Still Life with Daughter, Chairs, and Enviable Deck
And her creatures, of course. Always the creatures. She could travel anywhere, be anywhere, and, as long as her collection of plastic animals and Playmobile people were with her, she’d be perfectly content. And perfectly oblivious. Let her and her creatures loose in Versailles and she’d look around for a few minutes, make a few faces at herself in the mirrored walls, then set up shop on a windowsill somewhere, where she would stand all of her animals in a row and commence talking to them in her highest-pitched voice. Busily, she’d slide into an alternate world, her movements becoming more animated, the volume of her voice rising and falling excitedly. Her dogs might be sent to Trader Joe’s, her zebra to the dentist, (“don’t be afraid. Afterwards you’ll get treats!”), or “Stethoscope Man” to sleep — perhaps on a very expensive coaster. One thing is for sure: Versailles would cease to exist.
Tonight in the bath MJ asked me “Mama, why do people take vacation?”
“Well,” I said, “people like to see new things, meet new people. And take it easy. Folks work hard. They like to relax sometimes.”
“What’s ‘relax?’” asked MJ.
I thought about it for a second. “You wouldn’t understand. It’s all you do.”
She cocked her head at me. I brushed a piece of wet hair behind her ear.
“Someday you’ll know what stress is. Then you’ll understand vacation. Right now? It’s basically just a new place to play with your creatures. But isn’t that great?”
She thought about it for a while. “Yes,” she said finally. “It is great.”
And with that she went back to her panda bears, and the ferry ride they were embarking on, in the tupperware, in the bath, in a beautiful bathroom in a spectacular house in Martha’s Vineyard. Not quite Versailles, but it didn’t matter one bit.