When you think of the two-hour vacation you allow yourself each week, what do you envision? Think about that well-deserved break from your daily responsibilities. Don’t you mull over which toppings you’ll choose, smile at the thought of that first sip of ice-cold beer or soda and sigh as you look forward to simply relaxing and letting someone else do the dishes? ‘Course you do.

That’s vacation in increments. This is Vacationland.

My niece Elise owns a pizzeria. She bakes the pizza and runs the place. One of her sisters, Elizabeth, waits tables a couple of nights a week. Their mother, my sister Deb, makes the soups and desserts. She also launders all of the towels and such. I’m the bookkeeper. I pay the bills and arrange for projects with electricians, plumbers and the like. The recycling has become one of my feel-good routines.

The great part, of course, is that we get to see and work with each other pretty regularly. You, dear reader, can fill in any downside to that. But over the nearly 11 years, we’ve all gotten to know one another at a different level, and that has enhanced my life exponentially.

We and the other employees work hard to bring joy and great food to folks from near and far.

Niece Elise knows our regulars. There’s the doctor’s wife who comes in by herself while he’s busy doing something medical. She calls it “Girls Night Out,” and she eats and has a blast with the staff. And Bob, bless him, always sat at the pole table and ordered a thin-crust gyro, light on the roasted red peppers. A high school senior recently held his graduation party with us. It’s one of his hangouts with his buddies. They share one large cheese pizza and drink water. We absolutely love having them come in.

During the Maine International Film Festival, we offer slices from the bake area for a couple bucks a slice. Movie-goers, many who are on a traditional weeklong vacation from somewhere not here, grab a disposable plate, cozy up with other movie buffs, dish their choice of slices and head back to the next movie. Others sit outside on the patio, cold beverage in hand, and, with complete strangers, discuss the last movie they viewed. They are finding community among strangers. This is Vacationland.

College students take a study break with us. Their alumni parents re-live their pizzeria-with-the-wood-burning-fire experience. Many elderly have a night out with us. Parents dropping kids off at summer camps find us and lunch with us.

We are a neighborly two-hour vacation experience, and the work of it feels great!

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