What It’s Like to Be Away. And Always Headed Home.

I borrowed two small, rolling suitcases from my youngest children today because their suitcases are the newest in the family and so have things like working zippers and attached wheels and retractable handles that don’t get stuck in the half-upright position, passively-aggressively recalcitrant, like the handle on my suitcase which feels it ought to be treated with more deference and less verbal abuse in its old age.

Of course, my children don’t want me to use their suitcases because I’m sure to ruin them, and, given the tattered remains of mine, I don’t completely blame them for their concern. I tried to convince them I should be able to borrow the suitcases since I paid for them originally, but the children, who are smart, and also overly mouthy like their mother, countered that giving someone a gift doesn’t imply unlimited borrowing rights or takesy-backsies in the future, a lesson I now regret teaching them as toddlers.

So I’m technically renting two kids’ suitcases for $1 each and thanking my lucky stars they haven’t yet learned to up-sell me on optional insurance or to hold my credit card for incidentals, although they’ve each demanded a certain number of gummy worm futures, so please don’t worry for them too, too much. 

Anyway, my point is I left home for four nights, from now through Easter Eve, and I feel the usual mix of bone-deep relief for an opportunity to rest, nearly uncontrollable glee at the idea of being responsible for only myself, relentless dread, knowing, as always and without merit, that something horrible will happen to my people in my absence, and pathetic and desperate longing for the family I couldn’t wait to leave. The push-me pull-you of mothering, I know. I love it. I hate it. I love it. I don’t.

Which is why I’m sitting alone at the moment in a bar in a hotel where there’s a very large, very loud conference of people named things like Emmett Hubert and Mandy Smith which I know because they’re wearing nametags peeling around the edges like the bark of the birch trees outside the bar windows, and they’re all young and trendy and wearing skinny jeans and casually holding wine glasses without spilling on anyone. None of them look as lost and as found as I feel, proof positive looks can’t be trusted.

photo (85)I’m grateful – truly – for this time away to breathe and think and read books that are bad for my mind and good for my heart and possibly draft parts of my own, but I find myself missing my kids’ terrible teeth more than I ever thought possible when I used to have only a baby and spent so much time feeling sad for the moms whose kids were already gangly and awkward. I didn’t know yet that those kids were also gorgeous and awesome.

Greg held my hand in the driveway before I left and kissed me on the mouth and bent over to whisper how much he’ll miss me, which sounded like this, “You only have a small data plan on your phone, so you have to come home in 5 days or I will cancel the hell out of that thing.” Which is how I know he loves me. 

This is Springtime and Almost Easter, full of death and life and empty tombs in the in-between time when the contents have gone missing and haven’t yet been found. It’s the season of long nights growing shorter, and, after longer than we’d prefer, resurrection and rebirth which, it turns out, we must repeat over and over and over again. And so I’m away, on the lookout for rebirth and also, somehow, at the same time, always, always, always headed home. 

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
7 comments
  1. I hope you don’t mind me imagining being away as well. I definitely get that love hate being away thing even though I have never experienced it for more than six hours at a time because my husband is scared to take care of our two and a half year old alone. But somehow I feel rejuvenated at times just being able to get in and out of a car in mere seconds. Indulge and relax and bring a more rested you back to your family. Breaks are required maintenance, every 3000 mom miles we need to go into the shop for repairs and new tires.

  2. Wow. Finding this website is like discovering a new best friend that I never knew I needed. You have an admirer in Ohio, Beth, who finds solidarity and comfort in your words. (We have two foster kids, BTW).

  3. As I head out on the 2nd of 4 business trips this month, I too have the push-pull feelings of mother you spoke about. Thanks for articulating this struggle so deftly.

  4. So beautiful. I’m glad you’re getting away. Not that you should think about it too much but didn’t your boys fill the bathtub with pee the last time you left?

  5. I travel a lot for work and even though it gets easier to leave each time it gets harder too. My oldest said to me the last time I was getting ready to go “you’re leaving again? ::sigh:: and when will you be back?” He also text me the entire weekend with I miss you texts. Leaving kids and husband for a few days makes you realize how much you really do like them all.

  6. Good stuff here. Thank you.

  7. Beautiful… That in between time, where things have gone missing, I think that is where I am.
    Also you make me laugh. Those kids using what we taught them against us!

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