Thursday, 9 March 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - March 9, 2017

The All-Inclusive Holiday

March Break is but a breath away. Many secondary and elementary school teachers and students are counting the minutes before the mad dash to the white - ski slopes or sandy beaches. Some are madly planning as many outings as possible to fill in the wide expanse of 'free' time ahead.  If you buy into all the hype, the March Break is all about a week of family fun. And that's a good thing. I'm all in favour of both family and fun. I'm also a big believer in downtime, no pressure, no program, no duties.

Back in the day, when I was in grade school the Spring holiday was tied to Easter. This, of course, meant that it was a movable feast, occurring anywhere between the last week of March and the last week of April; anywhere between icy snow pack and blooming daffodils. The hype, if you could even call it that, went to the tune of "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" (Gene Autry) alternating with "Easter Parade" (Judy Garland and Fred Astaire). I hopped my way along a pastel bunny trail in the short week preceding the holy days. At school, there were stories about chicks hatching, arithmetic problems about jelly beans and a basketful of crafts that all began with cotton balls many dusted with yellow paint powder.

The first four days of the school break were all about family and fun, none of it particularly religious until we all rose to go to church Easter morning (after the Easter egg hunt of course!). There we sang the great hymns, inhaled. and nearly fainted from the fragrance of umpteen dozen Easter Lilies and wished everybody a Happy Easter. Then it was home for a grand feast celebrated with family gathered around the dining room table.

Monday we all just sat around recovering from all the food and festivities. Tuesday Dad went back to work and Mom was left for four days to cope with three kids, chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and hard boiled eggs. It was down time, serious down time. We each found our own space and activity. If we were really lucky, it was a week when the Bookmobile came to the bottom of our street, and we got to tag along with Mom. That was our outing of the week. And it was grand!

In 1968 the March Break replaced the Easter week holiday in Ontario. At first, it came in the last week of March but later moved to the mid point where it now is. My Dad did not have the time off, very few parents did. I was in high school when the March Break debuted and as best as I can recall it was a week of total downtime. I slept in a lot. I watched the afternoon soap operas (The Doctors, Days of our Lives, Another World), and not much else. It was a good break from school. Was it fun? Well not wildly, but I did enjoy the open space. Family time? What's that?

Some thirty years later when I had two children of my own in grade school, sleeping in remained a primary feature of the break. Added to that there were blanket forts in the living room, really good lunches at home, outdoor play, a choice or two at the video store and the reward of a trip to the movie theatre to see the latest family offering from Disney or Hollywood. It was all about family time at home. Even though my husband did not have the week off, he was always invited to come play in the blanket fort when he got home. There was enough downtime to relax and recharge. It was a good week and it didn't break the bank.

March Break 2017 looks quite different. All the advertising suggests that though it is a family time, it is to be enjoyed anywhere but at home. There are opportunities near and far to fill every waking hour with every kind of activity. Much of it seems to assume that both parents have the time off and that money is no worry. Downtime? What's that?

I need my downtime in copious quantities. I always have. I am a true introvert married to a true introvert, with two introvert children. It's not good, it's not bad, it's who I am. Not everyone needs all the quiet that I do, but all of us at every age need some time to play by ourselves, away from the gadgets that ring and beep and flash and crash; away from bosses, parents, siblings and friends; away from oughts and shoulds; at home with who we are.

If you are one privileged to have the March Break off, I wish you and yours an all inclusive holiday - one where family time, fun and rest/downtime are in the quantities you truly need to return to the every day refreshed, renewed and happy.

Get out there!

©2017 April Hoeller

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