The Vacationer

The airplane became silent as the pilot shut down the engines without notice to the passengers.

“Welp, we’re not going anywhere for awhile.”

The gentleman sitting next to me took out his magazine, placed it on his tray and began reading it, all the while massaging his testicles as if the magazine provided some sort of screen of invisibility. This was not a quick scratch, rather the tender caress of a retired man used to puttering in his garden and spending hours waxing his car.  Every thirty seconds, the ball handler would complain about the delay or ask some question regarding my trip, fingers still massaging, still massaging.

The two year old seated behind me has not had a nap.  The hour and a half delay while seated in the airplane without air conditioning is not helping.  He kicks the back of my seat with full force every few minutes.  His screams never cease.  He is so vocal strangers begin asking the mother if she brought Benedryl for him.  Of course I would have this child behind me on the one trip I am taking without my own kids.

By the time I land, I am questioning if I am facing some sort of karmic retribution for leaving my boys for the weekend to go have fun.  My friend is a cab driver, and happens to be at the airport.  Although I’d really rather not shell out $25 on a ten minute ride, I pay the fee rather than call my mother to pick me up.  At this point $25 to hang out with a friend seems like a bargain.  God, maybe I should have stayed home.

The next morning, a new day begins.  I sleep in.  I awake to coffee waiting in the pot.  My mom has made fresh croissants with cream cheese and raspberries.  I indulge in two before heading out to bike.

I meet two girlfriends who I have known for decades- one going all the way back to elementary school.  By some twist of fate, we are all into mountain biking.  Jen has borrowed a bike and helmet for me.  We pedal on a scenic trail lined with wildflowers and green, looping around to a perfect view of Pikes Peak.

At one point, the ladies stop and lay their bikes down on the side of the trail.  They hike twenty feet to a shady spot under a tree.  We drink water and chat about old times.  I am slightly anxious to get moving, not because I’m not enjoying my time but because it is foreign to me.  When I visit CO, I am usually on a tight timeline trying to spend time with as many people as I can, visit the places I love, and adhere to the schedule of my kids.  To have the day to do things at whatever speed I wish is a luxury.

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After the ride, Jen leaves for a camping trip, but Yves and I go to lunch, just the two of us.  I attempt to see my friends every time I go to CO, which most often means I have one afternoon to visit with all my old buddies.  It’s fun but it can also feel like you only get to exchange two sentences with any one person.  So little intimacy is built with “hey, how are you? what’s new?”

That night, my mother made my favorite fried chicken and we ate outside.  Two of my brothers, Chris and Casey joined us.  We gorged on chicken and mashed potatoes before heading out the see the fireworks celebrating Independence Day.

Chris works at a live music club near the park where the fireworks display would take place.  The guys from the club were all meeting with the plan to climb to the roof to watch the show.  But when the colors began to burst in the sky, Chris, Casey and I were the only ones to climb the ladder.  I felt like a kid again, like I was sneaking out to a party without my parents knowledge- sitting on the roof, drinking a beer, watching fireworks, and laughing until my belly hurt.

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The next day, I had an appointment to get a tattoo.  I spent over five hours in the chair, which leaves a lot of time for conversation.  The artist asked me about my solo trip, and I said the usual things- I got to sleep in.  I didn’t have to worry about taking care of the kids.  I got “me” time.  But I realized the vacation was not just a gift to me- it was a way to show all these people how much they mean to me.

Since I have had kids, my friends and family have been gracious and accommodating.  They haven’t complained when I need to cut the night at 7:30pm.  They’ve have come to group gatherings to hang out with me for a couple of moments.

This trip let me say “You are still important to me.  I want to create memories with you.”  Goat, my tattoo artist, knew just what I was talking about.

My last day in town, I went to the flea market with my mom and twelve year old niece, Allie.  We saw strange things (glass eyes for taxidermied elephants, death masks for giraffes.)  We ate at a couple of our favorite restaurants (Pizza at Panino’s, ice cream at Josh and John’s).

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I bought a purse.  Allie got some headbands.  My mom just enjoyed looking.  We wandered around the streets down town, looking at local sculptures and for me, getting one last glimpse of the peak.  It was a pretty ordinary day, and that’s what made it perfect.

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