My mum always said that the first year she was retired, there was no way she was spending the whole winter in Canada. (She actually said something with more filthy language, but I won’t repeat it here. The winter can get to people.) True to her word when my mum retired this year she promptly booked herself a beach house in the Dominican Republic for a month, right in the middle of this winter. Then the campaign began. She got my sister to agree to go with her for a few weeks, and then started on me. I declined. Actually, I didn’t decline, I flat out said No. Absolutely not.
I told her that I already had to be away from the 15th to the 20th of February, because I’m teaching at Madrona, and that I had to be home for the rest of that month because I’m hoping to be around when Katie’s baby comes. I told her that I was away so much for work that there was absolutely no way to justify being away for play. I told her that I felt okay about being away from my family when I was earning money, but that I wasn’t okay with being away when I was spending money, and furthermore – we couldn’t really afford it, especially if we were talking about spending it on only one member of the family. I told her I was glad my sister was coming, that I hoped they had fun, that I would try to go another time, and I tried to bury the conversation.
My mum countered with some good arguments. She said that I hadn’t had a proper vacation in fourteen years. (This is true.) She said I could go for the first week, and still go to Madrona. (This was also true.) She pointed out that since I would just be paying for the flight, it was even the cheapest vacation I could hope for. (Also true, damn her.) She said that I was a valuable member of my family, and that this was a good idea, and that she didn’t think anyone in the family would mind me doing it for myself. (I didn’t think that would be true.) Finally, she said that if I was thinking about doing this with her at some time in the future, I might want to take a look at the birthdate on her passport. (Also true, but I don’t like to think about that. My mother will be fit, alive and travel-able forever.) Then she let me bury the conversation.
At Christmas, my mum played dirty pool. I hadn’t told Joe that I’d been invited, because it was so completely out of the question (in my mind) that there was no point in bringing it up. I’d made up my mind anyway. Suddenly, we’re all washing dishes in the kitchen, and my mum turns to Joe and says "Joe, don’t you think Stephanie should come to the Dominican Republic with us?" and Joe turned and gave me a look. It was that "Oh, so it’s like that again?" look that he gives me so often, and without missing a beat he turned to my mum and said "Absolutely." Just like that, without knowing when, or for how long, or anything about it.
I was furious. I don’t know why, but I felt tragically misunderstood by him in that moment, and as soon as we were alone that night, I brought it up. I told him about the money, and the time and the guilt and that it was a TERRIBLE idea, and said I couldn’t believe that he had sided with my mother – that she was a force to be reckoned with at the least of times, and now this? Now I was going to have a big fight with my mother, and he’d destroyed at least half of my very good arguments.
Joe, the way he does, let me run on. He listened carefully, and then thought for a minute, and chose his words carefully. "Steph" he said. You’re batsh*t insane."
I stared at him. He went on. "You’re nuts. It’s a vacation. People take them all the time. It’s good for you. You’d love it. You’ve never done anything like this, and you should go, and it will be amazing. Leave. Book a flight. Leave."
I asked him about the kids. "I’ve got it." He said.
I asked about the money. "We’ve got it." He said.
I asked about the time not working and how it made me feel guilty.
"You’re not getting it." He said.
Right after that they all ganged up on me, and the bottom line is that even though I still feel funny about it, I’m leaving for the Dominican Republic on Monday. When next you see me write, that’s where I’ll be blogging from, and so today I’m packing two suitcases. My flight leaves Monday, and I arrive home on the 14th, and I have a 10 hour turnaround before I’m out the door to Seattle in the morning, so I’ll come home, put down one suitcase – have a little sleep, and then go out the door with the other.
I’m not so sure I’ll be good at this, and I still have terrific guilt I don’t understand, but I’m going to try.
I’ll have the blanket with me.