My mommy instincts immediately kicked in: to go would be selfish. My family most definitely could not survive without ME; who would make school lunches? Who would do laundry and clean toilets and go grocery shopping? Then, it hit me, as clichés often do—they needed this “vacation from Mom” as much as I did! I have taught them all how to care for themselves; they can certainly survive without me for a few days, I reasoned. So the decision was made: I will go away with my friends, but purely for experimental purposes, to accurately determine how much they had learned.
Off I headed to sunny San Diego, where I spent some time with my girlfriend, Christine. We sat in her yard and drank coffee together, talked endlessly about our lives, past and present, and even went out to a fancy dinner. It was pure bliss. I didn’t have any dirty underwear to pick up, no fights to stop, not even any third grade math sheets to try to figure out! It was relaxing; the weather was perfect, and I was able to meet up with lots of old friends, who traveled from near and far to see me!
Next, I joined my friend, Nancy, and she and I took off up the I-5 freeway for a six hour drive to Shaver Lake, in the Fresno, California, area. We had a fantastic drive, enjoying the beautiful sunshine and conversation and before we knew it, we were there! We met our other two cabin-mates, our good friends Lisa and Margaret, and we all settled in to our cabin in the woods. It was serene, other than our loud stories and uncontrollable laughter!
I slept on the top bunk above Nancy, because I can sleep anywhere; while Lisa and Margaret shared the large bed in the main bedroom of the cabin. The bed was comfortable enough, however, I awoke to find a spider had bitten me on the eyelid and it was entirely swollen! That did not stop us from boating on Shaver Lake, however, on a day made purely for boating. After our adventures on the water, we walked around the tiny town, looked at some of the local wares in the shops, and sat outside to have a drink. Each time we sat down for a meal, we had a toast, with each of us taking turns as the “toaster”. They were mostly simple and sweet; the kind of toasts that friends of thirty years make when they are able to get together for a weekend.
As my trip came to an end, the swelling around my eye began to subside, until I had to say good-bye to my dear friends and the crying made my eyes swell again. I called home to check on the family, only to learn that while I was away, my oldest son had crashed my van, my younger son was having issues with his homework, and my daughter was decidedly moody my whole vacation. I sighed deeply at this news. Good; I missed you guys, too!
My “vacation experiment” was a success! I got some much needed time away to rejuvenate and refocus on my family, and they got a taste of life without Mommy. They also proved what I already knew: that while they were perfectly capable of making their own lunches and doing their own laundry, they missed me. I also learned a lot about friendship on this trip, too.
I hope my kids will someday understand the importance of “getting away from it all”, even for a few days. My perspective changed while I was gone. I came home appreciating them more, even the bad stuff. I also came home appreciating my friends more; for letting me vent, for sharing in my joys, and for giving me the unconditional love that you can only get from people who “get” you.
For some reason, I did not get around to being the “toaster” while with my friends, so I will share my toast now, with all my friends, old and new:
“ This is it. It does not matter what you do for a living, how much money you have, or where you live. Life is all about the relationships, good and bad, that make you who you ultimately are as a person. The good relationships make you fulfilled and happy, the bad ones build character and help you appreciate the good ones. When we die, all we will have are our relationships to truly determine how much we were loved. Thank you, all, for being my “good ones.”