We were living in a different world when we booked our travel for New Hampshire. It was pre-COVID-19, the great Before. Not so long ago in the grand scheme of things but a sea change away from what life looks like now. It felt like the trip was so far ahead of us for so long, and now in the blink of an eye it’s fading in the rearview.

I realize that our family — 9 of us in total — flying across the country in the midst of a pandemic isn’t a choice many others would have made. It was made clear to me by more than one reader that our decision and subsequent trip photos were viewed as not just foolhardy but hurtful, and I absolutely understand and empathize with that point of view.

I just wanted to acknowledge that. I know everyone is living a different experience right now. Location, personal health and family health, tolerance for risk — there are so many factors that influence our choices and outlook these days, and the choices we make obviously don’t just affect us, they have the potential to negatively affect other people.

There was a night about halfway through our trip when I found myself wide awake in the wee hours and imagining a scenario where someone started showing symptoms and how would I feel about things then? All the good times we were having, would they have been worth it if someone got really sick … or died?

Well. Everyone remains healthy for now, so I don’t need to dwell on that question. The truth is aside from that one internal freakout I mostly let go of the pre-trip anxiety I had been wrestling with and just enjoyed myself.

It wasn’t hard to do: New Hampshire is ridiculously lovely, and while we got to see some of the state and the Maine coast as well (and walked part of the Freedom Trail in Boston one morning), we spent most of our time on Little Squam lake, playing in the water and visiting.

This was a whole side of the family tree I’d never met before, and I really can’t say enough good things about how warm and hospitable everyone was. John’s uncle and his family went above and beyond to show us a good time, and we’re all still talking about how fun it was and how we can’t wait to go back.

I truly enjoyed getting to know everyone, but my very favorite memories have to do with little moments with the kids: hanging out with Riley much more than usual and relishing his goofy teen self, riding on the back of a Jet Ski with Dylan driving like an absolute pro, sitting around our rental house and laughing together, watching the two of them experience the Atlantic for the first time.

I know we took on risk (and inflicted risk on others), but I believe we did the best we could: we wore masks in all the situations that required them, we were mostly outside, we left one relatively low-infection-rate area for another. In the end, I have no regrets — it was an unforgettable time, truly the kind of memory-making trip you hope for as a parent.

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We spent last weekend at the family cabin and it was a glorious time, plenty of relaxing and eating and swimming. I spent a perfect morning paddling much further upriver than I have before, taking in new sights and marveling at how during specific conditions the river becomes a smooth reflective surface and it feels like you can’t tell if you are gently bobbing along in water or sky.

This Sunday we are all flying from Portland to Boston, renting a vehicle and travelling to Ashland, New Hampshire, where we’ll stay in an Airbnb with John’s brother’s family and his parents for the week. The plan is to visit John’s father’s family, many who live in the same nearby area, and show the grandkids where Grandpa grew up.

Ummm, this doesn’t really seem like the wisest time for a family reunion that involves flying across the country, you might be thinking, and if so I am right there with you. I have pretty much progressed through every emotional stage of reacting to this long-planned trip, including being sad because I was certain it wouldn’t happen. But here we are, and it is, in fact, happening.

I believe I have done what I can in terms of voicing my concerns and considering the environments we’re likely to find ourselves in. I have talked with a doctor (our pediatrician, specifically), and I’ve thought about risk factors.

If it were up to me and me alone, we wouldn’t be going, but that is not the situation. I definitely have some anxiety about the trip but not so much that I feel compelled to stay home or refuse to let the kids go. I understand that while the timing is less than ideal we don’t know if we have time on our side, and that this feels important to many family members, and I am focusing on the things we’ll see and the memories that will be made.

Which is all to say I’m approaching our departure with some real worries but also a lot of anticipation. I’m looking forward to seeing the coast of Maine again and wondering if I’ll remember it from my own childhood, I’m excited for my kids to take in new sights and experiences and meet new people.

I’m nervous, but hopeful.

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