Vacation, a History

It is the summer of 1988 and my mom and dad and sister and I are driving from St. Louis to Colonial Williamsburg and then Washington D.C. We play the license plate game and I fill the back of our rental car with vintage candy wrappers – papers that multicolored candy buttons once stuck to, and sticky elastics that were once candy necklaces, and empty pixie sticks. My tongue is electric blue for days.

In D.C. we go to the White House and the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian where I am most intrigued by one of Mr. Rogers’ cardigans.


I am 27 and in the south of France on vacation with my boyfriend of four months and his family. We are staying on a beautiful two-house property with a lap pool surrounded by bamboo and the Mediterranean Sea. There are plum trees on the property and views of terraced vineyards and we are only a twenty minute drive from St. Tropez. I am a 127 pounds, a weight I will dream about years from now when I am a married mother of a baby and too busy for the kind of workouts that once maintained such a figure.

The boyfriend and I fight every single day of our trip and one morning I go for a walk and burst into tears. I am young and thin with a rich, handsome boyfriend, on vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I am so lost and so sad. I’m trespassing on a vineyard and suddenly a man is speaking to me in french and I can’t understand him and I can’t stop crying and my boyfriend, who speaks several languages but doesn’t even try to understand me, is back at that beautiful house with the pool and the stone floors, and in that moment all I want is to be home in Chicago in my own room with my cat and nobody else.


It’s June, 2012, and I am poolside in the Dominican Republic with my husband and my baby. I am not thin and I am not rich and I am no longer young. I see little lizards every day and point them out to my baby who is too small still to care about such things. I think of a million stories and essays and books I want to write and the time I wasted when I had no one but me to worry about. I tell my husband that I have to go back up to the room for a minute and while I’m there I pour myself a glass of wine, open the iPad, and start typing about vacations past. I glance out the window and my husband is holding our baby and looking up toward our room searching for me. I close the iPad, finish my wine, and head back down. It’s hot, and the stories will wait for another day.


  1. Just lovely, Wendy. Thank you for sharing! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    Ooooooooh, my favorite one yet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (As evidenced by all the exclamation marks.)

  3. I just got chills reading this. You are a brilliant writer and I will be one of the first people to purchase your first book.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      Imma push you out of line so I can be the very first. … Or fine we can both be the first to purchase it. No, imma be the first.

      1. Imma purchase it via her amazon links, so there. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        well shit.

  4. SweetPeaG says:

    You write the way I wish I could (or you know, not be too lazy to try!). That was wonderful, as always.

    And how important to realize that life is happening NOW. Not 5 years ago when we weigh what we wish we did now. Not 10 years from now when we’ll have more money in our bank accounts. But, NOW ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I got chills and teary eyed!

  6. Aww this makes me sad and happy at the same time.

  7. This was just gorgeous. Although with a picture of Jackson it wouldยดve been perfect. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I love the idea that you can be somewhere seemingly perfect – like a gorgeous house in France – and still feel lonely and lost inside.

    You write beautifully!

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      Good. She writes good. <— I do not.

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        (I dunno, I only got 3 hours of sleep last night; I am a little delirious right now.)

  9. Avatar photo littlebit says:

    And this is one of the reasons I love this site! Sharing pieces of your own life helps me out just like advice. Being 23, it’s hard to vision a future me; I’m still in the process of figuring myself out. Stories like this give me a moment to close my eyes and imagine what life is like through someone else’s eyes, if only for a little bit ( oh littlebit, like my name!). It gets me excited to know there is so much in life, that I have so much to experience still. That life does not stop once college and some relationships end ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you!

  10. brendapie says:

    I loved reading this piece and being given a glimpse into how your life has changed over the years. I recently purchased a five year diary where each page is dedicated to a particular day of the year, with five entries each for one year. As time progresses you can look back and read what you did on that date in the past year(s). I wish I had chronicled the things I did in my younger days but I’m excited to start filling out this new diary.

    1. That diary sounds awesome.
      I was never good at keeping diaries/journals, now I wish that I had!

      1. brendapie says:

        The one I purchased is called One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book. The space for each entry is pretty small but it helps you to be more concise with your writing and in deciding what important or memorable things happened that day. I’ve seen 10-year diaries with a similar format but I liked the five year diary because it is less bulky and I could carry it in my purse or while I travel.

        I never kept a journal for a long period of time although I attempted to in the past. I do have the one journal I kept for a few days when I was in the fifth grade and it was hilarious to look back and see what (now) trivial things felt so important to me back then. I also have a LiveJournal I maintained during college and looking back on it I get the same feeling of amusement as I do when I look back at my 5th grade journal.

        Anyway, Wendy’s alphabet history entries are my favorite part of this website although the really salacious LW’s are a close second.

  11. quixoticbeatnik says:

    Your stories are so, so good. You should really write a novel – I think it would be a great read! Your writing style reminds me of Audrey Niffeneigger (I think that’s right), the author of A Time Traveler’s Wife. That book is one of my favorite novels, and I love her writing style.

  12. Moneypenny says:

    This was lovely! I love these stories. I also look forward to purchasing your first book!

  13. This is so beautiful.

  14. Very moving piece to read on my Friday afternoon- very you! Thanks for the great read- seems like your trip is making you introspective- in a useful way! hugs- rach

  15. Witchmom3 says:

    Wow! Beautiful. Thank you for this.

  16. I teared up reading this. I just came home from a bad vacation, where I felt a little lost and scared like the middle story. Thank you for the perspective and the hope. You’re such a talented writer, Wendy.

  17. I love these alphabet stories

  18. Wendy's Dad says:

    You make me proud, Wendy. And you might find it interesting that your ad program posted “Visit Norway” (in German, of course) at the bottom of your essay. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised…that’s how ad programs work…but it just struck me as ironic. And I don’t think you need to wait to get a novel in print. Just bundle up some of your letters and your essays and get them to a printer. Your DW clan will buy them! Right, Addie Pray?

  19. godlyoily says:

    These alphabet tales are wonderful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *