Notes from toddlerless travels.
Photo by: Sherwood411
Day 1: Notes scribbled on the plane
I try to suppress all the anxiety I feel about this trip and focus on the good it will do me. This is the first solo trip I’ve taken since having my daughter in 2014. This is a respite. A time for renewal, to relax with friends, all of us leaving our little ones for a few miraculously-scheduled days to hike and relax in Colorado.
But the anxiety! I know flying is ostensibly super safe. But the mind is not a totally logical creature. I am at heart an animal who doesn’t fly by nature. Thus, anxiety.
I pack a fully charged Kindle, podcasts, Hamilton. As I get closer to boarding, I anticipate being trapped, forced to read for four glorious hours. I agonized, too, though. Do I pack my favorite perfume? What if something happens and Winnie could have had that to remember me? Scent is so connected to memory, after all. I feel like I’m being ridiculous but also seriously, would Patrick know to get that for her to remember me by? I should have set up an Amazon list of Hayley Things…or is that something only an anxiety-riddled person would do? Welp.
I instruct Patrick to sign her up for ballet classes if I die. And tell her how I died saving Chechnyan orphans. You know, the usual jokey-jokes. And then, I’m off.
There is a baby in an Ergo two rows up from me, curly haired and sleepy-eyed. I make eyes at her for four glorious hours.
There is a lazy freedom in hiking without worrying about naptimes. Lunch on a mountain is eaten while sprawling on an outcropping of rocks that, were I with a child, would never have been picked as the picnic spot.
Time moves slower without her bubble of child-needs enveloping me. There are a million choices that can be made, none constrained by bedtimes or the need to try and provide a balanced meal option. Time is syrup, sticky-sweet and slow. Delicious, in its rarity.
Like a wind-up toy or music box, I have come to the end of the sticky-sweet time and feel myself retracting and spinning back in towards my child. I hunger for her little voice, her small person mannerisms, her Very Serious “Oh my!” when something must be exclaimed over.
I obsessively scroll through my phone’s photo library.
I FaceTime her twice, delighting as she kisses the screen to me, wishing I were there. I am a person with a long tether, made of guts and love and all those gritty gross human things that knit us all together. I am happy to be solo for a little while, but only a little. I’m free, but only in a superficial sense; I wear a heavy, lovely invisible chainmail called Motherhood everywhere. While that may sound oppressive–the word chainmail, after all, does not conjure up images of carefree romping, it’s not–it’s protective, it’s shiny, it’s brilliant. But heavy, yes. It doesn’t weigh me down, but I am always aware of its presence.
Day 4: The return
And then, just like that, I am back. There are no babies on this return flight, so I content myself to scroll through videos of mine that have been texted to me in my absence.
When I get back, she’s napping.
I think of all the recharging I’ve experienced, the oh-so-needed time away to find the Hayley beneath the chainmail, the fleshy, loud-barking-laughing me hidden under the layers of responsibility and work and parenthood’s daily requirements.
She flutters her eyelashes.
But I feel like I’m back too, a little bit more myself than I was a few days before. The chainmail is sometimes heavy, but the occasional time away helps me balance the weight just right.