With my nearly black hair under constant vacation sun, and with my hazel eyes that flash green in sadness and anger, it’s not hard to imagine those colorful possibilities. It’s perspective, colored with a little sun and air and change and YOU.
The thing is, you’re different on vacation. It’s different air and water. It’s shared spaces or different shared spaces. I had four siblings as a kid, and have experienced shared bathrooms/bedrooms, but even that is different on vacation. It’s not a rambling, three-story, six-bedroom house to share. It’s often a condo or set of hotel rooms. You’re not in your own element, necessarily, and you don’t have your own elements of beauty and comfort. You’re trying to find space, or to fight for it.
Unless you vacation in the west, in which case your hair is perfect. Or unless you’re one of those people who can achieve perfect salty, beachy waves with all that humidity. My kids have got that down like pros. Vacation hair professionals.
Sometimes, when you’re on vacation, you may slip back into your childhood self – fighting for space, attention, hair gel, and someone to want to walk on the beach with you. One footprint in front of the other. Two sets of footprints, side by side.
It’s endlessly fascinating. You see, I’m someone who can disappear. And I’m someone in bright color too. I’ll never stop searching for answers whether it’s super powers, being an ambivert, the super powers of being an ambivert, fears of abandonment, riding on the cusp between being a Cancer and a Leo, experiencing my father’s death, or growing up with four squabbling siblings – each one trying to carve their own square of happiness, and best position in the minivan/Suburban.
Maybe it’s space and time, and every skin you shed when you grow, and every skin you reattach when you feel threatened. Back into the cocoon, back into the molting, back into the regression, the abyss, the black hole – unable to see just how far and wide and stretched you’ve come. You’ve become. You’re becoming. You’re so colorful sometimes, and you can’t see it.
I remember traveling during those formative preteen years. I’d have my vacation hair (vacation bangs in vacation humidity!) and my not quite right clothing choices – having packed in a haste so as to be done with it – and I’d see other kids my age on vacation. I’d want to say, “I swear I’m cool in real life! I really am!” And they’d probably say back, “Suuuuure you are.” Just kidding. They’d probably shout back, telepathically, “I swear I’m cool in real life too but I’m somewhat freaking out because I have vacation hair and I want to know if my needs are being met, and if I’m being seen, and if I’m being swallowed up by my family in this crowded place, in this new place.” At least, that’s what I now imagine they’d say.
I never actually struggled as much as you might have thought. I always had friends, vacation bangs and all. There’s always been a block – in which it’s hard for me to keep them close and for so long; luckily a few always slip through small filters.
The thing about progress is that it sticks forever, but one small move, one small doubt, and you think it erases everything. I’m learning that they can’t see that. They might see a photographer, or a writer, or both. They might see color and brilliance and vibrancy and talent. I hope they see kindness and inspiration, or have at least once. Maybe they see charisma.
There’s never been a clear reason to feel this way, although most likely, the reason I do is as clear as day and night. And it’s funny how with vacation hair and vacation thoughts, I can’t see the progress, but I feel it in everything. Like when they sing “Happy Birthday” to me at the dinner table, and smile/entertain my kids while I doze with the new Jennifer Weiner book on my chest. It’s the way I might steal away for ten minutes to get dressed, and Des will say, “Where WERE you for so long?”