Lazy Days of Summer?
Summer is officially upon us. School for my college girl ended in the middle of May (hence the guest post last month), school for my youngest ended mid June, and I am down to seeing only two clients after a (thankfully) full and fulfilling school year of lending support in the Vienna international community. If that isn’t indicator enough, the longest day of the year has come and gone, and the extra hours of sunshine are a welcome sight outside our windows.
I’m going to show my age again, and mention a song I half remember from many years ago, the refrain of which has been going through my head as we prepare for our summer journey; The Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer. I think for Third Culture Kids and their families, crazy can be the key summer adjective in that refrain. At least that has been our reality.
When you’re living in an international community, one of the givens of summer is that your community will become a ghost town as people head “home” to do the extended break reconnecting that is so important to this lifestyle. Planning, booking tickets, packing suitcases for all kinds of weather and multiple locations, gathering passports (even for the dog, who also needs doggie downers and a health check document from the vet before jumping the big pond), packing items for the plane rides…the list goes on. This is when crazy starts feeling a lot more apt than lazy in relation to summer.
As my daughters have gotten older, summer friends and events from Vienna have started to compete with summer events back in the U.S. (as we spend a large amount of time with family in Ohio, where they’ve never lived, friends have never been in surplus). It’s hard to leave Vienna when you can make a few euro at the school’s summer camp and your Austrian friends are heading to the musical jamboree on the island of the famous blue Danube. As time has passed, we’ve dropped the added stress of leaving with the masses the second school is out, and lingered for a while to try for a touch of lazy in the midst of the crazy of summers on the go.
Still, like many expat families, we spend a good month or more living with Grammy and Grampy, spending time with our extended family and enjoying the summer traditions of “The States” that are important for our kids to experience: fourth of July parades and running around with sparklers, braving The Beast at the amusement park of my youth, attending an acting camp at Playhouse in the Park where I saw my first Shakespeare in high school, creating a tradition of hiking a nature park trail with young cousins that includes feeding the turtles and picnicking.
Visits “home” also include some other not-so-lazy traditions like yearly eye appointments, hitting mall sales and our beloved TJ Maxx to look for less expensive than euro sale items, getting snipped and styled in a salon where we don’t have to search for words like layering or bangs in German, and crossing our favorite restaurants and junk food from a list of must-nibbles (Skyline Chili, Montgomery Inn Ribs, Mio’s Pizza, Cheetos and Mac and Cheese, among other items missing in the Viennese culinary scene).
Thanks to social media, getting to reconnect with friends has become a step easier. I used to occasionally meet up with people I’d lost track of (often at said TJ Maxx or Kroger’s grocery store) and get to meet up for a drink or dinner. Now, I can post a notice to Facebook and have a much better chance of seeing several blasts from the past. This year, since my graduating high school class is celebrating a milestone birthday, it would be great to get a big group of Fifty and Fabs together for some fun.
With my husband’s family living north a few hours, we usually make a visit that way to check in and catch up with them, as well. This year provides another family reunion we’re hoping to attend. We’ve been lucky enough to make a few of these in the past and even head off with the “farthest traveled” prize.
And speaking of heading off with merchandise, that brings me to one of the most difficult challenges of these extended visits, the return-flight luggage limits. I’ve spent the last few days testing out yet another strategy for packing that, much like the Garanimals clothing of my youth, involves focusing on a certain color scheme and only packing things that will mix and match. This year’s color: blue. We all try to pack light on the way, knowing we will purchase some items over the summer, and we always end up cramming suitcases to zipper-burst capacity and sweating it at the airport weigh-ins.
To end our trip “home”, we also typically hit up another one. Prior to moving to Vienna, we lived in New Jersey, and we love to reconnect with favorite friends who became like family in the time we were there. My friend is always willing to drive to the airport and help load our multitude of luggage into her SUV, as well as host other friends for reunion cook-outs, make trips to the shore, and share countless laughs with a potential glass of wine or two thrown in (maybe that fulfills the hazy of the previously mentioned song).
So, our summers might not be lazy, but I think, as most international families will agree, we’ve got the crazy thing down. This year we’ll be dividing and conquering for that return flight, with Dad and younger daughter heading back to school in Vienna and Mom dropping the college girl on campus before heading back.
If you happen to see me in the airport, be sure to give me a wave. I’ll be the one standing by the luggage scales, nervously humming an old song about summer while sweating through my blue.
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