Saudade: Summer Road Trip


My first daughter was born in May 2007, one day after my birthday.  Come that August, my wife and I decided that we should take our first ever family vacation with a child.  At the time, I was still a graduate student and we had very little money in the vacation budget, so we planned a 10 day-road trip from Seattle along the Oregon coast to northern California.  We packed up our Honda Civic, which we had christened with the name “Gig” a few years earlier, loading camping gear and enough diapers and baby wipes to last a couple of weeks.

We stayed at campgrounds along the coast, stopping to take in the beautiful scenery as we made our way to the Redwoods National Park north of Arcata, CA.  We hiked to see the tallest tree in the world and watched elk graze in the marshlands near a beach by Fern Canyon; we drank beer sitting on a rock overlooking the Pacific at Patrick’s Point.  In the evening we played cards in the tent while the baby slept on her tiny make-shift sleeping pad, which was placed at a ninety degree angle above my wife’s sleeping bag.

Since that first summer as a family, we’ve been on a road trip adventure every year.  We’ve seen bears in the Canadian Rockies, swum in Crater Lake, taken an epic ferry trip from Bella Coola to Vancouver Island, hiked in Glacier National Park, and even been stalked by a cougar in the North Cascades.  We’ve covered a lot of miles in Gig and seen some amazing things together.  Of course, we’ve had domestic skirmishes along the way—how many times can you really listen to “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” in a row—but every year, our family road trip is the highlight of the time we spend together.

This year, my second daughter was born at the beginning of August, the timing of which meant we had to suspend our annual tradition for a year.  My wife and I were both disappointed by the timing but didn’t let on about it to our daughter.  Last week, she was upset at her little sister and when we asked why, she mentioned that she was sad we couldn’t go on our trip this year.

When I was studying Portuguese I learned the word saudade.  There isn’t really a direct translation for the word, which means something close to nostalgia or melancholy for a person or a place that is absent or lost.  Oddly though, saudade, can also be felt for someone or someplace that is still near at hand.  It’s like a feeling of future anteriority, an anticipation of a loss that has not yet occurred.  Saudade is a powerful sentiment and is often the basis for the lyrics of Fado, a traditional Portuguese musical style.  When my daughter was sad that we would not being going on a trip this year, I was overcome by saudade, not because we missed one year of our family vacation but because one day these trips that mean so much to us as a family will come to an end.

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