Steve Eaton: Trying to relax on vacation is hard work

Published: Monday, July 2 2012 3:45 p.m. MDT

This is a rare and sacred day. The air is purified. There is golden light all about. There is hope. It is the first day of a one-week summer vacation.

The first day of summer vacation is always sweet to me because on this day I have hopes of creating the perfect summer vacation. I can’t go to Hawaii but perhaps I can be mellow and relax for a few minutes. Maybe, just maybe, I can go 30 minutes without thinking about deadlines and work.

The one thing I want to do is go slow. Take off the pressure. I don’t have to do anything today.

Well actually, I have to write this column. I’m supposed to have it in by now. And I have an interview at noon I must do. And I absolutely must prepare a lesson for church. I need to practice saying normal things so I won’t have to go into another “Brother Eaton time out.”

I would rest on Sunday except there are a lot of meetings I must attend. Lots of meetings.

I’m pretty sure I can relax on Monday — after I get a few important things out of the way I need to do, finish up some work email and do some work-related reading. I know life doesn’t have to be like this.

Last week I was driving through a neighborhood where most people use real sprinklers — not the kind that just pop up in the middle of the night and spray about but the ones that you have to place on the ground and launch like fireworks. The kind that almost always will get you wet sooner or later, no matter what you are wearing.

In one yard I saw kids jumping over a sprinkler, with a kind of daring usually reserved for reality TV. It reminded me of the carefree days of my youth that my friends used to have. OK, I had fun, too, but only after I completed a list of chores my mom had for me to do. There were some unstructured summer moments, however.

I remember one of the cool things I did was sleep in the backyard with my brother when Mom wouldn’t let us back in the house. We would just lay in the grass and look up the stars and talk about the universe and “Gilligan’s Island.” My brother is now a successful person who excels at excelling. Given free time now, he will go do triathlons. I don’t suppose he’d warm up to sleeping on the cold grass anymore.

(By the way, I would do amazingly healthy things like triathlons too except they don’t make spandex uniforms that fit people like me. Once I get in shape, however, I intend to exercise more.)

I remember each summer we would go to this cool lake that had a platform tower you could jump off, a rope swing and a long old-fashioned playground slide that leveled off at water level over the lake. It was back in the days before they invented lawsuits, so there were lots of cool things you could do to hurt yourself and others.

The wooden tower, if I remember right, had one platform 20 feet up, another 60 feet up, a third 100 feet up and the last one was 500 feet up. And they were all on top of each other, so the thrill of falling 20 feel was augmented by the fear that someone coming down from 500 feet would land on top of you and drill you into the muddy bottom of the lake.

I think I made it up to the third level and I developed an unusual strategy for the fall. I would wear sneakers, leap off, letting out an airless, silent scream that would come out just a split second after I smacked into the hard lake and took my first breath of lake water. I usually would flap my arms as I went down even though it meant they would slap the water with such force when I hit the lake that I couldn’t raise them again for the rest of the day, even to feed myself.

Those fun-filled days are gone now. Last time I put on a bathing suit and went jumping through the sprinkler I had to talk to the police who desperately wanted to charge me with something but couldn’t figure out what. They told me to never, ever do that again. We live on a busy street.

So, I don’t know how I’m going to recharge during this vacation, but I have hope that it will happen. That’s the joy of this first day. By Monday or Tuesday afternoon I’ll be ready to really get serious and focus on relaxing. In fact, I have a list of relaxing things I have to get done this week and once I get those done, I’m going to relax even harder.

It’s going to be great.

Think of the movie “The Jerk” and read this with Steve Martin intonation: “I’m going to be so mellow and relaxed it will make you puke.”

Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at Eatonnews@gmail.com

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