Taking a Breath

Once a year I hop in the car and drive away for a weekend with my girlfriends in Palm Springs.

It’s becoming a tradition that I could really get behind. It satisfies those pesky feelings that come around once in a while that whisper, “RUN. Run now. They won’t catch you. Someone else can do the dishes.”

It’s nice to turn to them and answer, “Yes, of course. It’s just that I’m so busy right now. I’ll tell you what…next May we’ll run away to a place where we will never do dishes, clean, cook, or run laundry. Ever. OK?” And then I get on with my day.

I get mixed reactions to my weekend away from the family. Hubby supports it, inasmuch as he is thinking to himself, “Self,” he thinks, “this is the weekend where I won’t do dishes, clean, cook, or run laundry! Awesome.”

The daughters are thinking, “Mom is so lucky! Why can’t I go too? I’m a girl! Please, please, please don’t leave us with three males of the species!”

The sons are thinking, “Dad’s gonna be in charge. That means hotdogs and pizza for dinner and random adventures that we will always be running late for. Awesome!”

All I am thinking on the day before I leave is, “The laundry is completely caught up, the kitchen is clean and a pre-made dinner is in the freezer. I’ve signed all the school papers and left reminders on the calendar for the weekend for everybody. I’m packed, there’s gas in the car, directions on the GPS, and every cell phone here has my number in it.”

Not that they need it.

Mine is the only one that all of them have memorized.

Never would I have attempted this in the younger years. You don’t leave diapers to chance. The kids are all old enough to forage for food in the kitchen if abandoned to their fate. No one will accidentally leave a stove burner on. At least not for long. The strange smell in the house should alert people.

Right?

This is the part where I force myself to take a mental detour into a happy place and sit there on time out for a reality check: the house will not burn down, a child will not lose a body part, no one is getting sick; everyone will be safe, fed, and happy until Mom comes home.

It’s only two days.

Palm Springs is lovely in May. Warm poolside weather, funny movies on the telly, books and magazines, maid service and restaurant meals. Sleeping in as long as you want is a treat so rare, only a mom could fully appreciate it. It’s what we do after a night of sitting in the spa, drinking margaritas, star gazing and talking the night away.

A decadent game we play once in a while is “doing nothing”: you settle down in a comfy chair with a wonderful view, and…do absolutely nothing. Except smile.

It makes us uneasy after five minutes or so, but it’s fun practice.

Our drive home includes side trips to massive shopping malls. Hunting down a good bargain gets our head back in the game, so to speak.

As soon as I pulled up to my house, the instincts kicked into full alert.

One does not simply “ease” back into reality from a vacation, however brief.

The garage door was open but no one was around.

Hm.

I walked into the house, rolling my red carry-on behind me.

I came full stop in the middle of what used to be my living room.

Couches and tables were pushed along the walls, cushions piled up in drifts. Heaps of clothing here and there suggested closets had been sick at some point. There were Legos in the potted plants. Empty cups, half empty soda bottles, plates of crumbs and a trail of skittles led to a kitchen of greasy countertops and a truly exciting refrigerator full of leftovers. Empty pizza boxes stacked in a corner. Candy spilled out of opened bags like little lava flows.

The bodies of my family were draped over furniture, trapped in suspended animation. Only their eyes moved as they followed my speechless tour around the house.

I stopped in front of the Hubby. He smiled faintly.

“Why hello!” he said, clearing his throat, “I didn’t know you were coming home so early.”

My daughter called out softly from her place on the floor, “We had so many people over here!”

“We went swimming and shopping and watched movies all night!” bragged a son from behind a couch.

“Um,” was what I managed to say.

“We’ve already been cleaning for a couple of hours,” said Hubby, sensing the direction of my thoughts, “it looks pretty good now.”

After unpacking, I rolled up my sleeves and stepped back into the fast moving rhythm of making a house a home. I knew the steps by heart.

It’s always good to be back.

And Palm Springs will be waiting for me the next time I need a breath of fresh air.

Once in a while, moms need a breath of fresh air.

Once in a while, moms need a breath of fresh air.

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