Sunday, January 15, 2012

Get out of here: Nov. 15, 2009

Sometimes the best place to be is somewhere else. The only thing better than getting to occasionally go there is coming home to people who understand.

A little time, a little space, a runaway weekend

    Last month I shoved a few of my favorite items of clothing into a backpack and flew to San Francisco with a friend.

    Stop. Just look at that sentence. Seriously, do you know what a big deal that sentence is? That sentence is a huge, giant deal.

    We left our husbands and our kids and our jobs. We packed light, we moved fast, we went 2,500 miles from home. For a few days, we ran away.

    Now here is the trick: How do I adequately convey how much I enjoyed this trip without sounding like a rotten mother and a miserable wife and a worthless shrew who longs to escape the smothering embrace of her beautiful family?

    Well, people like statistics a lot. Let's use math. I am horrible at math. But here is the result of a little ciphering I recently did: I have spent 25 percent of my life as a mother. One of every four years I have been on this planet has been passed in the daily service of my sons.

    You realize, I'm sure, that I adore my sons. They are amazing and brilliant and beautiful and I marvel every day that my husband and I produced two such truly exceptional human beings.

    But, y'all, sometimes a girl just needs a little space. A girl who lives with a bunch of boys, in particular, sometimes needs a little space.

    With the exception of a weekend mountain-biking trip in 2002, I had never been away from my boys for any reason other than brief business travel. (Any trip that involves PowerPoint presentations or Excel spreadsheets does not count as a getaway of any kind.)

    This past July, my friend (also the mother of two sons) and I were sitting on the edge of my neighborhood pool, swirling our feet in the water and watching our boys splash and shriek. She was telling me about her plan to fly to San Francisco in October to run her first marathon with her sister and two best friends from childhood. No husband, no kids; just a hotel room full of friends and a 26-mile run through one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.

    "I wish I could go," I sighed. "But I really shouldn't spend the money."

    "It's just a long weekend," she said. "Three nights, maybe four. You should come. We would have so much fun."

    So I booked a cheap plane ticket, shoved a few of my favorite items of clothing into a backpack and flew to San Francisco with a friend.

    What did we do in San Francisco? Well, my friend ran a marathon. (I, dear reader, did not.)

    But the rest of what we did went like this: We ate and drank and shopped and walked miles all around the city and went to museums and slept late and took naps and sipped coffee and sat in the sun at cute little outdoor restaurants and read mindless magazines and talked and talked about a whole lot of nothing.

    Then, on the daylong trip home, I read a whole book. The whole thing. And no one asked me at any point to stop reading and make them a sandwich or get their toy out of the car or wash their favorite shirt or find their Lego piece -- no not THAT Lego piece, the OTHER Lego piece.

    I suspect it is the near-universal, guilty secret of motherhood, this powerful need for a little time and space to step back and reconcile the women we were and the women we are. I haven't met a mother who won't admit it -- but we admit it in whispers, mumbling truth to each other at birthday parties or at the park.

    Somewhere around the 25 percent mark, the years as Mom stack up and begin to obscure everything that came before. If you stop and do the math, it can be slightly scary.

    I really believe the women we were and the women we are can peacefully coexist. We just have to give them a little space.

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