After we return home from a quick beach getaway, with mounds of laundry, endless emails and a trashed, sandy car all needing our attention, I inwardly sigh and think to myself ,"Were the 4 days away really worth all this trouble?" It will take two whole days to catch up on everything!
Then my daughter comes running in, barefoot and breathless, looking for her bag of seashells that she meticulously collected on the beach, and begins to survey each souvenir. "This one is pretty! And this one is so shiny! Oh and this is the one that we found with the crab! Remember how he wouldn't let go of the net even though you were shaking him like crazy?!"
She giggles at the recollection of me, standing knee-deep in water, unsuccessfully trying to get the crab to release his death grip on the net and getting pinched by the angry crab in the process. She then recalls how Daddy saw a sting ray in the shallows and we chased it down, all splashing in the water in our race to get close to it. She continues to talk about the fun highlights of our trip, ones already neglected and forgotten in my mind amid the busyness that confronted us back at home.
A few days later as I grab a carton of milk from the fridge, I notice something in a picture of all three of us, taken on the deck from last year's cruise: smiles. Real, genuine, excited smiles. Not just from our daughter, who was living a kid's dream on a Disney cruise, but from mom and dad. I bet those are the same carefree smiles that my daughter saw on our faces as we discovered marine life and playfully dug in the sand on our last beach trip.
And the answer to my question, about the worth of that trip, is answered with a silent but whole-hearted, "yes". Yes, the stress of packing is worth the fun car games and silly singing on the car ride down. Yes, the time spent washing loads of sandy towels and swimsuits was worth the playful excitement of riding in a wave to the shore. Yes, the extra work that is required from taking time off is worth the memories that we made as a family.
Because memories are the best souvenirs of all.