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Left the kids for a few days. It only took 12 years.

“So we’re going to grandma and grandpa’s bungalow…” My 6 year old repeated back to my nodding face. “But you and daddy are going somewhere else?”

He looked at me somewhat uncomprehending. It’s not his fault. This would be the first time we left our three boys to take a couple of days to ourselves. Of course it should have happened years ago but for one clingy reason or another, it just didn’t.

But now that we were, we weren’t just dropping them at their boring old house. We were leaving them at the bungalow colony where they spend their summers, a virtual kid haven when my husband and I were growing up, which of course is now a literal senior haven. Still, there were random kids about, long green lawns, a pool, frogs and salamanders… what else do 12, 9 and 6 year old boys need?

Their mommy, I thought guiltily.

“Yes,” I confirmed enthusiastically to his soft brown eyes and sweet chubby cheeks. “Daddy and I are going to have a little vacation and so are you and your brothers.”

He didn’t look thrilled.

Even at 6, my youngest is still the baby. He isn’t quite ready to do playdates outside of our house. He doesn’t like to go places if I’m not going, even with Daddy and his brothers. He hugs me vigorously when I leave to go to the supermarket or out to dinner. He has made some major progress towards independence this past year – Hello Kindergarten and camp! – but it’s slow going.

“It’ll be fun!” I cheered which only made him scowl at me skeptically.

When we walked into the bungalow to drop their bags and our kids, grandma was ready. “Who wants eggs and pancakes?” She asked excitedly as the boys settled in.

We left them there, among many hugs and with devices that could communicate with us with the touch of their fingers.

My older boys were good, only my youngest sat on the fence, looking at me like I’d left him in a basket with a note pinned to his blanket.

It hurt and I worried. Of course, he would be fine with his grandparents and his brothers, but he was sad, which made me sad.

Still I walked out and he let me go which was a huge step in itself. I was intent on blocking out that little face and having fun with just my husband, if we could even remember how to do that.

It turned out letting go was easier than I thought.

The minute we were off, my brain was off them as well. I was excited for our time away; our two nights and a half day. We hiked, played tennis and row boated. We talked and ate and ate. It was good, really good. Of course we face-timed with the kids and they sent back pictures of themselves catching frogs.

We were all happy and we weren’t together.

We could all be happy and not be together? It was a novel concept.

When we returned to the bungalow, their beautiful faces momentarily lit with pleasure before tumbling over one another to excitedly detail their frog catching adventures. The past days of fabulous coupledom were already long gone and it was good to be back, but now that I had drunk the Kool Aid…

“So how was it?” I asked my youngest.

He shrugged in his shy way, “It was good.”

“You were okay?” I pressed. Now that we were together, somehow I was worried again.

“I was fine.” He said and I believed him, because surprisingly I was fine too.

Turns out, getting away was good for us all.

I’m already planing our next escape.




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Another day in paradise…

It just changes you. I don’t know whether it’s the brainwashing from years of watching the television commercials showing pristine beaches and sun drenched skies; the happy faced islanders inviting you into their secret, but the moment you arrive at your tropical destination, your eyes soften by the view, and so do your perceptions, your values, your needs. As your blood pressure drops with each gentle wave lapping to shore, you can feel yourself slowing, smiling more easily, melting into your lounge chair.

It is easy. All of a sudden, life is easy. Those urgent issues and obligations that required your attention, the laundry and errands that needed to be done, all disappear on the endless watercolor horizon.

The children in their suits, splashing, running, turn golden – even with the constant gooping on of the sunscreen, and soon you even relax about that.  Because they don’t just turn golden from the sun, they shine with health and happiness and pleasure. They are native, they are free, they are perfect. And you see it. You see their perfection in this crazy dream of a place, where you are lazy but energized, sublimely dreamy, yet more keenly awake then you’ve been in months.

You wonder why you don’t take vacations more often? Why vacations aren’t more like real life? Why we can’t somehow meld these easy feelings into our every day. Why this can’t be real life. Because it certainly feels real. It feels vibrant and full. It feels warm and intoxicating. It feels like what life should be, if life were about finding peace in your soul.

But even in a place with service so relaxed you might wind up getting dinner while waiting for your breakfast, the days roll by, and soon you have rinsed your child’s sand covered toes for the last time, and you suck in your last sweet breath of air suffused with nature’s Valium.

The colorful fish disappear with the packed snorkel gear and we see the last lazy chameleon idling across the way. It is a long trip back to real life, our eyes and our brains gradually adjusting to the harsh change of scenery; the long uncomfortable plane ride, the cranky, bickering children. The bright, unnaturally blue waters recede into the background, replaced by grey buildings and technology and people who seem more grey as well.

It is shocking yet familiar and we readily accept what we know. We pull up to our quiet street, which looks altogether different but no less beautiful than where we were, and carry exhausted children to their beds, which they curl into, smiling blissfully, like they’ve been reunited with a lost friend.

