- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Vacations can turn out to be very illuminating, I have recently discovered. I took two vacations: one in Bermuda without the children and the other in Ocean City, Md., with the family.
At the end of July, my wife, Lisa, and I took our much-anticipated anniversary vacation to Bermuda, where we had honeymooned five years ago. We spent four days there with our good friends Marc and Kim Cooper, who also had honeymooned in Bermuda and celebrated their 10th anniversary this summer. We all went without our children; in fact, we stayed at an adults-only resort and saw very few children the entire time we were on the island.
We came back for a week, and then Lisa and I left for vacation No. 2, in Ocean City, this time for an entire week. On that trip, we took our sons, Sean and Jeremy, and stayed with Lisa's parents and sister in a rented three-bedroom condo on 57th Street.
The vacations, as one might expect, were as different as Paul Newman and Pauly Shore. About their only similarity was that they were both over far too quickly.
Our Bermuda trip was the first time Lisa and I could remember acting and living like adults in a long time. We talked about so many fascinating topics with Marc and Kim politics (the merits of George W. Bush's pick of Richard B. Cheney as a running mate); theology (a freewheeling discussion of Calvinism vs. Arminianism); and bad lyrics from 1980s rock songs. (The champ in our book is still "Fire Lake," by Bob Seger, which gave us the immortal line, "You remember Uncle Joe/He was the one who was afraid to cut the cake.")
Not once did any of the following words even approach our lips: "pee-pee," "potty" or "poop."
During the day, we splashed in crystal blue water so clear that you could see your toenails while standing in chest-deep surf. We dined on duck a l'orange and strawberry cheesecake. By night, we strolled along pink beaches and stared up at a blanket of winking starry hosts.
We slumbered peacefully, uninterrupted by Jeremy crying at 2 a.m. for a bottle or Sean racing down the hall and leaping into bed with us at 6 or 6:30 in the morning to finish his sleep.
We read newspapers and books, sometimes even finishing entire articles. We felt as if we were back in college again.
Then, a week later, we were in Ocean City with children, videos and Dr. Seuss books in tow. Let me pause here and say unequivocally that I like Ocean City. I love Ocean City. Lisa's parents owned an oceanfront condo on 56th Street for a few years that they allowed only family to use whenever we wanted. One of the darkest days of my life was last Thanksgiving, when they announced they were selling the place.
But compared to Bermuda? Please. Bermuda beach sand is a painting, Ocean City beach sand is just a playground for sand castles and a burial ground for jellyfish and sand crabs. Bermuda is English pubs and champagne buckets in your room. Ocean City is 7-Elevens on every corner and keggers in every beach house.
But enough with the contrasts. The point is that parenthood never really leaves you, not even in an Edenic place like Bermuda. Jeremy and Sean were hundreds of miles away, but it was hard to turn around and not think of them. Wouldn't Sean like to ride the buses? Would Jeremy like to splash in the water? Where are the playgrounds on this island, anyway?
Throughout the day, we found ourselves wondering, sometimes aloud, "I wonder what the kids are doing now?" All during our plane trip back and especially during the car ride home from Philadelphia, from where we had started the trip we couldn't wait to see the boys again.
Once both vacations were over, it was hard to decide which was better. Bermuda, the child-free vacation paradise? Or Ocean City with its noise and familiarity and KFCs and gun-metal-gray ocean water and sleep-interrupted nights because somebody had to go to the potty or drink a bottle of milk?
In the final analysis, it probably was O.C. By a head.
Make that two heads Sean's and Jeremy's.
We're confident it will be different in five years, when we plan our 10-year anniversary trip to Bermuda.
Yeah, right.
Mark Stewart is the father of two boys, Sean and Jeremy. He is a staff writer for the Family Times. He can be reached at stewar@twtmail.com.

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