Saturday, May 29, 2010

Two for the price of one.

Not one but two huge new family-life-transforming ideas popped into existence almost simultaneously. Ev and I were out for a walk one evening in early spring. I was telling her that earlier that day, right in the middle of my final lecture of the academic year, it suddenly occured to me that my newest idea for a book wasn't likely to get started anytime soon because of our idea of devoting the months of July and August to being an "island family." She agreed that it wouldn't be that sort of summer at all. Before we went any further with that thought, she changed the subject to tell me of her latest instalment in an ongoing frustration she was having with Ben's teacher. The details aren't important but the upshot was, and is. We walked a few steps in silence, actually both of us thinking more of our own topic of interest than that of the others. And then it happened. Somewhat randomly, since it wasn't something we had ever discussed before, Ev said, "Maybe I should start homeschooling them all." Her sentence happened to coincide with my saying, "Maybe I should take a sabbatical." So there it was: the idea of staying on the island long past summer holidays, in fact for a whole calendar year, so that I could write my book and so that she could try her hand at homeschooling. We looked at each other as we walked and then started talking it out.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What John Donne said. Sort of.

It was John Donne who said, "No man is an island." I have never had any intention of contradicting the point. But it gave me an idea. As a family man, married to a woman of kindred spirit, and the father of three children, I found myself wondering (with her) if a family, a family like ours, in fact, ours, could not be an island. In a good way. From that question, an idea was born. The idea of our family spending one whole summer together, all on our own, alone on an island. A colleague of mine mentioned to me a friend of his who was wanting to rent out his cottage for the summer. A cottage on an island of its own. "Tell me about it," I responded. He knew nothing about the cottage but he put me in touch with his friend. I fired off an email and told my wife about it that evening. Over the course of the three days it took to receive a reply, my wife and I developed a happy vision of what the summer might be like. We both got more and more enthused. And then I heard back. (What's with people who only seem to check their email every three or four days?) As it turned out, arranging the whole thing was remarkably simple. And so the plans were set and we broke the happy news to the children. No surprise. They were thrilled at the thoughts of an island summer. But there was a surprise coming. A surprise that would take the concept of an island family well past the last days of summer.