It’s a seventy-degree day in late winter. I take my boy to the park with a friend while my baby girl stays home with her Daddy. He’d been gone all week and she just wanted to snuggle him. “Daddy, I hold you,” she demanded. After the park, my boy and I enjoy a lunch date. My husband calls and says he’s invited the family to dinner. After lunch we head to the grocery store. My boy, he behaves, he helps, he converses. I bend over the cart and inhale the top of his head.
Later the baby naps and my son plays at the neighbors while I do my mother’s hair in the basement. My husband, upstairs making homemade bruschetta garlic crostini and linguine with clam sauce. Later I make the Caesar salad my uncle taught me to make the summer I was sixteen. The salad, it has its own bowl. The one my Mother’s husband searched and searched for. His wedding gift to us. It had to be perfect, carved out of raw wood. He ended up spending $250 on it in a gallery in Santa Fe. Maybe it wasn’t a gallery. Maybe it wasn’t that fancy, but this is how I remember it.
I drink red wine on an empty stomach while shoveling bruschetta into my mouth. I wash and rip up the lettuce while my mother sits at the dining room table coloring with her eldest grandchild, my boy. The windows open, the smell of lemon, butter, garlic and clams. Soon they all arrive. Barreling through the door all noise, hugs, laughter and squealing children running down the hallways in every direction.
My week has been long and filled with excitement, exhaustion, adrenaline, sweaty workouts and a belly so empty that it enters into that realm of hunger where appetite disappears. I stay up late while my husband is out of town on business. I keep my boots on well past eleven at night, as if something is going to happen. Nothing ever happens, but I happen. Me in the kitchen, standing at the counter and writing. Always standing. Or texting a lifelong friend who is newly single after fifteen years of marriage. She makes me laugh, hard. Alone in the kitchen laughing. I go to bed at 1:00am. I wake up at 6:30 still laughing. I look in the mirror while brushing my teeth and try to shake the smile off my face. I crack up again. I think of the trip to Maui I just booked, alone with another one of my best friends. No kids. No husbands. I belly laugh again. I start dancing right there, alone in the bathroom while brushing my teeth.
I feel like I’m in a dream. This is not my life. Only a few weeks ago it felt as if my world was imploding, but it didn’t. Somehow my life did what it always does. It righted itself. But how? How did my friend’s family vacation to Hawaii turn into just her and I, alone, in an oceanfront two-bedroom suite for seven days?
I meet her at the gym and we workout, hard. We sit in the cafe and try to pretend like we feel bad that we’ve fallen head first into an impossible stroke of luck. We try to pretend like we care that our other friends with small children are jealous. We do NOT care.
This has been a hell of a long time coming. We’ve dreamt about taking a weekend away together since our eldest children were babies. It has been a topic of discussion at every Mom’s Night Out for the last five years. We imagined a road trip somewhere close by, perhaps Taos. But this, this was a goddam miracle. This is Mother Teresa shit right here.
I sit there amped up on black coffee and cardio.
I laugh like a jackal.
To those of you reading this while covered in baby spit up, you’ll get there one day. I never would have thought this was possible. Two years ago on a particularly bad day I loaded my kids into the double stroller and headed for the park. It began to rain and still I didn’t return home. I just pulled the canopy over the kids and kept pushing that stroller. I kept walking, one foot after the other as the rain fell harder. There was no way I was going back to that house. In the midst of it all I received a text message from this very friend. Her husband had come home and surprised her with a tropical family vacation. My reply? I’ll give you a clue, it was two words. [I’m not a bitter person, not at all]
But this friend of mine, the one I’m going to Maui with, she and I? We deserve this. We’ve been in the trenches these last five years, and I’m not just talking about babies and husbands, laundry and fucking Crockpot dinners. I’m talking about life, all the shit that swirls around those things. We’re running the marathon of our lives. At times the finish line seems a thousand miles away. At times you just keep your head down and watch your feet. You breathe and put one foot in front of the other. Again, and again, and again, your lungs burning.
We’re still miles from the finish line, but this trip?
It’s our water break.
She and I have trudged through heaven and hell the last five years. Many of those days spent together. And when not together, always texting. Messages that at times may have read, “I think I’m seriously depressed. I might need medication.” Many that have read, “I need ideas for dinner tonight. What are you cooking?” or “Wanna meet at the park? I’ve gotta get these kids out of the house!” And one that read, “I lost the baby. Are you alone? Can I come over and talk? I feel like you’re the only one who would understand right now.” And then most recently one that read…
“So, big change of plans. I might be going to Maui alone. Wanna come?”
Yes. Yes. And fuck yes!
But how would that even be possible?
A pipe dream.
And then there was a previously scheduled interview with a possible new nanny, an interview that went well. Then a phone conversation with my husband and another text message that read simply, “After five years of motherhood I deserve this.”
72 days and counting, head down, just watching my feet.