When you’re one of several children, I think most people, at least occasionally, daydream about what it would be like to be an only child. I know I did.
One of the things that my parents did that I loved most was take just one of us on vacation – one parent, one child. Three or four days as the only child, with one parent completely focused on you, was absolute bliss.
It started when my little brother Shepard was diagnosed with cancer and was doing chemotherapy. Because chemo weakens your immune system, you’re not supposed to travel.
My family had traveled a lot throughout my life, so my parents didn’t really want to cut it from our lives entirely, especially when there was no telling how long Shepard’s treatment might go on.
Instead, they decided that one parent would take one child on vacation, rotating among the children.
My mom and I went to New Orleans in the last few weeks of the summer before I started my freshman year. My mom’s sister came along for two days or so, and we all had a terrific time. We stayed a few nights in an old plantation, and another couple in the French Quarter. We ate our body weight in praline patties. We toured some of the Mardi Gras warehouses, with all the floats and decorations stored there. We went to the aquarium, the D-Day museum, and wandered through the Flower District. We got caught in pouring rain. Coming from Las Vegas, we were shocked when the casino wouldn’t let me in because I wasn’t 21. It was a fabulous, fabulous trip.
The next year, my dad and I went to Washington D.C. We saw everything – the Holocaust museum, the Library of Congress, Ford’s theater, the monuments and memorials. I especially remember during that trip that my dad was reading a book about improving your memory and we practiced remembering the names of every person we met or came in contact with. It was just as terrific.
My mom went on a cruise through the Panama Canal with Merrick. She took each of my sisters to Boston at different times. My dad took Landen on a cruise to Mexico. Some of the trips were long, some were shorter. It gave each of us time one-on-one with my parents, and it let the rest of us practice not being jealous of someone else’s good fortune.
Even after Shepard died, and we could go on family vacations again, my parents kept it up, interspersing these individual trips with entire family vacations. There are few things that I remember with as much fondness and joy as those trips, that time with just one of my parents, a chance to talk and talk and talk, and spend time together, and be the only child for a few days.
And I can’t wait to do it with our kids someday.