You learn a lot when you walk in someone else’s shoes.
You learn more when you live in their house.
Mostly about yourself.
Let me explain.
I usually don’t take a vacation, because it’s hard to leave four dogs, two cats, chickens, and horses.
I don’t need a house sitter, I need a zookeeper.
But about two weeks ago, Francesca and I were saying it would be fun to get to a beach, and on the spur of the moment, we decided to try to find a vacation house that would take pets.
Not the entire menagerie, but one dog.
There was no question which one.
Francesca’s dog Pip is the only one who’s well-behaved enough.
He’s the one I didn’t raise.
Mine are all hell-raisers.
That’s what I raise.
But I did raise the girl who raised the dog, so I should get partial credit.
In any event, we went online and lucked into a beach house that allowed dogs, so we took it.
We said yes to the address.
And presto, we found ourselves in someone else’s house.
I know this might sound dumb to people who rent houses all the time, but I have never done that. I travel mostly for business and stay in hotels.
I’ve never used Airbnb. I’m a Vrbo virgin.
So it was a new experience to be in someone else’s home.
Especially this one.
I’m not complaining, because it was an amazing house.
It just wasn’t mine.
And I couldn’t get over the feeling that I was prying.
For example, there was a slew of family photographs hanging on the walls and sitting on the end tables, showing a really big, beautiful family, linked arm-in-arm in various lovely locations.
It was like living in Instagram.
It made me realize I don’t have enough family photos.
Plus, there were so many people in these photos, they looked like team pictures.
Maybe I don’t have enough family.
All of my family photos are Francesca and me in the backyard, with dogs.
We have more pet pictures than people pictures.
We even have pet portraits, watercolors, and drawings.
Bottom line, our art has fur.
Plus the vacation house had five bedrooms, and each one was nicer than the next. When it came time to choose one, I felt like Goldilocks.
I gravitated instantly to a cute and cozy bedroom, with pretty white furniture and three windows. Then I realized it belonged to one of the young daughters, filled with pictures of ballet lessons and track meets, under a ceiling covered with stick-on constellations.
You know what, I loved it.
For a week, I felt like a kid.
Now that’s a vacation.
Francesca chose the master bedroom, which was large, and its bathroom had a Jacuzzi.
Which we didn’t use.
Pip wanted to, but we said no.
And since the family was so big, there was so much more of everything. Tables for 10 with the extender always in. Chairs everywhere. Glasses and mugs enough for a small army. Stacks and stacks of dishes. Two trays of silverware. Three colanders.
Every day must be Thanksgiving.
Fun, but work.
We went to the beach every day, which was terrific and fun, and at night we went home to the house that wasn’t ours and hung out in the family room of another family.
It’s a strange sensation.
It’s not swapping houses. It’s swapping underwear.
Like the family room was full of political books that weren’t my political leanings.
I took one off the shelf and skimmed it.
My mind did not change, but that’s OK.
It was a vacation, not an epiphany.
And I bet I would like the family, even if we’re not exactly on the same page.
We don’t have everything in common, only the important things.
We love our family.
And we allow dogs.
Look for Lisa’s best-selling historical novel, “Eternal,” in stores now. Also look for Francesca’s critically acclaimed debut novel, “Ghosts of Harvard,” now in paperback.