapped up in a towel and it seemed like the perfect way to "wrap" up the perfect day.
We also enjoyed a good number of boat days. It was fun to have Charlie with us as a toddler rather than an infant. He was really mesmerized by the boat, and he LOVED water. As long as he had his water wings on, he could basically participate in anything. I have sweet memories of Sam paddle boarding Charlie back and forth between me and Troy. Charlie was loving the free ride and giggling the entire way.
After Charlie died, I was very happy that we had just spent time with both sides of the family. We enjoyed a DeGraff reunion in McCall, ID and a Sessions reunion in Lake Tahoe. It was really special to think that his cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents all got to know him a little better before he passed away.
In Tahoe, a few memories stand out. One day we were rollerskating when all of a sudden the skies turned from blue to black and out of nowhere nickle-sized hail began pounding from the sky. I grabbed my camera and we ran into the hail with the kids, singing and shouting and celebrating. It was so much fun.
I can also remember that Charlie was very jealous of my 3 sister-in-laws newborn babies. Every time I would be holding one of their babies, he would run over and try to get into my arms. We have him on video trying to weasel his way into my lap for my sole attention and affection while I was holding a baby cousin.
In Idaho, we went to a rodeo, played on our Aunt Brooke's farm, and spent time at the beautiful Tamarak resort area. Charlie loved being around his cousins and wanted to be doing what they were doing. If 20 kids were piled into the hot tub, he wanted to be number 21. If cousins were riding bikes, he would hop on a skateboard and join in. We spent 8 hour days at the lake and he was such a trooper. One of the most impressive things was that he could paddle a child-sized kayak on his own. He would be out in the middle of the lake right along with everyone else on paddleboards, boats and kayaks.
I have beautiful memories of him walking along the sandy beach and through the tall grass. I couldn't get enough of his wobbly walking and his curious spirit. He just wanted to explore everything!
On the last day in Idaho, we went to one of our favorite river spots. The scenery is nothing short of heavenly and peaceful. Charlie and I spent most of the day together on a paddleboard alongside dad, stopping to take pictures occasionally. Charlie insisted on holding and using his own paddle.
One of the last trips of our summer was camping in Santa Cruz. Oh how I fought the idea of a camping trip, and I am so happy I lost. It was a two day trip. Yes, it was a ton of work, but so worth it once we got there. We brought two tents. One for us and the big kids, and a small one dedicated just to Charlie with high hopes that it would help him sleep better. That was definitely wishful thinking. The first night we tried to put him to sleep in his "own" tent with his pack and play inside, he instantly hoped out and started scratching and pushing on the door from inside. We all sighed, then laughed and tried to put him down again. And again. And again. Needless to say, he ended up sleeping with us that night, the little rascal.
Aside from sleeping, of course he loved camping. He was mesmerized by the fire. He loved helping his older siblings gather wood and fire burning bushes. He spent a lot of time playing in the dirt and during the day, he enjoyed trips to the nearby ocean. He was such an easy guy to have along for any ride.
One night at sunset on the beach, Troy grabbed my camera and took a few shots of me snuggling with Sam and Charlie. I am so grateful for those pictures because usually I am not in any pictures. Now I treasure any shot of Charlie and I especially love seeing us together.
I am so grateful for my husband and his push to go on vacations and outings as a family. We have a lot of sweet memories that aren't vacations, but some of the most tangible memories are of the times we were enjoying one another together. This year has been rough trying to enjoy and make new memories with one member of the family absent. To be honest, it is not the same. It is very sad for us to feel that void. We miss Charlie as a wonderfully fun and spunky addition to our family.