Last night I had two dreams. In the first dream, I was standing in the driveway of a friend’s house – more specifically, one of my preteen friends who I haven’t thought of or spoken to in decades. As I looked around at the bucolic setting – which is true to life; my friend lived on a dirt road heading out of town, and in all directions there were meadows extending into forests – my friend, now an adult, and her parents materialized in front of me, huffing and rosy cheeked, just finishing up a nice, wholesome run. My friend said something to me – what? I don’t know – and as she did, her parents walked around me, towards the house, holding hands. I followed them with my eyes, and noticed her brother working on something in the garage. It was just an ordinary scene, but it exuded happiness. A calm, natural contentedness with life. And did I mention the sun was sliding down under the horizon, making everything glow?
The only other thing I remember about the dream was going into the house, and realizing that everything was the same as it was in my childhood. The same layout, the same furniture, the same seventies carpet. These people hadn’t gained anything material in the last fifteen years, but here they were satisfied. Not just satisfied, but glowing, holding hands.
This was the first dream.
My second dream was more like a nightmare; one you wake up from gasping for air, grateful you are home, safe in bed. Although on the surface it seemed exciting – I was going to Thailand! And it was exciting for a while. (Forgive the description of this second dream. It was a bit frenetic, and therefore less crisp) I think I was ecstatic about going on a long journey, hitting the road, being free. But then Matty appeared, reminding me I had children, and was I going to bring them? And if not, I could only be gone for a week, because after that he would need to go back to work. (I’ve been having versions of this dream for as long as I’ve had children in my care – that I’m at a party or on a trip, drinking, off-the-hook, and – wait a minute – where are the children?) At first this news was devastating, and then my dream mind adapted, and began planning a shorter trip. But upon doing this, fear set in. Little details weren’t adding up. How would I get to from the airport to the guest-house? When would I have time to pack? Did I really even have a plane ticket? I don’t even speak Thai… The dream grew more and more anxiety ridden until I finally woke up, and the fact that I was not going anywhere – except into the kitchen to cook breakfast – sent relief flowing through me.
Relief? At not going anywhere? When did this happen to me? It wasn’t so long ago that my reaction to both these dreams would have been reversed; the first one would have been the nightmare and the second one exciting. I would have woken up from both dreams feeling restless, feeling like I needed to move.
Not that I don’t get excited for trips anymore… In fact, when my best friend called to tell me she was getting married in January, and could Matt and I make it down to W. Virginia to celebrate?, (without our kids) I immediately secured child-care and began anticipating something I haven’t had in years: four days of unfettered pleasure.
But in the weeks leading up to the big take-off, (Matty and I have only left the kids overnight once, and that was just one night…) my enthusiasm was beginning to wane. The task of leaving a play-by-play list for my mother of what needs to happen over four days, where things are, how things work seemed a gargantuan task. Figuring out the details of how I would get to the airport, packing, wondering how I could leave my kids alone for so long, worrying… all of it made going away seem so daunting, and I began wishing I could just stay home. My life was beginning to look like my second dream come true. (Who is this person?)
But of course I went. My friend picked me up to take me to the airport at 11:00 Friday morning (a part of my original plan was to ask someone to take me to the airport early, even though my flight didn’t leave until 5:30pm, so that I could hang out in the airport all day by myself, doing whatever I wanted) and I left feeling very unsettled that I didn’t get to pick up Emerson from school and say goodbye. We took off out of the driveway and all I could envision was planes crashing or snow falling off the roof onto Ophelia. Had I remembered to tell my mother about this danger?
But once we were on the highway – just two exits from my house – all my worries disappeared. Life as I’ve been living it for the past five years receded in the rear-view mirror, and the open road lay ahead. It happened that fast.
My time at the airport was just as I’d envisioned it. I was able to write – uninterrupted and with complete focus – for at least two hours. I sat at the bar and sipped a beer while I intermittently read, paused to actually THINK about what I read, and people-watched. Matty showed up later, and we enjoyed a flight during which we talked about everything BUT our children. We were giddy and youthful, and we hadn’t even seen our friends yet. This was going to be fun…
And it was SO fun. I would love to say that it was great to be – finally – with only adults, or that we were able to do adult things, but the reality is, that is was great to take a break from being an adult and just goof off. Being with kids takes us back to our youth in certain ways – we have excuses to sled and roller skate – but in most ways having children forces us to grow up. We need to be responsible for them. We need to be a roll model for them. We need to be an authority figure – even if we are not authoritative, in fact.
But when you take a break from that… watch out!
Dawn and Brian (or as Emerson would say – Bacon and Snore-O) are made for each other…
Congratulations you guys! We love you!
On the flight home, I revelled in our journey. It wasn’t to Thailand, or New Zealand, or China. It was even better than that – I traveled to a different time.
I traveled to a time when you picked girlfriends not for their warmth or personality, but because they were close to you in size – especially shoe size – which made borrowing their clothes easier. I traveled to a time when you could drink beer in the backseat of some one’s car – while they were driving. I traveled to a time when you could stay awake until 3 in the morning, and wake up whenever you felt like it. I traveled to a time when I didn’t worry about bedtimes, mealtimes, buckling people in the car. And I can’t wait to go back there again.
I was happy to see Emerson and Ophelia when I got home, (even though I didn’t miss them at all – which I think is healthy…) and wouldn’t want my life to be anywhere else right now, but I am also happy to know that my adventurous self still lives inside of me. It is nice to be reminded that life exists elsewhere too, and when the time comes for the girls to be more independent, I will enter that life again whole-heartily. Until then, I will take these little spurts as gifts.
Most important, I am happy to know that I can still have fun with my husband! I sometimes wonder if we will have anything to talk about after the girls have left home. Now I know, for sure, that we will.