Laura Zoeller

Departing is such sweet sorrow

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My husband and I had the opportunity to go away this weekend to a leadership conference in Altoona for members of the Young Farmers & Ranchers group of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. Now, I barely qualify for the group, which is for 18- to 35-year-olds, and my husband only qualified by being married to me, so we were a little apprehensive about the weekend. But before we could worry about whether or not we were too old to be at the conference, we actually had to get there first.


I say that because it is always mass chaos to try to get out of our house and into the vehicle when we go away. Here is a snapshot of our trip-day routine:


We get up early, and my husband goes out to feed our animals. I call for the kids to get up and get dressed, while I finish packing my bag and start breakfast. A few minutes later, my husband calls for one of the kids to come help him a minute, which is when I realize they haven’t crawled out of bed yet. Immediately he is irritated, which means now I am irritated, and still the kids are sleeping.


The kids finally come straggling downstairs, telling me that they forgot to pack their bags the night before. At least one of them can’t find their favorite article of clothing, which is almost certainly buried in the dirty laundry pile that is currently so high, only mountain goats have the leg strength to climb it. My husband has given up on getting help in the barn and gone back outside.


While I am digging for lost treasure in the laundry room, I smell something coming from the kitchen. I realize at once that I am burning the bacon I started for breakfast. None of the kids noticed that either, so engrossed are they in arguing over who gets to stand in front of the mirror while brushing their teeth.


My husband returns from the barn, recognizing immediately by the smell that he is not going to be fed and is further irritated. He kicks all of the kids out of the bathroom so that he can shower, and does a little grumbling under his breath.


I tell the kids I don’t care what they pack, but they better have everything by the door in 10 minutes. I throw a haphazard assortment of clothes in our bag and am proud to have remembered my toothbrush. We all walk down the sidewalk in stony silence, one kid with untied shoes, another with their coat on inside out. I don’t care. I am going on vacation and I am going to enjoy it, even if it kills me.


This past weekend, by the time we dropped the kids off, we were too exhausted to even speak. We traveled in silence for the full three hours. We arrived at the conference and checked in, only to realize that I failed to pack a hairbrush or comb. We did what we could and went to our first session. We didn’t stand out as the oldest people in the room, but we sure felt like it.


And now that we are home, I know one thing for certain. I really need a vacation.



Laura Zoeller can be reached at zoeller5@hughes.net.


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