|Every Chicagoan know where I am and what I'm holding.|
(Also, thanks to Instagram, I can be as orange as the cheese!)
I have a confession.
I was not in Chicago this weekend. P.J., Nora, and Susannah were...but I was not. My wonderful husband actually sent me away (muttering something about house-related post traumatic stress, tightly wound, and something something- finish your book).
No one knew about this plan. I hadn't told anyone because a) I was feeling incredibly guilty about running off, and b) up until 6pm on Friday night, I wasn't even sure I was going to go.
Because Zuzu and I had never been apart. And Nora was used to the way things were. And it was unfair for Peej to have to shoulder one hundred percent of the meals, kid-wranglin', and housiness on his lonesome. (On his weekend. I mean, dude has a job, too.) I didn't want to be away from them; and not just in a "this is how things have to be" way. It's no secret that I'm madly in love with my husband. And that my kids make me deliriously happy (and sometimes just delirious). I like to be with them.
But, P.J.'s as stubborn as he is altruistic. So, at 6pm on Friday evening, I hopped into the car to drive up to East Troy, Wisconsin. It was pouring. I missed them already. And I was crying and pretending I wasn't crying and then yelling at myself for crying, and then crying because I hate to be yelled at.
It occurred to me that I had never done this before; drive off by myself to spend a weekend with no one else. That struck me as absurd. I'm 32 years old. I've never traveled without a boyfriend or friend or family member, ever? Ever ever?
So I stopped crying.
A little under two hours later, I arrived at The Pickwick Inn- a gorgeous Victorian b&b- and checked myself into the Louisa May Alcott room. ('Cause every room was named for a literary figure. Books n' books n' books were everywhere in the house. My heart felt happy.) My room featured a carved bed. Period decor. A chandelier that filled me with love/envy. And a double jacuzzi ALL FOR ME.
I'm not gonna lie- I stood in the room just staring around for roughly ten minutes. Seriously, ten minutes. There was no one to feed, nothing to unpack, no potty breaks to enforce, no bedtime routine to start...and I forgot how to function. So I moved my possessions around the room a few times. Took a bath (while furtively watching for anyone to burst in and tell me this was a big ol' joke). Found wine coolers in the hallway mini fridge. Read one of the [4!] books I had packed. Called P.J. twice. (Was told twice by P.J. to go to bed.) Read some more. And slept. I slept alone, with nothing and no one to answer for; no nursing sessions, no weird sounds, no street fights or sirens, and no reason to get out of bed until breakfast the following morning. (So of course I woke up four times in the night to just make sure everything was cool.)
I woke up in the same room, with everything I owned still right where I had left it. I had forgotten how nice it could be to get dressed and ready for the day by myself, first thing. But I soon remembered. And I went to downstairs to a gourmet breakfast that seriously blew me out of the water. Blueberry stuffed French toast. Peach cobbler. Egg and sausage frittata. Fruit n' bacon n' more coffee than I could consume in a week. (But I sure tried.) I met lovely people and had even lovelier conversations.
And then? Oh, then- it was time to write. P.J. had sent me off to finish my book- the book that had been looming over my head ever since interest was expressed in it (when Zu was a whopping three weeks old). And I'd tried, really I had, to work on it almost every single day. But things happened, like sick kids and visitors and sewer pipe implosions. The weight of this unfinished book was sucking all of the air out of my summer with the kids; I wanted to be their focused Mom again, not just some crazy person who would whip out a laptop or a scrap of paper every time they napped or ate a meal or sat down for a moment.
So I wrote. I wrote for four and a half hours straight. I wrote out on a beautiful screened-in porch, with the soft breeze and the smell of freshly cut grass to soothe me. (And to counteract the bucket of coffee I'd consumed.) Walking into town for a quick break, I felt like I was in a screenplay. Or the heroine at the beginning of an Americana novel. (It was awesome.) The waitress at the diner complimented my shoes and asked what brought me here.
"I'm a writer. I'm writing a book." (And the best part is- on that day it was totally the truth.)
And then I went back to the inn and wrote for another four straight hours, stopping at dusk to drive to a nearby dockside restaurant (and have the absolute slowest service yet the absolute yummiest ahi tuna wrap this side of anywhere). I came back after 9pm and wrote for another hour and a half. Then- and I'm not gonna lie- I had another wine cooler. And another bath. And devoured a Sookie Stackhouse novel.
I still missed my babies. And felt- as I always do when P.J. isn't beside me at night- like there was a Peej-sized hole in the bed. But I slept deeply (excepting the mandatory four times I woke up to check on the room).
Breakfast the next morning was even better than the previous day's. And even though I needed to check out at 11am, the owners welcomed me to stay and finish my book on the porch. (Finish my book? Heck, I was ready to finish my summer with these amazingly sweet people.)
So I set up camp on the porch for the next three hours. And you know what? I finished that book. (Here's the best part; I actually think it's pretty good. This will probably change. Because it's most likely just the "well-rested" part of me speaking.)
Inordinately proud of myself, I took a winding drive home, stopping in Geneva to (among other things) buy a McCoy strawberry cookie jar that I cannot live without. And no trip to Wisconsin would be complete without a jaunt to the Mars Cheese Castle (amiright?) for some cheese curds. (And maybe the best liverwurst sandwich that I've ever had, which would include all of the ones that I mainlined during both pregnancies. That's a good processed meat sandwich.)
I felt like a new person. Or maybe like me, but happier. I sang/screamed along to the radio and didn't even change the channel when Jon Secada came on. "YOU KNOW WHAT," I yelled to myself, "WE'RE JUST GONNA LET THIS ONE PLAY OUT." Because when you're in a mood that good, few artists (aside from Stabbing Westward or Mazzy Star) are gonna kill that buzz.
Peej got a happier wife back (along with some butterscotch root beer and a six pack of Spotted Cow). The girls got a calmer mother (along with some vintage jewelry and buttons shaped like flowers). And cheese curds, too. There were still some cheese curds left.
I feel normal again. Or, rather, maybe not normal. Because "normal" people don't get gifts like this all too often, nor do they get to return home to the very things they'd missed, and keep on doing the stuff they love, surrounded by people who inspire them.
And sometimes it takes a wonderful weekend away to realize all that.
The cheese curds don't hurt, either.