This trip recap was written on Monday evening on the plane from San Jose to Dallas.
Where to begin?
For several years I have been toying with the idea of a trip to California with no kids. The advent of Eliza put those plans on hold for a while, and I hadn’t much thought about it until last month, after Robert had decided to give me a trip as a late birthday gift. He’d had somewhere closer to home in mind, as we’d planned to go to CA for Christmas, but when I saw a very cheap OKC to San Jose fare online the idea began to germinate. Eliza’s 19 months old now and I’d already left her with Robert for five days back in May. If we swapped our family Christmas trip for my solo trip he’d be able to take a week off to take care of the kids since he wouldn’t need a bunch of time off at Christmas. We had our usual delays and roadblocks in getting my plane ticket and I was beginning to think I might have to forget about it, but everything suddenly clicked into place and I booked the ticket a mere week before my departure date.
And so Friday night, November 8th, found me arriving at my parents’ house with one half-full suitcase. I didn’t arrive until after 10 p.m., as my connection out of Orange County was vastly delayed, and then I’d stopped to eat and shop at a Gymboree factory store that was on the way. Therefore I went, basically, straight to bed and didn’t really have much opportunity for my childless state of being to sink in. In fact, I am not sure just when it did sink in. It seemed to me that I slipped into the single and carefree attitude rather easily. On the other hand, for the entire first week I was there, when I’d walk toward the bathroom in the middle of the night I’d see the closed door of the “kids’ room” and have a brief inkling that I should go in and check on them, followed immediately by the realization that they weren’t there. So I never entirely shifted out of mommy mode. Who can?
Indeed, when I set out on this trip I wondered if it would turn out to be any fun, at all. The previously-referenced trip I took in May, when I traveled to Louisville to attend the world’s largest Beatles tribute festival, wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as I’d anticipated. It was my third time attending and the first two times I’d had a blast. This time the entire weekend was kind of flat. I missed my kids; truly, I feared if I’d become one of those people who doesn’t know how have a good time without the children. If you’re that person, and you are okay with that, then that’s great. But that’s not me. It does not bode well for my ability to cope once my kids have left the nest if I am unable to delight in things that are not child-centered. Therefore it behooves me to preserve and nurture my enjoyment of outside interests, if at all possible.
I was pleasantly surprised, though, to find myself fairly easily switching over to “me mode.” As I said, I never fully clicked off mommy mode, but I was able to dial it down enough that it wasn’t my primary focus. Yes, I missed the kids and Robert. And, naturally, I thought of them often and wondered how they were getting along. I called every night (and other times, too) to check on everyone. But, mainly, the trip was all about me. And I needed that. Oh, how I needed that! I am reaching the end of my patience with being by myself all the time. I’d been sick the entire week leading up to the trip. The illness that had affected each of the other members of my family for only one or two days lingered in me for five days. I was run down, not to mention bored, dejected and just plain tired. A couple hours here and there to run errands by myself or go to the movies does me good for a while but, eventually, it quits working. So I needed this break — a complete and total break — to recharge.
And what did I do on my vacation? A lot…and nothing. It was just the kind of California visit I enjoy — plenty of activities but still abundant time to just sit and relax and not feel like there was something I should’ve been doing. And this time the downtime really was that: downtime, with no meals to be fixed or outfits to be ironed or naps to be coerced or meals to be fixed or cleaned up. I had only myself to look after and it was fabulous.
The first two days I was there my mom and I did our shopping tour. Day one was the outlets in Pismo Beach, where I discovered, much to my joy and amazement, that a Gymboree company store had opened! My online sources had mentioned nothing of this last time I’d checked so it was a complete shock. On day two we went north to Target, Kohl’s and JC Penney. On Monday I realized that my eye, which had looked red Friday by the time I got to Atascadero, was not getting any better, so I went to a walk-in clinic and was given some prescription antibiotic eye drops. My mom stayed with me the entire appointment and, I swear, it was shades of ten or fifteen years ago. After the appointment my parents and I went to Tastee Freeze for ice cream, even though it was only 10:30 a.m. I would NEVER get ice cream at 10:30 a.m. if I had kids with me.
