“I think I’m staying in the cabin from The Evil Dead,” I texted my husband. “Just don’t open any books you didn’t bring,” was his good advice.
It was 5:00 PM on a Friday night, and I was on a hilltop trail in West Virginia by myself, staring at a creek and a small waterfall, assuming that every sound around me was a bear approaching.
I made my way back to the cabin, unmauled. When I arrived there earlier, it was a little eerie, and the first thing I did was check every closet to ensure I was alone.
“I think I’m staying in the cabin from The Evil Dead,” I texted my husband.
“Just don’t open any books you didn’t bring,” was his good advice.
A couple hours later my friend arrived. She lives in Pittsburgh, and Cacapon Resort State Park, outside of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, is about halfway between us. We rented a cabin for two nights, and it was my first time away from my family.
When I booked the cabin for a weekend getaway with my friend, my sad thoughts of being away from both my daughter and husband for the first time quickly turned into a shopping list for snacks, including Chewy Chips Ahoy and Pirate’s Booty.
Prior to that weekend, I had only spent the night away from my daughter three times. The first time was when she was a three-week-old, and I had to stay in the hospital overnight. Less traumatically and more than two years after that, our child has also stayed the night with her babysitter and had a sleepover. But these things were just nights away, the bulk of which everyone presumably slept through. For a long time I felt a lot of sadness and guilt with the idea of leaving them to do something for just me. I feel guilty when I run errands without my daughter if she’s not napping.
My husband has been out of town a few times to visit friends. The last time he went out of town it was for two nights. My daughter and I had a lot of fun. I planned to do cool things, and everything worked out fine for a solo-parenting weekend. It was great. In fact, I felt bad that he missed all these things we did.
I decided to finally nail down some floating plans to visit with my friend. Instead of feeling guilty for leaving them for a weekend, I knew I was giving them the gift of a potential super fun papa/daughter weekend.
I thought I would be more emotional about the long time away. I was missing a whole weekend, and weekends are our thing. But I was ready to have some alone time. I did get a little sad because I didn’t have phone service in the woods and I couldn’t talk to them on Friday. When I tried calling, I could hear them but they couldn’t hear me, and my husband had our kid shout that she loved me (it means more when you make them say it) and it broke my heart a little that I couldn’t respond. I could barely send texts and had no Internet service. The lodge in the park had Wi-Fi, so I was able to video chat with them on Saturday night while I watched about 40 deer hang out on a golf course, and a woman who was outside smoking laughed at my daughter shouting and singing songs from Aladdin to me over FaceTime.
While I missed my family, I immediately got used to the idea of not having to take care of anyone. It was nice. Though, I realized that I didn’t so much feel free from the bonds of parenthood as I did the bonds the pet-ownership. Our pet to people ratio in our home is 1:1, and I forget until I’m not at there how much almost everything I do at home involves a pet or is a workaround to prevent a pet from doing something.
As for the weekend? It was awesome! My friend and I made good on it being a writing retreat and spent hours working on our own projects (my novel, her MFA thesis). We cooked, ate cookies (Chips Ahoy are not as good as I remembered), read, took hikes and kept running into deer carcasses, saw bear tracks, and hung out in Berkeley Springs and treated ourselves to a spa visit. It was also pretty great not having Internet access, and is definitely the reason why I wrote for hours and finished reading a book.
When I came home I was relaxed from an easy drive listening to podcasts and some great music. I also had forgotten the joys of driving long distances alone. I arrived at nap time to a tired girl who said she missed me, though it sounds like they did just fine without me (something about a donut and a cupcake).
I like to travel with my family, but I like that going out of town alone or with friends is on the table now. It’s good to remember what it’s like to be your own person and to spend some time not waiting for kids and dogs to pee. If you haven’t made that plunge yet for whatever reason, I recommend it. Leave your routine for a couple days, and trade it in for one that includes being afraid of bears and haunted cabins. You’ll love it.