Could my husband Henry, our family tour guide and travel
agent, plan one more exotic summer vacation for our WHOLE nuclear family? Not
this year. (See “Ottoman Odyssey,”
9/6/13 for last August’s adventure).
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?”
about the kids?” Henry always wanted to include Max and Sarah because he spent
far less time with them than I did.
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.
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.)
year we’ve taken these wonderful family vacations….” My husband’s tone was
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.”
we go?” Henry was finally starting to waver.
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.”
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.
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
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
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
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
“Tuesday, September 2nd,”
Sarah read from the schedule.
oh, there goes our extra day at the beach. “What time?” I prayed for the afternoon.
“Eleven thirty in the morning.” She
“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
Labels: air travel, autism, empty nest, family vacations, Gurney's Inn, Israel, Labor Day, massage, Montauk, national anthem, Pace University, romantic getaways, traffic, Vassar