One day I went to Cambria, on the coast, with a friend. She and I haven’t spent kid-free time together in years. Between hers and mine, there’s always a child or two tagging along. But, this time, she took a day off work and we made ourselves scarce. We had a gorgeous lunch (Mustache Pete’s — look it up if you ever find yourself in Cambria, CA), did some window shopping, and then we ventured to the beach. By happy accident I parked just where the tide pools began, so we spent an hour or more picking our way around the rocks, looking at anemones and starfish and hermit crabs, and digging for rocks and shells. Afterward we weren’t ready to end the day yet so we went to Baskin-Robbins. It was just a genuinely nice day.
Another good day was Friday. I was pleasantly surprised to find out my high school alma mater still had one regular season football game left to play, against our biggest rivals, and that I’d be in town for it. I am so used to visiting only in winter, spring and summer that it hadn’t even occurred to me that Atascadero might still be playing. I picked up my friend Nichol, whom I’ve known since the third grade and went all through high school with, and brought her to the game, where we met up with Jennifer. Even though there were no seats left and we had to sit on a steep hill in the dirt and rocks, I had a great time, and I think the other girls did, too. Of course, it helped that Atascadero won! It wasn’t just a rivalry game, either — it was for the PAC 7 championship. After the game I drove Nichol home and we had a good talk on the way. I am glad I invited her because the night wouldn’t have been nearly as nice without her.
I ate well this trip, too. I was able to try numerous new places. It was so much simpler with just myself for whom to plan. When the kids are along they are usually clamoring for food and, instead of feeling as though I can take the time to find somewhere new, I tend to just make a dash to the nearest familiar place to get the meal over with. I don’t know that any of the new places were outstanding enough that I’ll go back again, but at least now I know, and I found out by paying for only one meal rather than four or five. Now that I am starting to realize the scope and breadth of untried places in the area I am motivated to continue trying new things next time we go back. I did hit some old favorites, though — namely the aforementioned Mustache Pete’s, and, of course, Baskin-Robbins and Thrifty ice cream!
Lest you think that my parents’ house lacks a kitchen or something, I should also mention that my parents indulged me with two meals and one dessert which I had requested prior to my arrival. Meal #1 was grilled pork loin, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. Meal #2 was homemade chicken noodle soup, to which I added my special cheesy herb bread and a salad with bleu cheese vinaigrette. Dessert was pumpkin pie, which my mom made. Yes, I was well-treated on my trip.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, so at around 11:15 this morning I said goodbye to my parents and pointed my nose north. As of this writing I am currently mid-air, about an hour (as the plane flies) from Dallas. Surprisingly, I was able to get on an earlier flight from San Jose, and have a chance of making the earlier connection to Oklahoma City. If that happens I will arrive a good two hours ahead of schedule — but still not early enough for Robert to come pick me up; not with little kids who have school tomorrow. So, no matter what time I get in, I will grab a taxi to my already-paid-for room near the airport, spend the night, and be reunited with Robert and Eliza in the morning when they arrive to pick me up. Incidentally, Robert is going to attend the Oklahoma Bar Association convention in the city this week, so after he arrives to pick me up I will drive him over to his hotel and leave him there until Friday. This means I’ll drive home and jump right back into the normal routine: receiving Johnny off the bus at 2:45, going to pick up Madalyn half an hour later, dinner, baths, laying out school clothes for the next day. A mother’s work is never done, I suppose….unless she has a wonderful husband who can help her at least suspend her responsibilities for a refreshing and renewing moment in time.
(Incidentally, I was unable to get on an earlier OKC flight and arrived as scheduled, but it wasn’t a big deal.)