The invitation was a gift in itself. Pam and Dan's son invited them to join him and his family on a trip of a life time: He and his wife, their two children [ages 8 and 11] and the other grannie [who was also the full time nanny] were heading to South Africa for a late-summer safari. They were all keyed up to see big cats, elephants, zebras and gazelles in the wild.
For Pam and Dan, here was a chance to spend quality time with a son who lives in another city, to get to know the two Grands in a way that distance and weekend visits preclude and to share in the young family's wonder should a lion or rhino or a herd of zebras be spotted lumbering across the savannah. A chance of a lifetime on a whole different level.
When they weighed whether to say yes or no, Pam and Dan chose not to go. Little things figured in their equation. The 24-hours it would take to get there was less than appetizing. A safari had never been on either their short or long list of trips they wanted to take. Pam doesn't like hot weather and Africa in August was bound to be too hot for her. Dan had signed up for a doubles tennis tournament--his partner would be understanding but disappointed. And Dan would be disappointed, too.
But there were bigger issues as well. The Nanny Granny was going along. She was intimate with the day-to-day discipline and management of the Grands. Would Pam and Dan end up feeling like outsiders at their own family's vacation? It's not a frivolous question.
There's also this: When I joined Uber Son and his family for a short week in Amsterdam this winter, it was a thrilling trip--watching my Grands' wonder as we cruised the canals, visited the Van Gogh museum, tasted pannekoeken, saw the canal-lining houses where 17th century Dutch burghers lived and imported goods from all around the world that were hauled into and stored in their attics. But one of the keys to my personal enjoyment was that I stayed in a hotel half a mile away from my son's. I could take time out to rest or to sightsee on my own. That was part of the magic.
A safari is a different animal--it's everyone doing everything together, unless you opt out and stay in camp rather than go on the guided jeep ride through the park. There is the additional strain in being in an unfamiliar--even dangerous--world where it's difficult to venture out on your own. [A friend who went on a safari with her grown son, says she had to warn him not to take late-night walks by himself. To the animals in the preserve, she warned him, he was "meat on the hoof."]
And then there's the cost. Safaris don't come cheap. Nor does the airfare to South Africa. Although they feel a touch guilty about turning their son down, in the end Pam and Dan didn't see why they should pay a small fortune--upwards of $5,000 a piece--to see animals in the wild when animals in a zoo sate their animal-viewing appetite.
They're going to Provence instead. On their own. Viva la France, says Pam. She'd be happy to take her Grands there any time.