I’m a mom with school-aged children who works from home, so my days are pretty routine and predictable. A good chunk of those days is spent feeding people, cleaning up after people, or listening to people. All of this makes me pretty tired at the end of the day so I look forward to when the kiddos are in bed and I can just sit and be (nearly) done with my day, adult beverage in hand.
On the really exhausting days, I daydream about a break from the routine, maybe a vacation to some place sunny, where I’m not cleaning or feeding or listening. So when my husband signed up for Ironman in Cozumel, Mexico, I thought: Sun! No kids! Busy husband! Whee!
I arrived the day after my husband, as we relied on the kindness of friends to take care of the kiddos so I didn’t want to be gone longer than necessary. Because I needed to be at the airport so early the day of my flight, I took the girls over to my friend’s house the night before.
The next morning I had no one but myself to get ready. It was so quick! I was out the door like 30 minutes after I woke up and never had to remind anyone to brush her teeth. So carefree! What a lovely start to my time away.
Traveling with only a backpack, I strolled through the airport to my gate. I stopped for breakfast and coffee. I didn’t have to ask anyone what they wanted or remind anyone to stay by me in line. No redirection. No bribing. No getting anyone settled before I could eat. I casually scrolled through Facebook and CNN and Twitter while I ate my airport eggs.
Once I was settled on the plane I read for a bit. I wrote for a bit. I got up and used the bathroom — BY MYSELF. We arrived in Cozumel and I deplaned hands free, a benefit of needing only my backpack for such a short trip. I took a shuttle to the hotel with strangers, one of whom I discovered lives only miles from me. I checked into the hotel and found our room. My husband was attending to Ironman business so I had the next two hours to myself. MYSELF, I say.
I opened the balcony and enjoyed the view of the bright blue caribbean waters. I listened to the kids splashing in the pool hidden behind the palm trees below. I took a deep breath to treat my body to the humid, salty air while a cool breeze blew my hair.
And I was sad.
For all the busy-ness that comes with them — the tired days, the lack of me time, the often needing to put myself at the bottom of the list — I missed my girls. It was a Saturday and we normally had Saturdays all together. The girls might be reading or drawing or watching TV or playing on the iPad while I take care of laundry or lunch, but on Saturdays I am usually no more than 30 feet away from them. On this Saturday, I was in Cozumel. They were in Houston. And my heart felt like it had been stretched and pulled across the entire Gulf of Mexico.
I laid myself on the bed and wondered what to do for the next two hours. I put on my swim suit and walked down to the snack bar by the pool and got a burrito. After I’d eaten all the shredded beef from the inside, I ordered a drink from the bar. I didn’t see my usual spirit so I opted for the Johnnie Walker Red on the rocks with club soda. The mix was a little heavy on the club soda.
I looked around and considered sitting by the pool with my drink. I’d left my Kindle in our room, though. I didn’t want to be the creepy lady sitting by the pool watching other people’s kids, so I went back to the room.
I returned to the balcony with my drink, once again admiring the caribbean blue waters. I decided if I was going to miss my kids anyway, this was as good of a place as any to do it. The tropical birds were chirping as I sipped my scotch and soda. A cruise ship in the harbor sounded its billowing horn. I started to relax into my brief tropical escape.
And then my husband came back. I resumed my listening responsibilities and began my role as Ironman Cheerleader.
But it was a nice vacation moment while it lasted.