There’s an old Partridge Family song that my college roommates and I used to sing on roadtrips – a song best sung at a bellow, accompanied by expansive arm gestures: “Point me … in the direction of Albuquerque… I want to go home…I want to go ho-ho-hommme.” This past weekend, in a happy conjunction of a 10th wedding anniversary and an academic conference, Husband and I pointed ourselves in the direction of Albuquerque for four days without our children. My mother – who is soon to be canonized – stayed with the boys in New York.
Ten years of marriage. A decade that encompassed, in no particular order: two tenures, a mother with pancreatic cancer and liver failure (and subsequent death, after a year in bed); the near-death of one child, a miscarriage, another mother’s divorce and subsequent re-marriage, 9/11, eight years of Dubya (about whom we said, in 2000, “how bad could it be?” thus proving that one should not ask questions to which one doesn’t really want answers), the birth of a second child, two unpublished books, two unproduced screenplays, major reconstructive knee surgery followed by two months on crutches, innumerable academic conferences, three published books, several handfuls of published articles, and living for more than a year in a two-room apartment with one (very small) closet.
Frankly, sharing the closet came the closest to breaking us.
So there’s been a lot of water under the bridge in these last years, which is perhaps why it comes as no surprise that we’ve not gone away together, without the boys, in more than eight years. Each of us has had little solo jaunts, and we’ve had a few overnights here and there, but a string of days, just the two of us?
It’s been eight years of sleepus interruptus, of endless rounds of meal preparation and clean-up, of sounding interested in the Bernstein Bears, or Thomas the Train, or Jedi, Pokemon, Batman. And on and on.
This is not to say that as a family we haven’t taken trips together but as a very wise cousin of mine pointed out, there is family trip and there is vacation. Vacation is what you do when you go somewhere without your kids, even if it’s into the hospital for a routine tonsillectomy.
Being on vacation means that even when our flight from O’Hare to Albuquerque was delayed by more than an hour, I didn’t care. I didn’t have two small children pulling on my hands in opposite directions; I wasn’t asking anyone to stop sliding into third base along the polished concourse floor; I wasn’t cramming three bodies into one bathroom stall to pee before we got on the plane.
I traveled with my laptop, a magazine, my conference papers, and a paperback book. Everything fit beautifully in my shoulder bag, which is not I realize, news in and of itself. But do you know what was NOT in my bag?
small bags of pretzels
crayons, markers, and things to glue
portable dvd player
binder of dvds
changes of underwear
This list is crazy long and I know it’s symbolic of my travel madness; one day, I suppose, when my children are closer to being people than to babies, I will not have shove every possible eventuality into my carry-on bag.
So you can imagine my state of mind – and my non-aching back – as I walked through the Albuquerque “Sunport,” as they call it, and out into the Land of Enchantment (it says so right on the license plates), where the sun shines 310 days a year.
We had a glorious weekend – visited cousins in Santa Fe (where my cousin’s wife Laurie just opened a lovely little shop), went for two long hikes in the hills, had great food – and oh yeah, the conference was good too. I love Santa Fe, always have (which is not saying much, I know – doesn’t everyone? The real surprise would be falling in love with, say, Detroit. Or Duluth).
I wish I could tell you that Husband and I fell madly in love with each other all over again, or that we’re still glowing in the memory of our trip, or that I found my spiritual center somewhere on Big Yesuque trail, north of Santa Fe.
I didn’t. I mean, Husband and I remembered that we are capable of conversation that extends beyond discussions of logistics and schedules, so that’s good; and grimy loud LaGuardia didn’t completely destroy the memory of wind in the pines at ten thousand feet, so that’s good too.
Here is what I discovered:
I was happy to leave my children.
I was happy to come back to my children.
And I suppose even if I left Manhattan to live in Santa Fe, I would bring that paradox with me: it’s where all parents live.