Sunday, January 22, 2006

Snow Days.

Five.

Four.

Three.

Two.

One.

CONSORT AND DAUGHTER ARE OUT OF THE GARAGE AND ON THEIR WAY! I am a free woman, accountable to no...

Wait. Consort’s back.

He needs backup contact lenses.

[Ten minutes later.]

CONSORT AND DAUGHTER ARE ON THEIR WAY TO SEE SNOW FOR TWO WHOLE DAYS!

I am ALONE!

Fire up the DVD player, insert Season One of “The Golden Girls”, bring out the pint of Dulce de Leche ice cream and the pedicure kit, because Quinn is living LARGE!

In the winter of 2004, Consort got it into his head to take Daughter to play in snow. Consort grew up in a place with snowy winters and thinks it’s unnatural to wear shorts in January. Having grown up here, I think it’s unnatural that people pour salt on the street and it has some positive effect. What, paprika didn’t work? Hey, it’s not as if I don’t have weather war stories. A Los Angeles natives’ winter story usually goes something like: “Remember when it rained for three solid weeks and our neighbor’s Volkswagen floated down the hill...”

But snow?

No.

So, Consort drove Daughter many hours to a national park, and for two magical days they communed with the cold wet stuff. The trip was charmed. It didn’t snow while they were winding their way up the mountain roads, but it starting snowing in some incredibly picturesque way just as they were arriving and snowed all the time they were up there, stopping six hours before they left, just in time for the plows to get through. They got to make snowballs. They got to make snow men. They got to use the borrowed sled. They stopped grinning just long enough to drink hot chocolate and go back outside to grin some more.

And where was I during all of this? It’s not as if I hadn’t been invited. Sure, I’m annoying and a lot of work, but they’re used to me by now. At the time, Consort had just finished two years of a taxing Master’s program, and anything adventurous Daughter had experienced in the previous two years had been with me. Consort and I agreed they needed some time and some memories where it was just the two of them. And I needed some time where I wasn’t cutting up someone else’s food.

In all of Daughter’s life, I had been away from her for two days -- when I attended a La Leche conference to sell Hiphuggers. I recall being perfectly happy on my own. But, I reasoned, I had been busy being a retail drone at the Orange County Marriott so the time away was short and distracting. Surely, being left at home without them, without my usual all-enveloping job of mother, would be fairly traumatic. I imagined I'd end up in a corner of Daughter’s room, sniffling into a tiny pair of socks, wearing a t-shirt belonging to Consort, while humming “Sunrise, Sunset”.

Once they finally got on the road last time, I cringe to admit how giddy I was. For two intoxicating days, I didn’t have to model good behavior for anybody.

I ate pie for breakfast and while the dog was interested, she was in no way judgmental.

I ate pie again for lunch. [Couldn’t have it sitting around once they got back, see?].

I turned on the Lifetime network in the daytime.

I cleaned out old craft and hobby books and finally made peace with the fact that I cannot knit; having knitting books around is just a physical manifestation of my inner lack of worth.

I called a friend I hadn’t spoken to in months. I used obscenities and gossiped freely about a mutual friend Daughter knows without using code words.

I turned on “Sex and the City” and ate the rest of the pie. [Why yes, I was wearing drawstring pants, how did you know?].

Consort called that evening, and Consort and Daughter gave me the highlights of the trip so far. I thrilled to the sound of their voices but didn’t feel some horrible, overwhelming guilt that I wasn’t with them. I waited for a few minutes, to see if I felt guilty over not feeling guilty, but that one didn’t show up, either. What I felt was…relaxed.

And bloated from pie.

The only moment when I felt genuinely confused was the next morning. As usual, I got up early, fed the dog, fed the cat, got the paper and waited for Daughter to come stumbling, fluffy-headed and gummy-brained, out of bed. A half-hour later, it dawned on me...

Consort is currently combing the tangles out of her hair! Consort is enjoying the negotiation of teeth-brushing! I have another eighteen hours before I have to ask another human being if they need to go to the bathroom!

I could have gotten more pie, but for me dessert in the daytime kind of wears thin pretty quickly. So, I ate chips and salsa for breakfast and considered how to spend my last free day.

I could go hiking, but I like to tell someone where I’m going, in case I fall off the side of a hill, and it seemed selfish to call a friend and say “I’m going to climb Temescal Canyon. If I haven’t called you to check in by seven tonight, please alert the Park Service”. That’s the kind of thing you can really only do to your life partner.

I could go to the gym, but I was looking for self-indulgent hedonism to last me another year, and my gym isn’t the kind of establishment which offers massages and salt scrubs. The guy who lives under the hedge next to the parking lot has offered to rub my shoulders on occasion, but I find it hard to believe he’s actually trained to do that.

I could rent another DVD or three of chick shows, but all the episodes of “Sex and the City” were starting to blur [“Wait, I’ve seen this one: Sarah Jessica Parker ruminates while wearing a full skirt, Cynthia Nixon dates a loser, and we get to see Kim Cattrall’s breasts!”].

I could call a friend, but most of them were doing stuff with their kids.

I finished the last of the chips, and stared bleakly down at the remnants of the salsa. Turned out, I had only 24 hours of non-maternal relaxation in me.

I spent that last day polishing the wood furniture, taking the dog for a long walk in the neighborhood and doing the Sunday crossword puzzle. I toyed with going out and eating macaroni and cheese at a local diner, but decided it would be more practical to make inroads into the weird and unloved Valley of Leftovers in the fridge. I was, in short, completely unworthy of two days off. I spent the last few hours before they got home mooning around the house, almost preternaturally alert to any sound which might be the garage door about to open.

I finally had some empathy with how the dog spends her day.

* * * * *

But this year is going to be different. For the last two weeks, whenever I came across something which required time, attention or quiet, I thought to myself, “I’ll do that while they are out of town”.

The last five movies I need to see before I feel I can honorably vote for the Academy Awards? They went right into the When They’re Out of Town basket.

Those seven books kind friends have loaned to me over the last few months which have somehow fallen to the bottom of the “To be read” pile? They go into the When They’re Out of Town basket.

The three needlepoint projects which each only have about 10% left undone, but remain unfinished because they’ve been around too long? Oh, I can do that while watching a movie, while they’re out of town. I wonder if I can train one eye to watch a movie while the other one reads.

At the moment, the biggest challenge is going to be not sleeping, because that’s the only way everything is getting done. But if I chase that Dulce de Leche ice cream with a little Coffee Chip, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Consort and Daughter will come home, pink-cheeked and happy. I will welcome them home, Krispy Kreme-cheeked and happy. I will put my special pie-eating fork away for another year.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Chris S, said...

Oh my gosh-I am so jealous. I can't even remember the last time I was actually alone here at home. Actually I do~~it was last March. Hubby went to Chicago to drink-um-march in the St. Patricks day parade with his police bagpipe band.He was gone for 3 days and our kids just happened to have offers for sleepovers at the same time. I was giddy with happiness to do exactly what you did-throw caution to the wind and watch love stories without the input of three sons and a husband, eat whatever-whenever, let the dogs on the bed,walk from the bathroom to the bedroom naked (without fear of permanently damaging the psyche of my family) Those were great times. I am going to have to ask hubby if he can go again this year :) Thanks for the trip down memory lane~~Chris

4:10 AM  
Blogger Mel said...

How exciting! I haven't been home alone in, uh, 12 years. Not overnight, anyway.

1:49 PM  
Blogger houseband00 said...

Hi Quinn,

Now you've got me having my own mental "things-to-do" basket now and I'm going for a closet. =D

2:44 PM  

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