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Family Fiction: Never Say Never

D.B. Estrin

“Two free tickets to anywhere,” the El Al representative promised. It was incentive enough to be bumped from our flight and diverted to… Cairo

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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” T wo free tickets to anywhere,” the El Al representative promised. It was incentive enough for us to agree to be bumped from our flight to New York and diverted to… Cairo. Just a few hours later, our young family was flying over a vast and desolate tract of land. We peered out the plane window at the flat expanse and talked about how Bnei Yisrael were once truly trapped within this carceral desert. We got another taste of internment when, at the Cairo airport, we were confined to a small and dismal holding area for several hours with hardly any food or drink. We began to question our bright idea, but the children took in the experience as an adventure — so be it! The peeling, light green walls of the terminal; the search for a little water and some fruit; entertaining bored children (the adventure wore off in the fourth hour) faded into the background as we headed off on the final leg of our journey. 

Payback time: two free tickets to our destination of choice. Both lovers of the great outdoors, my husband and I search for the most untouched stretch of wilderness we can reach in the seven days we have to travel. We pick Vancouver. The following year, after arranging a slew of childcare shifts, we choose, we plan, and we fly. 

Yet at liftoff, my excitement of having a week as a couple after an eight-year stretch devoted to child-rearing, turns to dread. As we’re propelled toward the west, I feel my body jettison away from my heart, like the part of the rocket that falls away at a launch. A part of me lags stubbornly behind with my dear small children.

“How can I do this?” slowly turns into “I can do this” as my husband and I begin to banter, read, and relax in a way we haven’t done for years.

 

We drive up north of Vancouver until we find the strangely named Skookumchuck River — back in Telz Stone, it was a mere dot on a map. On a stormy day, we head down to the river, where we pull in lingcod and sea bass from frothy waters. Later, we warm ourselves by a wood-burning stove at a remote B&B and eat our catches. The fish is so fresh it tastes like meat. I look out of the oversized window, onto a rocky beach and endless ocean. “This should fortify us for the next decade of family responsibilities,” I say.

The following day we follow a trail cushioned with pine needles up a mountainside. “What if we run into a bear?” I ask, finally voicing a pesky fear. “Not as scary as the kids’ bedtimes,” my husband comforts me. He reminds me of the time we camped at the base of a Dead Sea wadi and I woke him up to face off with a lurking panther. “It’s just our backpack,” he had said, sleepily returning to our tent, with stick in hand.

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