The imperfect vacation
Sunday, August 30, 2015
cortneyandjon in camping, family, summer, traditions

Every Christmas, Jon and I drag out our old DVD collection (assembled some time in the ten years between VHS and streaming) and re-watch all our favorite holiday movies. Favorites like Rudolph make the cut, of course, but one of our favorites is Christmas Vacation. This is the underground classic in which Chevy Chase dreams up the perfect old fashioned family Christmas for his extended family, and then has one thing go wrong after another. In the end, his house is a shambles and all his guests are headed for a hotel, but all is righted again in the end and everyone learns that it's in the imperfection of such an event that we learn the true value of our family and the moments we spend with them.

Not being in retail, I'm not trying to rush Christmas, but the lesson in Christmas Vacation became very real to me last week as we went in pursuit of our annual week of family camping perfection. We struggled first with planning dates this year, finally settling on a week in August, only to have to change our plans at the last minute to accommodate other plans. And as our new date approached, the weather report became uglier and uglier, to the point where we flirted with the idea of cancelling the trip all together. Instead we made a heartbreaking decision and moved our reservations to another Michigan State Park, where the rain was less imminent and the temperatures more promising. Upon arrival, though, they'd lost our reservation, and it didn't take long to learn that Mother Nature breaks her promises easily, and loves nothing more than a good surprise.

All was righted in the end, though. Having no reservation meant we got to pick our site in person, and we ended up with the best site in camp. And though our week was most definitely chilly, it was wet only on occasion, and the rain was never really driving. We enjoyed our games in the tent, were able to make all our meals as planned, even the ones over a campfire, sand can be manipulated even in warmer clothes, and cooler weather is great for hikes. Best of all, we spent the entire week without technology, excepting the up-to-the-minute weather apps on our phones, which I would argue simply helped us work the weather to our advantage.

Our vacation was most definitely not perfect. It was far, far from perfect. At lease Chevy Chase had snow when he wanted snow. But what we had instead of a warm, sunny week on the beach was a week of time together—really, really together. It doesn't get much more together than stuck in a tent hiding from the rain or the cold with nowhere else to go. If you can enjoy those moments, and we did, then you're golden. It's in those moments that we find ourselves and each other; in the games played, the books read, and the discussions had. In the moments between.

Imperfect as it was, our vacation was utterly perfect.

view from our tent

rain before dinner...and after

dinner in the break between rains on day one

evening hike after the rain on day one

a brilliant, if chilly, morning on day two

sand play on the warmest day we had

on the "haunted" beach (Tawas point appears to be losing ground to the lake)

day two dinner

day three, another clear, chilly morning

pancake lunch

a semi-wet evening in town

a serious book discussion on evening four

Article originally appeared on Cortney and Jon Ophoff's Family Site (
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