It feels like a million years ago, but just a week ago, Lil E and I spent four glorious days in Florida. We were with my parents, who are snow-birding on Anna Maria Island for the third year, happy to talk on and on about miniscule dips in the temperature and which beaches have whiter sand, better shells and more spectacular sunsets.
Lil E was thrilled, leaping into the gulf and jumping waves until he was shivering so much he would break only to dig Bat Caves and moats until the goosebumps and shakes dissipated and he could get back in the water.
I read. I read! I've been so unable to focus on a novel in the brain clutter of the last two years of my life, this is only the second book I've made my way through completely. It felt like a luxury to laugh and lose myself and feel sad the story came to a close (thanks, Jeanne, for insisting I read this one).
As I sat in a chair next to my dad on the beach, watching my mom bury Lil E in the sand, soaking my glaring white skin with some deliciously warm sun, I realized how vitamin D deficient my life has been. Of course, after this winter (and last), the sunshine felt restorative. But it was the light and the heat that spreads slowly when you have no plan for the day, when you can stretch out your body across the bed or a blanket outside, when your only priority is to enjoy exactly where you and only see the people right in front of you.
For four days, that light and heat enveloped me and I appreciated every moment I felt it. And then we packed up our giant suitcase full of sandy clothes, the little Lightning McQueen rolling suitcase full of miniature pirate toys and Batmobiles and drawings of various Star Wars characters wielding light sabers, a carry-on bag full of snacks and one giant, unwieldy carseat. I hauled and lugged and heaved all of that, plus one exhausted 4-year old having a tough time transitioning back to our real life.
At one point, a woman leaned over to me and whispered above Lil E's whimpers, "Are you getting all that stuff yourself? Are you doing all that alone?"
I nodded. I almost said, "Of course!" but I recognized the look of surprise and pity on her face from days I had a partner on the highs and lows and hauling of these kinds of trips.
"Wow," she said. And I hesitate to write the next part. "You're amazing. You're my hero."
I smiled and said thank you. I am no hero. I was calm when my boy was crying, I got the carseat installed and uninstalled in record speed and I was surprised at how much suitcase weight I could actually lift. But I was no hero.
I was just a mom with flip flops in her purse, sand in her hair and a sunburn on her shoulders. Just a mom who took her first real, relaxing vacation in almost two years, and her first alone with her boy. Just a mom who was going home to a messy apartment, at least six loads of laundry, and too many emails. I was just a mom and still, I was proud. That I unplugged for four days. That I took the time. That I never doubted whether I (or we) could do it. That coming home felt just as good as leaving. That I had just enough of that light and heat left to plan another vacation for not too far in the future.