This summer, I went to Paris and Montpelier, France with my high school friend, to visit my college friend and her partner. It was the first time I’d been away from my family for an extended time. And the first time I’d traveled with girlfriends since my college days.
Leading up to the trip, I experienced remarkable anxiety – not so much about how my kids and husband would do without me, since I knew they would be just fine. It was more about me; how would I be on my own, away from the people who define my life? How would I know what to do, how to behave, even be myself, without them?
I’m a born worrier, so I worried. Not about things like plane crashes, but more about the little things, like whether I could find good coffee (I did, at the Bar To Be, across the street from my hotel, the Hotel De Bains). And beer that I liked (ditto: Leffe).
Turns out, I had a reason to worry. While I was gone, our house was burglarized, while my family slept. Amazingly and thankfully, they were all okay, and all we lost was several hundred dollars worth of electronics. More than that, we lost time, energy and worry over getting our stuff sorted out in the aftermath. The electronic revolution means that EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU AND YOUR LIFE is stored on your laptop and if that gets stolen, you are ffd.
After the early morning call from my husband, which was in the middle of the night for him, I had a rough time, wondering whether I should stay, feeling guilty about finding enjoyment in things while he was suffering and dealing with the fallout on his own.
I suppose, in the scheme of things, we did well. We skyped. It was awesome to see Ed and the kids via computer. L and M seemed unsure about the whole experience. Where was mommy; she could not be touched – she could only be seen and heard? They lost interest rapidly since there was no flesh and blood to tickle them or to climb upon. When you are reduced to the two-dimensional, kids know.
Kelly, Deanna and Sarah were awesome, though. They commiserated. They cheered me up. They fed me wine and cheese and sausages. We walked the streets of Montpelier; we biked to the Ocean; we visited the gay Communist, Che beach (what could be better than that to make you feel better after a break in?).
The beauty and wonder of Paris, well, it is damn amazing. But even seeing the statues of Rodin, the flowers of Luxembourg, and Le Tour at night – all that rolled into one – none of that can beat the smile and hug of M when you come bearing hello kitty sparkly pink t-shirts of Le Tour. And it certainly can’t beat L finally remembering me (he hid behind Ed for a while, wouldn’t talk to me at first, maybe wasn’t sure it was really me) and giving me the best hug ever.
That said, having time to reconnect with friends, to experience the wonder of the world without children calling the shots is something to treasure. I do. It was s bit of the embodiment of my struggle – those days in Paris. Wondering what I thought I was doing; living some alternate life, missing the one I had, finding a way to make it all seem normal. Or rather, extraordinary.