Sunday, June 6, 2010

FREEEEEEEDOM! Or, Mom's 3-Night Vacation

Last weekend Late Blooming Dad sent me off to the East Coast after assuring me, for weeks, that I'd have a much better time at my 25th college reunion if I wasn't encumbered with two five-year-olds whom I'd have to feed, bathe, and escort to the bathroom, not to mention make sure were entertained at every event.  I admit I'd had misgivings; my first instinct had been to schlep the entire family with me for the big event, even though I knew from previous reuinons in my pre-kid life that, aside from the family field day event, which always involves a few child-friendly activities, there would be precious little for them to do while I ran into person after person I hadn't seen for decade(s) who wanted to chat me up.  I had a picture in my mind of my kids frolicking on my college green, where I'd spent many a happy/tortured/day-dreaming/angst-ridden/text-book-reading/frozen-lemonade-eating hour.  I thought about them wearing way-too-expensive clothing  items purchased from the university bookstore, emblazoned with the university's name.  I thought about dining with them in the dining halls, sleeping with them in the dorms, and the cosmic coolness of walking around my youthful haunts with the kids who weren't even a gleam in my eye back then.

But Late Blooming Dad was right.

 It would've been a drag -- for them, for me, for all of us -- with me having to wrangle the kids while making fruitless attempts at having overly rushed adult conversations with way too many people, or worse, me abandoning the kids to Late Blooming Dad's care, foisting them upon him so I could just "please please please" have a moment with my freshman year hall mates.

So instead, off I went alone, while Late Blooming Dad signed up for full-on solo parenting for four nights/three days.  I'd at least arranged for a the babysitter to come one night, to give him a much-needed break putting the kids to bed himself each night.  But otherwise, he'd be on his own, and giving me a great gift, indeed:  the gift of time with people I rarely, if ever, get to see, and the gift of seeing them without having to be mom at the same time.

Mostly, I had a blast.

I had dinners and lunches with close friends and some I hadn't seen for ages.  I attended the storybook  campus-wide, night-time outdoor dance on the college green that's the mother of all cocktail parties.  I attended a reception for my class, I combed through the bookstore (did I buy the overpriced kids' clothes with the school name?  You bet).  I spoke on a panel about my career and the university's influence on shaping it.  I visited the pizza place, the chocolate cake place, and the parts of downtown that have been totally redone, turning what was a dump of a downtown into an urben gem.  Best of all, I reconnected with so many people, and spent quality time -- I'm talking into the wee hours conversations in a dorm room -- with friends I've kept up with and cherished but get to see all too rarely.  I also renewed my connection to a place and a tradition that have kept that college ring on my right-hand ring finger for 25 years, grateful I'd been allowed to spend four years at a beautiful place, where I got to try out and try on so many different roles in my outside-the-classroom life.  Sure, I had some good professors, read some great books, took some amazing courses.  But the people I met, the pool of fascinating, smart, multi-faceted people with whom I experienced some of those four years are who really made the experience.  And it was stimulating and wonderful to be hanging out with them again.  No place I've lived or worked in the post-college world has been as inspiring an environment.  It was exhilarating to be back in it.

But there were also sad moments.  Some of my classmates are no longer around, and there was a list of them posted on the wall of our class reception.  I knew one of them pretty well and it was hard grappling with the weird twists of fate that allowed so many of us to be reconnecting while a few of us got robbed of long and happy lives.  Then there were the tales of illness, of marital discord, of divorce and moving on.  It was time for me to repay in some way the amazing love and support my friends have given me over the years.  It reinforced how important it was for me to be there, to be there for someone else who needed the unburden, and who needed the support.  Then there was difficulty with a friend over social plans -- I was spread so thin over the weekend trying to see everyone -- that I hope hasn't ended the friendship.

As I sat at the airport waiting to board the plane back, I called Late Blooming Dad and Things 1 and 2 and felt a warm feeling descend over me.  I'd missed them moments of every day, and had checked in each day.  Part of the reason it was so terrific going back to college and connecting to who I was at another point in time, was that I was now going back to the me I am now, the person who grew out of the one in college, and who now counts a loving family to come home to.

A distinguished gentleman sitting opposite me with his wife waited till I got off the phone, then asked me if I'd just come from my college reunion.  I told him yes, my 25th.  Turned out he'd been there too -- for his 50th.  He said it was "deeply moving, intense ... and wonderful."  And then he chatted with me about HIS family.

The touchstones in life become richer and deeper as we progress.  I still plan to bring the kids to see my college on the hill one day.  That mental picture I had is going to come to life, the kids in their college-emblazoned clothes, slurping down frozen lemonade in the New England heat.  But for now, I'm content with the weekend I had without them, the sheer untethered fun of it ... and the joy it gave me to come back home.

6 comments:

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Sammy said...

Holly,

Nice to see you at the reunion. Next year it will be your turn to stay at home while Late-Blooming Dad goes to his reunion!

Sammy

Alex said...

Great combination of nostalgia and anticipation.

Just lovely.

William V. Madison said...

You married a mensch. (I think you know that.) But he has done something more than his duty. You were needed in Providence. Brown reunions were meant for you -- not only for the experience you have, but also for the experience you share with others.

Indeed, my reunion was the poorer for your absence. Why must you be younger than I? Still! After all these years! Stop it!

Sarah Maizes said...

I'm so jealous and it sounds like you had a GREAT time! Loved this post. Best, Sarah @ Mommy Lite Online

Tatiana @ Maddie's Adventures said...

Good for you that you got a no doubt, much needed break!

I just posted an article on why us moms need to take "mom holidays" every now and then!

Sounds like you took a nice one!

--- Tatiana