Vacationing with your Memory

My family has been vacationing in Blue Point, New York for as long as I can remember.  My godparents have a house just yards from the beautiful Great South Bay, and have opened it up to us every single summer since I was born.  This is our home away from home – it is a place that brings out the best in us as a family.  We spend the days together sitting outside, swimming, fishing, boating, cooking and just enjoying each other’s company.  In the evening we make dinner together, and will usually go outside for conversation that stretches late into the night.

The sentimental connection I have with this place brings a flood of emotions every time I get there.  It is triggered by all of my senses; the feeling of the breeze off the bay, the smell of the salty air, the sight of beautiful stretches of water, the sounds of reggae playing from my godparents’ stereo, the taste of delicious food waiting for us every time we walk in the door.  I can only describe this emotional rush as “the feeling.”  The Blue Point feeling.

It’s a mix of excitement, contentment, relief, connection, and since my teenage years, a bit of an ache.  Like me, Blue Point was one of my dad’s favorite places in the world.  It doesn’t feel right to be there without him.

Vacation is a time to be with family, to appreciate each other, and to make up for lost time that slips away with the commitment of every day life.  When someone you love is so vividly associated with a place, you can’t help but feel their absence.  In Blue Point, nearly everything I taste, touch, smell, hear, and see is somehow associated with a memory of my dad.

The beautiful thing about going to a place saturated with so many memories is that I feel so connected to my dad every time I am there.  It’s also refreshing to spend time with people who knew him so well.

Since my dad died so long ago, there are few people in my life that knew him at all, let alone well enough to understand a story about his crazy personality, or reminisce about things he said, did, and taught us.  My godparents and their kids are among the few who knew him well – a situation that lends itself to constant story telling and revisiting of great memories.

It’s bittersweet for me.  Many of the things my dad loved to do on our vacations, we still do today.  My dad was always an enthusiast about our family fishing trips, and had this ridiculous chant that he claimed was “good luck” for catching fish.  My godfather will always start this nonsensical chant on our present-day fishing trips, and attributes every catch to my dad.

We sometimes boat across the bay to Fire Island, where I have memories of flying kites with my dad, building sand castles together, and him burying me in sand to “turn me into a mermaid.”  I can’t help but smile at all the Dads on Fire Island doing these same things with their daughters.

My dad always loved my godfather’s out-of-this-world bouillabaisse, and requested it as the main dish for a party that he threw for my dad when he completed his Ph.D.  Now, my godfather, Kevin, makes this bouillabaisse every year when we come.  I view sharing this meaningful meal together as a very special tribute to my dad.  His presence is felt by all of us in this very special place where we spent so many summers together.

The summer is coming to a close, and I’m sure I am not the only one who has this kind of experience while on vacation with my family.  With a holiday weekend coming up, I’m sure many people will share these sentiments over the next few days.  How are your vacations different after your loss?  Do you find them more difficult now, or do you find yourself reflecting on positive memories of your loved one?

Photo Credit.


  1. Michelle said on September 1, 2010 at 3:40 pm ... #

    Wow you touched on so many joys I shared with my son at our special vacation spot. I am struggling with the family vacations for the future as our son passed away in an accident while we were at our favorite vacation spot. I do find an intense presence of him when I am there, the wind whirling around me feels as if he is giving me a hug. Your story of your experience will help me to continue to feel his passion and love for a place we all adore.

  2. Rachel said on September 1, 2010 at 4:18 pm ... #

    There is always something I connect with in your articles, Elizabeth… Although my family has gone to the same beach house (we had to upgrade to the bigger house next door a few years ago) every July since I was born, the part I really connected with was that moment when you realize that there are so few people who truly knew our lost loved one. My fiancé, nearly every single one of my best friends, my future children – will never know my mom, never know her personality, or her quirks, they may not even be able to picture her. She passed away when I was 9, and even I have very few memories of her. I relish those times, although few and far between, that my father opens up about their love, their memories, their experiences, and I try soak them up, to take them on as my own – just to feel a little bit of her with me. As always, thanks for sharing.

  3. Erin said on September 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm ... #

    “When someone you love is so vividly associated with a place, you can’t help but feel their absence.” I love that. great article. i love you <3

  4. jo Mitchell said on September 1, 2010 at 8:40 pm ... #

    love the article: for us it is home our son loved
    his great-grandparents farm house and land. he stayed with them when he was little. he was named
    afterr his great-grandad We see him everywhere- his accident happened in front of our house-where he grew up.
    It makes it hard-and comforting at the same time.

  5. Alisha said on September 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm ... #

    My mom loved vacations, almost more than you can imagine. She especially loved floating on her back in the pool or in the ocean. We always joked about how easily she floated, and how easily I sank. My husband and I just got back from an amazing vacation, in a beautiful country that Mom never had a chance to visit. I spent a lot of time floating on my back, concentrating hard so I wouldn’t sink, and silently whispering vacation memories to mom.

    Thanks once again, for sharing something that is so personal to you. Your willingness to let me (and all of us) be a part of these moments is what makes this community so very special.

  6. kerry neuberger said on March 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm ... #

    We have a cabin/house at the lake 7 miles away from our home. Though it is only a short distance away and we spend almost every weekend there in the summer, it always feels like being on vacation.

    I worry about this summer – my husband passed away on Christmas eve after battling cancer for 13 years. Our sons have even said they wonder how the summer will go as dad was always the “fun one”. How do we got to a place where he was always full of energy and fun? How do we not let the his absence keep us from enjoying the place and doing the things we all loved to as a family?

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