Last year, my husband and I took our 4 children on a trip to Portland, Oregon, where our son, Dallin, had served a 2-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as LDS or Mormon Church). It turned out to be one of my favorite family vacations that we have ever taken. I asked myself what was different about this trip that made it more meaningful than some of the other fun vacations we’ve taken. And here’s what I concluded:
First, the location had special meaning for our son, who spent 2 years there teaching, serving and learning to love the people. As we drove through the different areas where Dallin had served and he recounted memories from this house or that church, or this restaurant or that park, culminating in a visit to the famous doughnut shop, VooDoo Doughnuts (where, of course, we had to get a doughnut), we could feel the strong attachment binding his heart to this place. The people, in turn, had an obvious love for Dallin, which we were able to see first-hand when we visited some of the families with whom he had developed a close relationship. Each member of our family felt their love, enjoyed their hospitality, and learned more about our son/brother as they told us stories of his service there. I felt that our son had become their son through the experiences he had during his 2 years in Oregon, and I was grateful for those who had watched over him in my absence.
The second significant thing about this trip was that it was the first trip we had been on as an entire family in over 2 years. Our three youngest children were glad to have their brother home, and there was a palpable contentment that filled our car as we traveled together. It was a 2-day drive to Portland from Arizona, and I can’t recall a trip where there was a more peaceful, happy group of kids who got along so well!
Portland and the nearby coastal towns are breathtakingly beautiful! We loved the green, green landscape, seeing the gorgeous rhododendrons, visiting spectacular Multnomah Falls, the Rose Garden, the Columbia River Gorge, the beaches at Seaside and Astoria, and the fun cheese factory at Tillamook (with delicious ice cream!). And although we thoroughly enjoyed doing the “touristy” things, these were not the things that made the trip so special. It was the joy of being reunited as a family after a long separation and the significance of a place where our son has left a piece of his heart. Because of that, Oregon will always hold a spot in my heart, too.