I’ve been trying to figure out how to recap our vacation for several days now, and I’m not really having much luck. I think the problem sort of boils down to the fact that for the duration of our trip, I waffled dramatically between wanting to buy an I Heart NY t-shirt (plentiful and inexpensive in every part of the city we visited) and wanting to track down and buy an I Hate NY shirt (something I would imagine you’d have to buy from a trenchcoat-wearing guy in a back alley in Tribeca) in several different colours. I couldn’t make up my mind at the time whether I liked New York City, and in fact I still can’t. The thing is, for a few deliriously joyful moments every day, I fell in love with NYC, or maybe more so with the idea of New York City: with the energy, the hustle and bustle, the giant Hershey store in Times Square, and the woman in Central Park who bought her dog a snow cone. When those happy moments inevitably dissipated, they left me a sweaty, seething, frizzy-haired, misanthropic mess wandering from Wall Street to the Staten Island ferry terminal wondering why in the name of all that is holy and air conditioned would anyone ever want to live in such a hole.
In the end, I’m really glad we went, I’m glad we got to see the Statue of Liberty and visit the library to smell the books (as one does) but I’m also glad we’re not there anymore. We got home late on Thursday and — perhaps this is a sad sort of thing to admit — I find there’s something deeply, intensely satisfying about the post-vacation homecoming, in a way that is almost more delightful than the actual vacation itself. I look at our home, our cats, our stuff, my pajamas, our comfy bed, the fact that everything is still standing and just how I left it (maybe even better) and I wonder how it is that somewhere so familiar feel so deliciously exotic? I can’t make sense of it but on some level I am pretty sure I don’t want to try.
And in all of my memories of our trip (the going, the coming home, the margarita in Atlantic City, the strange preponderance of gladiator sandals, the penguins at the Bronx zoo, the blintzes at iHop) there’s also this: on our way home, while Mike drove and Chris and Pam napped, I stared out the window in the sort of perfectly peaceful, quiet contemplation that can only be fuelled by boredom and exhaustion as we passed abandoned buildings, one after the other, motels and houses and barns in various states of disrepair and destruction. Mile after mile, peeling paint, windows with cracked and missing panes, empty signs and signs with missing letters, all of this broken up by brief stretches of forest and also on three separate occasions by a family of deer standing between the buildings, each deer family bearing such a shocking resemblance to the previous one that I was almost convinced it was the same three deer at each location, following us down the highway at 60 miles an hour. I was the only one who noticed the animals, and when it finally occurred to me to call attention to the beautiful creatures making their homes amongst the neglected houses and empty parking lots, the words seemed to die on my lips. It was just me and them, me and them, over and over, and I thought to myself, yes, yes, this is my kind of vacation.