For one thing, it was impossible to predict when our son Max would finish his movie script and return from Los Angeles to New York. So how could Henry know which weeks to plan a vacation? Further, when Henry considered the European cities he’d previously skipped, he didn’t feel inspired. Prague, Budapest and Amsterdam might be lovely, but they didn’t excite my husband the way Istanbul, Paris and Florence had. We thought about Israel, but then another war started. Two Malaysian airplanes went down, and I started to feel even more nervous about flying. Besides, a long airplane ride and ambitious sight-seeing tours wouldn’t be good for Henry’s aching back. Why spend our frequent flyer miles and hotel points on an uncomfortable flight to a destination that didn’t quite make the cut?
I had a better idea: “Why don’t the two of us go away for a romantic weekend over Labor Day?” I suggested. “Skip the airplanes, the hassle, the schlepping, and just go to a resort?”
“What about the kids?” Henry always wanted to include Max and Sarah because he spent far less time with them than I did.
“Sarah will be with her boyfriend,” I replied. “Max will be with his girlfriend the way he is every weekend.” Like my kids, I wanted time alone with my significant other.
“Aren’t you worried about leaving Sarah?” Henry worried. “We’ve never left her alone before.”
I knew he was thinking of all the weekends in the past when our little girl on the autistic spectrum had no friends and nothing to do unless we included her in our activities. “It’s only a weekend,” I reminded him “Sarah now leaves us every weekend. She’s 23 and busy with her own life.” (Back when she was a screaming, socially inappropriate six year old, we would have sold our souls to know that one day our daughter’s life would be filled with friends and romance.)
“Every year we’ve taken these wonderful family vacations….” My husband’s tone was wistful.
“And this year,” I pumped enthusiasm into my voice, “you and I will have a wonderful weekend away together. We’ll walk on the beach, stare at the ocean, get massaged… ” My voice trailed off. “What if Sarah’s friends are away?” Henry persisted. “What if her boyfriend is busy over the holiday weekend?” As usual, he zeroed in on the worst possible scenario.“That won’t happen.” I assured him. “I’ll make sure she has a plan before we make our reservations.”
It was time for Henry to read the last chapter of Emptying The Nest, where the author explores opportunities for couples to reignite their relationship after their young adult children go out on their own. (See “Nest Negotiations, 8/15/14).
“Think of all the money we’ll save because it’s just the two of us,” I pep talked. “We can always plan a longer, more exciting vacation for another summer. Your back will be better, and we can go sight-seeing from dawn till dusk. Who knows? Maybe by then the world will be a little safer too.”
“Where could we go?” Henry was finally starting to waver.Age old butterflies stirred in my belly. I was making progress. “What about Gurney’s Inn or Lake Mohonk?”I suggested. “They both have spas and enough activities even if the weather isn’t great.”
After a short discussion over the pros and cons of beach vs. lake, we agreed on Gurney’s Inn at the beach in Montauk. I was almost home free. My next hurdle was trying to convince Henry to add an extra day onto the weekend, so we could drive home Tuesday and avoid experiencing horrendous Labor Day traffic as the grand finale of our vacation. Ever the practical pessimist, Henry argued for waiting to see the weather forecast before investing in a potentially rainy day.
“Think how nice it would be just to sit on a lounge chair under an umbrella,” I urged, “while everyone else is in cars creeping along on that miserable two-lane highway.”“Maybe we should go back on Tuesday.” Henry decided, perhaps remembering how upset I can become in traffic. “Maybe you should call and book an extra night.”
Before I had a chance to extend our reservation, Sarah came home gushing with great news. “Guess what?” She burst through our front door. “I’m going to sing the national anthem at Convocation for the freshman at Pace University. It’s a SOLO!” Her voice rose with excitement. “The dean also invited me to sing the alma mater with her up on stage. I’m allowed to invite my friends and family. You guys have to come.”“Of course. Just tell us when.” I smiled. This was my reward for the Mother Wolf letter I’d written the dean in April—about not choosing Sarah to sing the national anthem at her graduation (See “Singing the National Anthem,” 5/2/14). I’d accused the school of failing to honor or include its autistic spectrum students outside the classroom, suggesting that the college wasn’t really committed to acting in the true spirit of diversity. At the time I’d mistakenly thought Sarah had been rejected from a choral GROUP, when in fact only one singer had been chosen. Obviously, Sarah had demonstrated enough singing talent (and my letter had been persuasive enough) to convince the dean to offer her another performance opportunity.
“Tuesday, September 2nd,” Sarah read from the schedule.
Uh oh, there goes our extra day at the beach. “What time?” I prayed for the afternoon.
“Eleven thirty in the morning.” She chirped.
“We’ll be there.” I bravely tried to match my daughter’s smile. As it so often worked out, my reward for being the ferocious mommy advocate also brought about my punishment.
Before our twins were born, Henry and I had once driven home from East Hampton on Labor Day, and it had taken over five hours instead of the usual three. To say I became irritable and claustrophobic was an understatement. (Has anyone ever heard of a passenger feeling road rage?) I vowed NEVER again to drive home from East Hampton on Labor Day. But Gurney’s Inn at Montauk is even further away from the city than East Hampton. On the other hand, how could I miss my daughter’s performance?
I would have to break my travel oath or lose my weekend alone with Henry. Whenever I plan a romantic getaway, something pops up that takes priority. On our 25th anniversary, I’d booked a lovely room with lake views, but had to reschedule at the last minute because it conflicted with Max’s final performance in a comedy show at Vassar before his graduation. How could I skip that last show either? Henry and I ended up celebrating our anniversary two weeks early on a chilly April weekend. (Brrr!) The good news: we were able to enjoy both events. The bad news? On our 25th anniversary we settled for a small room, facing the mountains instead of the lake.
That time we got stuck with the mountains, this time it would be the torturous, stand-still traffic. Maybe I’d convince Henry to leave a day early instead? At least we could avoid traffic one way. Predictably, my husband wants to know the forecast first. Probably, the weather wouldn’t matter because other people had already booked Thursday of Labor Day weekend long ago, preferring the possibility of rain over the certainty of terrible traffic.
Nevertheless and no matter what, we have to enjoy our nest getaway and RELAX (even if that means bringing a portable potty or popping a sleeping pill on the way home). Still, despite the inconvenience, Henry and I are looking forward to hearing Sarah sing the national anthem in front of Pace University, her alma mater. Just the way we weren’t willing to miss Max’s last comedy show at his college, we wouldn’t miss Sarah’s solo for the world.
So much for prioritizing nest getaways! Sometimes I wonder if there’s a magnet hidden among the twigs and straw that pulls us all back home. Or does the nest suck us back in like a vacuum? Honestly, are parents EVER free from the gravitational pull of their children? And vice-versa? I wonder what it would feel like if the nest really emptied….