I’m writing this on the plane, on my way back to Chicago after a weeklong Time Out. We left home a week ago, weighed down with six overstuffed duffle bags, many lists, and my daughter Ariella, who has moved to Cambridge for graduate school.
It was a refreshing and much needed hiatus from the dark, often-depressing political landscape that characterizes an election integrity advocate’s life. But, I wouldn’t call it a real vacation, either. The time was not spent lounging poolside, eating bonbons, shopping in ritzy stores, and getting pedicures. Far from being a pampered poodle, I was quintessential Mother – shopper, shlepper, builder, financier, adviser, and cheerleader. We were either mired in endless errands or planning future ones, in a mad rush before orientation begins on Monday. Mission accomplished, Mick and I are now homeward bound.
The fact that we had no TV, radio, newspapers, or Internet access was almost beside the point. I wouldn’t have had the time or energy to peruse/listen/watch/read, anyway. I felt as if I were inhabiting a parallel universe, cut off from everyday sounds, like being pleasantly under water, for an extended period of time.
For the most part, Ariella and I are wonderfully in tune with one another. One notable exception is our thermostatic preferences. Ariella is always cold. I, on the other hand, have entered that phase of life where less is definitely more. For some reason, she only packed flannel sheets for the bed we would share for a week. Most of the year, that would not pose a problem. While the mercury hovered consistently in the high 80s with no hint of a breeze, sharing that too-small space was a real challenge. I slept fitfully and, each morning, awoke sopping wet. By the end of the trip, I was so exhausted that I could have slept standing up. And, come to think of it, it might have been cooler that way. I felt like I was experiencing my own, personal version of global warming.
I’d forgotten how much I like Boston – especially at this time of year, when throngs of returning students overflow the sidewalks. Boston is truly a paradise for anyone under 30. I’m mad about its special blend of history, progressive values and informality, fabulous public transportation, parks and architecture. Harvard Square, Boston Common, and the sparkling Charles River which sports boats of all sorts and whose winding paths are filled with bikes, roller bladers, joggers, gawking tourists, baby strollers and dogs, dogs, dogs. What’s not to like?
Besides for one extraordinarily surly Comcast employee, we were treated to a megadose of New England hospitality and good manners, once we conquered the language barrier. On the way to the airport on the T this afternoon, one gentleman advised us how to go, and helped us move our ample pile of luggage from one train to another. Sad to say, if this were to happen in Chicago, the bag would more likely go AWOL.
Having a full week allowed us to do all of the drudgery connected to settling in while still having time left over for Fun. We did tons of walking, people watching and eating. My pedometer got quite a workout, one day racking up more than 25,000 steps (10,000 is the daily goal). I thought it was going to start smoking. On the last day, I let Mick pick the itinerary. Inveterate sports fan that he is, he chose to visit historic Fenway Park. It reminded me of Wrigley Field, small, old style, and comfortable. We went into an eatery that had a window right onto the park at ground level. It seemed so close, so friendly, even I, the major non sports fan, was moved. It made me want to rush home and watch “Fever Pitch” one more time.
To be perfectly honest, I had ulterior motives for bringing Mick along on this trip. Ariella has always been a huge fan of his, but his recent schedule and her life abroad have not been conducive to major bonding. Since he doesn’t have anything else major going on until October, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for some togetherness. Also, one should not minimize the added value of the presence of a strapping 18-year old on a trip of this nature. We regularly drew on his brains as well as his brawn. Mick had plenty of good ideas, plays a mean Casino, and was invaluable when we put together Ariella’s workstation.
Next month, Mick will head out himself for his academic year abroad. It will be the first time in more than twenty-eight years that our nest will be empty. While I don’t dread it, neither am I rushing to embrace that new status. This was a chance for me to have Mick for just a little longer without being too obvious about it. I got to cherish this quality family interaction and write it off as clever, practical planning. Real life for me – a return to work, my writing and my uphill slog for election integrity – is just around the corner. I’m in no hurry. I plan to savor every last second. I can feel my shoulders start to tense up as we approach. Maybe I can ask the pilot to circle the runway one more time before landing me Home, Sweet Home.