I haven’t holidayed with my parents since I was 18. Vacationing with my parents, as an adult, has never been at the top of my to-do list. But that’s what I did this summer: I took a trip with my sisters, all of our children and my parents. All eleven of us.
Before Covid, I was just like any other child of migrants who found their parents annoying, overbearing and controlling. But when Covid came along, it changed everything. My parents changed. I changed.
Managing through Melbourne’s long lockdown, I came to value spending even half an hour with family. The traditions I once wanted over and done with, like Easter – the colouring of the red eggs, the lamb on the spit – they mean something, I realised. Gathering together with family means something.
When we were children, my parents took us on holidays every year; sometimes locally within Australia with my cousins, and a few times to my parents’ homeland, Cyprus. Covid had me nostalgic for those times. I was craving a change of scene, to spend a solid chunk of time with my family, to catch up properly, have fun after the hellish year. Who knew what 2021 would bring?
Initially, I imagined a holiday with my sisters, their partners and our children – just as we had done three years ago – so my primary-school-aged nephews could spend quality time with my newly teen daughter. Then I suggested Mum and Dad.
One of my younger sisters baulked. “You – you want to go on a holiday with Mum and Dad? You of all people?” My other sister had reservations too.
And they were right. I’m the single mum and black sheep, the one who shattered all the traditions and norms of what a good Greek girl should be. Yet every instinct in my body was telling me that although the holiday might prove challenging, it was important. We had to take this holiday.
My parents wouldn’t commit either.
“I’ll see how I’m feeling,” Mum said.
As summer approached, we decided it would have to be somewhere close by, somewhere familiar, so as to not overwhelm. State borders were opening and closing like train boom gates and I didn’t want the family to get stuck. The Mornington Peninsula was where we would sometimes have beach days as children. When we crossed the threshold into adulthood, it was our summer escape from the clutches of our parents and their rules.
We couldn’t agree on dates. We couldn’t agree on how many bedrooms – the prices were sky high due to Covid. At one point there was so much drama around the holiday I didn’t think it was going to happen. But a house was found. With a spare bed for my parents, just in case.
The day before our scheduled departure, Mum changed her tune. They would drive down for the second night. I was sure the trip would lift both my parents’ spirits. I reassured my sisters it would only be for one night, but secretly I knew they would want my parents to stay longer, and that Mum and Dad would want to stay too.
When we finally arrived, the house was spacious and cosy. The fridge was stocked and the afternoon was spent lazing about across the road from our house on the beach while the kids made sand castles. We had planned to cook dinner – takeaway was ordered instead. My sisters and I chatted late into the night just like we used to when we were all living at home under one roof, a long time ago when we were young and without responsibility. It was special, beautiful, vulnerable and difficult. It was perfect.
When my parents joined us, old simmering tensions began to bubble over. It wasn’t long before my sisters were defending our upbringing and I was shaking my head into my hands. But, I stayed in the heat, was careful with my words. This was important; I wanted them to understand because they are important. We were here after all, in this house, together. That in itself, in a Covid world, was almost a miracle.
Dad departed from the conversation, all smiles, with the men to go fishing. He wasn’t sweating the small stuff today. “I understand,” Mum said, for the first time.
I had got better at explaining myself. Or maybe Covid had given us all more empathy. New understandings were formed like shaky bridges, but they’re still bridges, they can still be developed, reinforced over time. Tension was approached, discussed and resolved.
While the men fished, the women and children went down to the beach. It was a lovely day. We had takeaway again that night.
My parents ended up staying for two nights. My sisters loved it.
This year, I can’t wait for Orthodox Easter. I’m not sure whose house it will be at yet, but we will celebrate it together, with all the traditional bells and whistles.
It’s going to be amazing.
Koraly Dimitriadis is a writer, poet, performer and the author of Love and Fuck Poems, and Just Give Me the Pills