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So. Cres.

Somehow I had it in my mind I'd written about Cres before and I was just going to repeat myself, but a quick archive search shows, I really didn't. Nevertheless, sometimes what holds me back from writing the most is the feeling that certainly what I have to say has no relevance for anyone else. And it's not that I need an audience or imagine one, but this is a public blog, so... I just don't want to be that idiot that mistakes the ability to reach people with the ability to say something useful. Well, relevant or not, here goes regardless. (What was the point of this intro? I wonder.)

During our four-week-vacation we managed to drive to Croatia for a week, to the island of Cres, where my family has vacationed since I was 5 or 3 or 2, depending on when you start counting. The coast of Croatia is extraordinarily beautiful and I say this now with a tiny bit less bias than years ago, just because I've seen a few more beaches since and feel that the Mediterranean in general but the Croatian Adriatic in particular has a certain something that I have not seen anywhere else. The insanity is that I spent basically every single summer of my childhood on this island up to two months at a time and took it all for granted in a way only a clueless child can. And now, decades later I am so grateful for it because I realized what role it played in my life. That's the only way it works. You can only recognize the experience once it's over.

My parents bought this old, old house in the town of Cres and so did virtually all my dad's siblings and then some friends, too. The houses were initially in bad shape, no running water, no public sewage. Then everybody fixed them up, sort of, but it didn't matter, we really didn't need to be in the house most of the time, so they are basically bedrooms with a kitchen and a bathroom (Cue Veronika this year: "Mama, this house is weird! It has a basement, a kitchen and beds! Where is the living room??").

On the ferry, the kids & me, 2009

On the ferry, my sisters & me, 1980?

We went to the beach every day and then for a long walk at night (oh, the mandatory walk!) and on Sundays we went to church and then had ice cream afterwards. And sometimes we had birthday parties and sat around singing songs with one of my (many) cousins playing the guitar. If this sounds like a sappy movie to you, well it really was that way, except with real people who are also really annoying at times and occasionally boring and in general not at all Hollywood-y. We repeated this every.single.year. I only started getting tired of it when I reached adulthood, but never completely. The miracle of going to the same (incredibly beautiful) place every year is that it takes out all the logistical problems out of vacation - you always know where everything is, you sleep in a familiar bed, you can count on familiar company etc. In addition to that the feeling of relaxation and peace is instantly restored, as soon as you smell the air and set foot on the cracked rocks. It was a little like an alternative life with all major life stresses removed. I see now that even though I never mistook it for "real life" it did teach me to just be and enjoy what we are given on earth in the most authentic and powerful - and non-dramatic way possible.

Me, 1978?

All by himself
Ivan, 2009

After church in Sunday best, my cousins and me, 1979

After church in Sunday best, Veronika and her cousins (one, once removed), 2009

Visiting this time around I benefitted from not having been there every year recently. The impact is much more vivid, much more new. Coming back with my own children is even better and makes me relive the past from its most favorable angle. And even though we had a wonderful time, I realize I don't feel the need to go back every single time like I used to. Not because I wouldn't enjoy it, but because by now those memories are so ingrained and the lesson about joy so well learned that I can recall it in other places, but most of all in myself. I truly hope my children get to have something of that sort. It's bad enough to know that children will have to cope with disillusionment one way or another in life, I want them to have had an experience of undisturbed joy they can draw from their entire life.

Posted at 02:03 PM on August 25, 2009

What a beautiful post and... those photos? WOW!!! It's a rare treat to be able to see photos of the same people (or from the same family) in the same place many years apart.

I had to go Google Island of Cres and look at all the photos I could find. Thank you so much for sharing this. I feel the same sometimes about blogging certain things -- is anyone going to care about reading this or that? Never fear, though, you write so beautifully that it's impossible not to feel moved. There was a beach I went to for most of my childhood, but the situation was not as idyllic as yours and the houses also varied. I wish I'd had something like you did. Growing up, I always dreamed of having "roots" and living in the same place all my life. Alas, we moved many times (though not as many as my husband's family -- we were all pastor's families who did move a lot by definition, at least in our denomination).

Anyway... thanks for the lovely post and photos!

Posted by Lilian at August 25, 2009 11:27 PM

I have to agree - what a beautiful post.

I loved reading this and seeing the pictures.
I can semi relate since I moved far away from home and if I ever do have kids I hope they get to spend some time in the places where I grew up and experience the same laid back summers I had.

Posted by Hanna at August 31, 2009 7:49 AM

that was beautiful! I'm not quite so generous to family traditions -- your writing and pictures makes me rethink that.

Posted by leah at September 21, 2009 10:55 AM