You should be here. Really, every mother should at least once a year. Here, a place away from the schedules and the obligations and the day-to-day goings on.
When I packed my bags three days ago and headed to the beach with my five girlfriends (we have been doing this 17 years now) I left my husband a note. It reminded him of Graham’s birthday party Wednesday afternoon and Caleb’s on Sunday. It told him who got which present, which were all wrapped on the kitchen table and ready to go. I packed outfits for Truman (who spent a couple nights with the in-laws since Rick leaves for work before Truman wakes) and laid out his cleats, T-ball jersey and baseball pants so he would be ready for the big game on Saturday. I reminded Rick that there was leftover Old School Jambalaya in the freezer, and packages of hot dogs and buns in the fridge. I said that I knew he was completely capable of taking care of himself, (“I’m 40. I’m a man.”) but that I liked to feel that he couldn’t live without me.
When I packed my bags for this annual beach trip, I packed up my anxiety as well. It wore me on the first day here, reminding me that the most important people in my life are fending for themselves hundreds of miles away. It interrupted my thoughts when I tried to relax, telling me that there were assignments left undone and documents that would still need to be found for Truman’s Kindergarten registration. And, of course, there were those more intangible stresses to labor over, like the fear of growing old and gaining weight and not looking like we did when we were in college.
The six of us were sitting on the beach yesterday, reading Elizabeth Edward’s book Resilience and trying to decide what we thought about John and whether Elizabeth would have stayed with him if she were not terminal. It’s easy to talk about the people you cannot touch. We were caught up on our own world, somewhat oblivious to the others around us – the family with the blond-haired boy who giggled like my son, the two young bikinied girls walking with a group of boys, the beach monger who called us ma’am. They weaved through our vision, breaking our conversation only long enough for us to reminisce about days gone by.
The six of us rarely see each other during the course of the year. We live in different states or cities. We have lives that obligate us and responsibilities that keep us busy. And yet, when we get together for this annual beach trip our lives blend together. We share our dreams and disappointments and the secrets that bind us. It is therapy.
Last night, after eating too much food at a new restaurant here, we did the usual – we lay together in one bed and talked and laughed and played with each other’s hair. We talked about the people we once knew and agreed that being 40 was not all that bed.
And for the first time in three weeks, I slept through the night.