Giant bags of laundry and unpacking left for the morning. The time line that was offline is resetting. Things will be done again. But for now, there is sleep and hope for one more night on an island of dreams.

Say ahhh...

How to Lose a New York State of Mind in 7 Days.

Day 1 –

I sit in a lounge chair, staring into the rolling blue waves. The sun is out full force, and my children are scattered around – one building some kind of sand ditch, the other two playing in the ocean with my husband. It is idyllic. It is Norman Rockwell. Ohmygodddddd, I hate it.

This is our family vacation. We opted out of Thanksgiving this year and decided to piggyback on my sister-in-law’s family vacation to an all-inclusive Jamaican resort. My in-laws are also here and so are my mom and step-dad. In theory, it’s all very nice. In reality? Well… there are extremely annoying bug bites snaking up my legs, the sun is scorching my skin, I’m having an anxiety attack that my children are in the ocean and I’m slightly bored out of my mind.

A couple, too small of bathing suit and too large of body, painfully red in the chest and arms, stagger past, giggling, spilling their drinks in the sand. It doesn’t matter. A new one will replace it shortly. And maybe if they stay drunk, they won’t feel that nasty burn. That is the beauty of the all-inclusive, drink after drink after drink.  Well, it’s the beauty, unless you’re just watching it, then it’s just kind of amusingly unattractive.

Wow, I’m a little uptight. I never realized it. I mean, I know, I’m, ahem, structured, but I’m on an island, damn it. I definitely should be having more fun. Do I actually miss the daily routine of supermarket shopping and going to the gym? Or my morning coffee. Or nightly ice cream. Sigh. Crap, I’m more pathetic than I realized.

Maybe I’m just old, or because I’m with my kids and family, the idea of spending sunrise to sunset lying on the beach has about as much appeal to me as the couple who just walked by. But no, that’s not it. It’s me. I look at my mom standing next to me. She has the forlorn expression of a puppy holding a leash too long in its mouth, waiting. Well, not just me.

Day 4 – Same spot on lovely beach, intermittently biting finger nails while reading.

Men hawking sun dresses, cigarettes and necklaces wander by selling, constantly selling. There are also the music men who stop every few feet and sing, whether you want them to or not. After a while, we’re paying them to go away. About half of them whisper, “Ja wanna mara Ja wanna, Mon?”  The never ending parade of friendly, stoned, poor people is a little depressing. They keep coming round and round. We take pictures with them, of course.

My oldest, who has spent much of the morning creating a ditch/moat pile of sand, walks up toward me, but there’s something funny about the way he’s moving. Hmm. It seems he’s walking like John Wayne in a cowboy movie. “Uh, honey? You have to go to the bathroom or something?”

He nods in the negative. Turns out he’s got beach burn, you know, from the wet, sandy suit rubbing against the inner thigh. It’s raw and painful and my other boys are suffering to a lesser degree. Nightly, we have instituted an Aquaphor application ritual. There is a lot legs flailing, and me trying not to get kicked in the face by giggling boys.

I turn and see my mom by the pool. She’s not in a lounge chair. My mom doesn’t lay. She can’t relax enough to read, and she doesn’t drink; nor would my mom go into the pool or suntan anymore. For her, skin cancer pales in comparison to the very real threat of wrinkles. So, what’s she doing by the pool? Water aerobics. Sort of. While throngs of semi-drunk ladies are in the pool, semi-following the fit Jamaican man demonstrating the moves from outside the water, my mom is right beside him doing her own little aerobics class. I’m almost jealous of her exercise, but too resigned and lulled by the sun to really care. Besides, my book is good. Wait? Am I… relaxing??

Howard has just returned from a snorkling excursion the kids. They are giddy with their sightings. Little Julius swears he saw a Zebra fish and a giant eel. Michael, my middle son, claims he saw a shark (He later modified to baby shark.), and Tyler swears he spotted a reef squid, whatever that is. I don’t know what they saw or didn’t, but their glowing excitement is all the reality I care about.

I think I’m going to get myself one of those drinks with a drunk sounding name. Maybe a Miami Vice or a Sexy Bikini or a Banana Sunset. Yeah, that sounds good, Mon.

Day 7 – We’re going home. Children are sad. They had the “best!” time. I am ready. I am tired of relaxing and sleeping with children lying like cats across my body. We were upgraded to the “Honeymoon Suite” when we came, which we thought was great, until we realized that basically it was just a King bed with a Jacuzzi Tub right next to it, which opened up to the bathroom. A little weird. I mean, I would think even honeymoon couples might like a little privacy. Whatever. I’m going home.

View from the bed. Romantic, huh?

I look around. I’m, sort of, going to miss the smell of wafting weed, the beautiful warm lolling waves, my golden children smiling, eating and drinking more than I ever should, and nothing but nothing to do with my day.  I can understand why people would like something like this. Oh, that’s what a vacation is? Got it. Next time, I’m going to start drinking earlier.