Chacos column: Summer adventure, comfortable with the uncomfortable
Recently my husband brought up a sensitive topic over dinner, but magic seemed to be in the air. We had unusually cheerful children, everyone seemed to be eating everything set out, the right wine and the right beer were flowing, and the phone didn’t ring once all night.
He tried hard to act nonchalant as he asked me to “get creative” and “think outside the box.” Casually he passed the broccoli. Then the bomb dropped. He wanted to talk about finances. I almost spit out my food and counted to 10 before I could even fathom a response. This is where our frustration and stress resides. A geyser of contention spews whenever the topic is brought up.
I try to understand the weight he carries providing for his family. He works long days, and he works all the time. He manages our accounts, owns and operates small businesses and doesn’t carve out nearly enough time for himself. Through all of this, I rarely see him complain. Oh, and he’s a numbers guy.
On the other hand, my job in the summer months has been to serve as the family camp counselor. I chauffeur, nurse, lifeguard, referee and sometimes serve as in-home firefighter. Turns out when I’m entered into our financial spreadsheet I am more valuable as a non-paid, domestic diva during the summertime.
So we talked about the need to forgo camps, classes or a babysitter. Instead I devised a killer plan that allows me to be on-duty with the kids for one summer more while bringing in some easy greenbacks as well. All that was left to do was get my family on board. I knew my idea was going to make them all initially squirm with discomfort.
No matter how I crafted the subject I braced myself to be met with disbelief, disdain and disapproval. I have a hormonal preteen who is testing out confrontation and autonomy. My youngest child’s favorite word is “no,” and my husband is rooted in skepticism. The only family member who always greets me enthusiastically when he sniffs an adventure is my amiable middle child. He’s my kindred spirit and my cosmic traveler.
In our home I’ve learned what warrants a discussion, what will become a hard “no” and what sometimes just needs to get done. So I decided to solidify our plans and then share the news afterward. I knew they’d eventually come around.
I went ahead and rented out our house for the summer.
Within a few days I had the mortgage covered. We were officially going to be vagabonds. I was pulsing with excitement and adrenaline. I think my great-grandmother was a gypsy.
Then I scoured online for cheap rentals in a place that could offer my kids unstructured play while keeping them happy and engaged for a long time. Selfishly, I wanted to be near an ocean so I could expose my landlocked boys to something new and different. I also had to find a place that would maximize those seemingly useless frequent flier miles.
Then I found my Shangri-La — on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua.
I booked the flights immediately and consulted no one.
I finally shared the summer plans with the family over dinner one night. I must have looked like a crazy ringmaster trying to get everyone on board. First I stated that Nicaragua is considered one of the safest countries in Central America. Then I said we’d be riding the chicken bus to our destination with only what we could each carry in our backpack. We’d be learning how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, I added. “That’s pretty cool,” said my middle son.
I talked about the endless surfing, swimming and fishing once we arrived. The kids were fully on board and committed only after I said they probably wouldn’t be taking a real shower for weeks. Bam. Obviously, that’s how you seal the deal.
There was only one small, tiny detail that needed to be ironed out. My husband would be considered homeless, and he loves routine and security. But I’ve heard him tell people about our traveling summer circus plans with excitement. He knows that one of the side effects of being around an adventurer is that plans are rarely thought through in their entirety. However, we always end up making it all work out with a bit of flair.
I think our summer displacement a small price to pay to be able to play with our kids for a little longer. I know we’re just characters in the modern-day cautionary tale about family units because I’m told it’s over in a blink of an eye. Until then, we’ll all be together, electronic-free, feral, fearless, having fun and making memories. And homeless.
This will become my family’s summer show born out of someone throwing down the gauntlet with a born enthusiast over a magical dinner one night. We’re all packed and ready to go on life’s ride, getting all creative and just trying to think outside of the box.
Andrea Chacos happily resides in Carbondale with her family. This summer they can be found dog sitting, housesitting and generally squatting with friends before heading down to Nicaragua.