Vacations would be better if you didn't have to go home.
This is the principle that has been evolving in me for the last half-century or so. When I was a lad, getting home from vacation invariably meant one odious thing: school. So I was always hoping that, somehow, our family car would drive into another dimension, a dimension where school was a dark rumor perpetuated by conspiracy theorists bent on terrifying young people into behaving ... or else. And that or else comprised sitting in hot rooms on hard chairs doing hard work with--at best--marginal relevance to the Real World.
But, of course, we never made any inter-dimensional leaps in our family cars. Instead, we arrived home, usually late at night, had to unpack--right then. And then find a way to sleep while our bodies were still thinking they were in motion. And then, the next day to go buy ... school supplies and school clothes, those most dreaded of all childhood shopping trips.
I know, I know: I spent my adult life as a schoolteacher. An apparent contradiction. But, as you'll see--not really.
Once I became a teacher, vacations were in some ways an even more blessed relief than they were in my childhood. When I was a kid, you see, I never had to do any schoolwork over Thanksgiving or Christmas or the summer months. It was unthinkable. And that Cruel and Unusual Punishment called summer reading had either not been invented--or had not drifted as far south as the Sooner State, at least during my childhood.
But I discovered all too quickly (and sadly) that for a teacher there is really no such thing as a vacation. I spent many of mine grading papers, planning the lessons for the post-vacation weeks, catching up on paperwork, reading texts I was going to teach later--or reading books related to the texts I was going to teach.
And soon my curiosity became the fuel of my vacations. Joyce and I invariably head out on the road to see sites related to writers and to their works. We've done this from the very beginning of our relationship. We honeymooned in New Orleans in late December 1969, but Joyce was already working on her dissertation subject--the writing of Kate Chopin, who, of course, had lived in New Orleans and whose classic novel The Awakening is set there (or nearby). So we took a bayou cruise, walked around looking at Chopin sites.
And just today we are back from our latest. We visited many John O'Hara sites in New Jersey and Pennsylvania--and took a return visit to Imlaystown, NJ, for yet another look for the "lost" grave sites of the Imlay family. (Gilbert Imlay, you may recall, was, for a time, the lover of Mary Wollstonecraft; he departed the scene not long after Mary delivered his child, Fanny, who later took her own life not long after her half-sister, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, ran off with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.)
Getting home from that, of course, was odious not because I would soon have to be teaching vocab and grammar and the like but because of the Everest of clutter that somehow accumulates while you're gone, even for only a few days. Oh, does it take forever to deal with it all ...
I miss teaching in a lot of ways (paper-grading is not one of them), but one of the main ones is that I no longer have a captive audience to hear about our latest road trip. I have a gazillion O'Hara slides I'm soon going to paste into a PowerPoint. And then I will show it to ... ?
I will draw a line in the sand. Step across it if you want to see the John O'Hara story flashing before your eyes in a dark room with a dull narrator ...
|O'Hara and Dyer,|