As we set off on the open road, we sat in an awkward silence, still in disbelief that we had actually left home. We kept looking over our shoulders, as if any moment the police would discover us and pull us over for abandoning our children. For one night, that is, with their grandmother, while we took our very first overnight anniversary trip. It felt criminal. Both of us were trying to silence the voices in our heads saying “you know, you could just stay home, rent a movie, get take out….think of the money we could save…besides, we don’t really need a break from the kids, we live for the kids.”
Feeling ambivalent and mostly forced to do this by one another, we had a hard time convincing ourselves we were really GOING. 5 miles away from home already felt like Timbuktu. But yet we were compelled to press forward, continuing to feel so strange in this car with the absence of little feet tapping the backs of our seats and the intermittent high pitched squeak- sequence for no apparent reason. We still had the vestiges of crushed cheerios on the floorboards and the happy ballads of Laurie Berkner to remind us of who we really were, just in case we forgot.
The strangely quiet country drive carried on, and thirty cow pastures later it occurred to us that we could listen to our OWN music for a change. We indecisively bounced back and forth between Joao Gilberto and Michael Jackson and the Pretenders and Pink Floyd. As the miles mounted on the odometer and we got lost in the music that we once knew, we quickly stepped back in time and become two totally different people. People who could make a spontaneous stop to take pictures of oddly fascinating outdoor sculptures. People who could afford to deliberate for twenty minutes about what they wanted to order at gorgeous, gourmet restaurants, where reading the menu descriptions was almost more fun than consuming the food. People who could explore a historic bed and breakfast for as long as their curiosity desired. People who could swim in a natural, spring-fed pool which seemed bottomless, until we were freezing and pruney and starved. People who could stay up all night drinking champagne at a piano lounge and not worry about waking up at 6 am. People who gaze into each other’s eyes and finish a profound thought or a sentence without being interrupted five times. People who could be decadently aimless and not have a care in the world. It was almost like being in Never Neverland, being able to forget a world of responsibilities and schedules, of dishes and laundry, of mowing the lawn and taking out the trash.
But it was the memory of those little, sweet faces that put our feet back on the earth, those little beings for whom we gladly pour out our lives. Our most precious investments not only in our future, but the world’s future. Our greatest contributions to the human race. Our meaning of life. Our purpose in life. Suddenly the transition back to real life was not as abrupt as we had expected. We may not be the free agents we once were, our identities are much more complex now. But we do know that beneath the layers of who we are now, we are still our own people, and it feels sublime to remember that when we have the chance.