My sister is getting married in July, and since I'm pretty sure waddling onto an airplane, looking like I might go into labor if anyone so much as breathes on me is highly discouraged by the TSA, my OBGYN and my HUSBAND, I opted to fly out and visit her before my belly got too big to qualify as carry-on luggage.
And so with my children safely in the care of my parents, I packed my bags, bid my family adieu (which I'm pretty sure is French for Adios, Suckers!), and left for the airport, visions of sitting peacefully in seat 15F for six hours dancing in my head.
After having been around at least one of my own children pretty much all day, every day for the past three years, ten months and 27 days, I sometimes forget how amazingly FREE I am when I don't have the little shirt-tuggers following me around and asking for fruit snacks every five freaking seconds. How even a menial task like using a public restroom seems so beautiful in its simplicity when it's just me. I strutted on inside, did my thing, washed my (and only my) hands, and I think even had a chance to glance in the mirror, marveling at how unfrazzled I looked for a change. I didn't have to wait for the handicapped stall, didn't have to reprimand anyone from peeking beneath the doors or touching the little aluminum maxi pad disposal container or winding toilet paper around him or herself as I sat helpless on the porcelain throne, my threats echoing and futile and probably pretty entertaining to a passerby.
And that was just at the airport. The trip itself was almost as relaxing as the restroom at JAX. I luxuriated in a king-sized bed for hours and hours, not having to get up because of nightmares, lost loveys, or because the dog has decided that he absolutely has to go outside and sniff around the grill for some remnant of last summer's charred bar-b-que, then pee on it. I didn't have to coordinate my shower with five other people to ensure that Elsa didn't take my absence as an opportunity to practice her penmanship on the living room carpet. I didn't have to cut up anyone's food, wipe anyone's ass or do anyone's laundry. I even read two entire books during my travels. The kind without pictures.
And because I was able to have a few minutes of uninterrupted thoughts while I was away, I had an epiphany: People who don't yet have children have an ENORMOUS amount of free time on their hands.
Now before I have Childless Adults Anonymous and People For The Ethical Treatment Of Adults Living Child-Free, Unfettered Lives banging down my door, demanding retractions and sensitivity training, let me elaborate here. I understand that there are plenty of people out there who don't have kids and also have no free time. And I'm not saying that people without kids just lay around all day long, watching YouTube clips and 8 consecutive episodes of Weeds, snarfing down popcorn and soda, their biggest inconvenience hoisting themselves out of bed to walk ten steps to the nearest bathroom.
But that's exactly what my sister and I did the first day I was in LA. And it was fabulous.
I couldn't get over it. I couldn't believe I was actually lying around for hours and hours, only lifting one greasy finger when I wanted more popcorn. I kept remarking to my sister how nice it was, and that the last time I lay around like that was roughly five years ago, when I was severely hung-over.
"Really?" she said, sounding awestruck. "This is a typical Sunday for me."
"Really?" I sounded equally awestruck. "That's awesome."
I spent the entire weekend around my sister and her fiancee, my brother and his girlfriend, and a variety of other people, none of whom had children. I felt like I was a guest at some secret society, an underground subculture of citizens who can do pretty much anything they want when they aren't at work. We went out to breakfast, lunch, dinner at restaurants that had neither play areas nor kids' menus. We drove around LA and I didn't worry about one of my children getting restless or dumping entire bags of Goldfish onto the floormats. We walked down sidewalks and I didn't need to grab sticky little hands or sweatshirt hoods to keep munchkins from fleeing into oncoming traffic or irritating the elderly. We shopped in stores that didn't carry toys or diapers--I don't think I've ever gone this long without patronizing a Target. It was such an odd feeling, like I'd forgotten to wear underwear. And pants.
The thing was, toward the end of the trip, I really started to miss the little gum-swallowers. My hand felt empty, my voice underused. I felt too rested, too sane. I hadn't prepared a single cup of chocolate milk in LA, wiped a single nose. Which was all great in the beginning, but as I packed up my bags and prepared for the journey home, I found myself actually looking forward to soothing Elsa in the middle of the night, smoothing her hair and feeling her warm breath on my cheek. I couldn't wait to see Rollie's blond head bopping around the house, to hear his unrelenting questions and inexorable requests for me to play Toy Story with him. I couldn't wait to slip back into the familiarity of crappy sleep, dishpan hands and toy landmines.
And while it was fun introducing my sister to the Bed Intruder Song and the Double Rainbow, when my dad emailed me pictures of my kids and what they'd been up to while I was away, I couldn't wait to see them again. There really is no place like home.
PS--I really missed Jeff, too.