I’ve had solid ground under my feet since about 10:00 am yesterday (if you count the train ride from New York to DC), but I can still feel the boat moving. Having finally gotten my “sea legs” under me, I know find myself getting reacquainted with the rules back on land. In a sense, the physical adjustment after the R Family Vacations cruise is similar to the emotional adjustment. After such a long period of freedom, it’s a matter of getting used to a reality that — however familiar — is even more constricting than it felt before.
I can understand why some people cry when its time to get off the boat. We’re pretty lucky, actually. We were coming back to a relatively progressive community where our family is accepted and welcomed, and where we experience very few problems. Some of the families on the cruise are returning to communities that are a lot more conservative, and a lot less accepting or welcoming. For them, this cruise is the one time each year when they can get away from the anxiety of wondering how people will respond to their families or what their kids might have to face.
And even for me, it was a noticeable change, like suddenly relaxing a muscle that has been tense so long you begin to think that’s its natural state.
You have to understand, it’s like I said in the previous post.
I don’t know how to explain it, and it’s taken me a day to get used to the idea that we’re in an environment where our families are completely welcome and completely accepted. Most LGBT people know the feeling. It’s the one you got at your first Pride parade or the first time you were in a room full of gay people. For everyone else, I can only describe it this way. Imagine that all your life, you’ve worn a a pair of shoes about a size and half too small. In fact, if you have a pair of too-small shoes, go put them on and walk around for a couple of hours. Maybe all day, even. Wear them until they start to hurt, and then keep wearing them for a while
Then take them off. Doesn’t that feel good? Now imagine that after a couple of hours you have to put them back on again and keep them on, for days, weeks, maybe even months before you can take them off again.
I slipped those shoes back on as we got off the boat, and winced a little, even though I know my pair isn’t as tight as others. Suddenly, we went from a world where our family fit in back into one where we stand out again.
I think many of us started anticipating re-entry as we grew closer to having to disembark. Many exchanged contact information with other families they’d met on board, after discovering that they lived in the same area. I handed out cards, and we exchanged information with the families we’d met who live near us. And we were able to hold on to the feeling we’d experienced on the cruise when we discovered some fellow “boat people” (as some of us started calling ourselves during the trip) waiting at Penn Station for the trains that would take them home, and even a couple of families who were riding to D.C. in the same coach we’d chosen.
And, fortunately, our initial experiences upon re-entry were positive.
While we were waiting for our train, we had two hours to spare in Penn station. So the hubby and I took turns taking Parker for walks around the station to keep him from getting bored. At some point, an older man sat down next to me, and started reading a book while he waited. The hubby was playing a little game with Parker, when the man next to me leaned over and said, “I have to commend you. I couldn’t have kept my three boys that quiet when they were that age, but yours is doing pretty good.” It took me a minute to realized that he’d long since “done the math” regarding our family and it didn’t appear to make a difference to him.
Later, when we were getting off the train, the woman in front of us who was traveling with her two teenage sons spoke to me while we were waiting for the aisle to clear. She’d seen me walking Parker to the dining car and back, and she’d heard us answering Parker’s endless questions during the trip.
“How old is your little boy?” she asked, and when I told her she answered “Well, he’s absolutely adorable. And very inquisitive.” I laughed and agreed with her. “That’s a good thing,” she said with a smile, and then we got off the train.
So,those two incidents made for a fairly smooth re-entry into the world after seven days on our floating oasis. I know, we were in New York, so the likelihood that most people wouldn’t bat an eye at our family was greatly increased. But I’ll take what I can get.