This week I traveled for work - left on Tuesday afternoon and came home on Thursday mid-day.
So, on Tuesday morning, when I left each of my boys, I said, "I love you, and I cannot wait to see you again on Thursday [two days from now - I hope the teachers who hear me aren't judging me - I hope you, Squish especially, don't think I am abandoning you because your understanding of days, let alone their names, is so limited]."
Nothing about saying that feels good. In fact, it feels lousy.
The next forty-eight hours were jam packed. I checked in to my hotel and debated next steps before meeting an old friend for drinks. Go to the fitness room and get a run in before dinner and drinks? Do yoga in the room? Order dinner to my room? Go across the street to the chain restaurant I can see from my room window? Eat downstairs in the hotel lobby/bar?
Many moments later [sans exercise], I was downstairs in the lobby for dinner. I have not had dinner for one in public in a while. I made a sincere effort at first to avoid my various screens and devices and to sit at my table, enjoy the view of the lobby and other diners, and simply be present.
While I am always interested in people watching, there was not much foot traffic within the lobby of the hotel. So, I had a choice... I could either stare at each of the other diners for a little too long, or I could cave and distract myself with news/emails/blogs on my phone. I chose the latter.
When I had finished about two-thirds of my meal and my glass of wine, my dear waiter came by and filled the rest of my glass. He said, "This is from me."
Before anyone reading this raises any eyebrows at that gesture, let me make it clear, that my waiter was treating me exactly the same way I treated sweet, old ladies dining alone when I was a waitress [off and on for about ten years].
Soon, my friend arrived. We sat and talked for hours, and it was wonderful.
The next day, I woke up and took an early morning walk - grabbed coffee, magnesium (for the headaches that shall not be mentioned), and random hair products (because I cannot get out of a big box 'pharmacy' without wasting money on at least one weird thing when I travel).
I walked two blocks to the White House, took a picture, and sent it to my husband. He texted back asking, "Nice. Have you seen the fiscal cliff yet?"
Several hours of working in my room later, it was time to start my day of meetings. I went to lunch with my colleagues just before noon and was in meetings, business dinner, and team-building post-meeting-and-dinner-drinks until around 11:30 pm. A long day by any standard.
The next morning, I met up with a friend from college for coffee before my flight. We sat and talked, and it was also wonderful.
By 1pm on Thursday, I was home.
Home to an empty apartment. I started working again and took care of some time-sensitive matters.
As I was working, I started to cry.
Not crumpled up, snot everywhere, pull the blankets over my head crying. Just sitting on my couch, typing on my computer, getting my work done, while tears run down my cheeks crying.
I did something similar in September when I came home from a work trip to my empty apartment and worked from there for the rest of the day.
Is it that the apartment is empty? No warm reception after my absence? Is it that it is finally safe to feel the lousiness of having been gone from my dearhearts for two days? Is it that I am now, and have always been, a lulu who just needs to let it out sometimes and rarely has any moments to myself to do so?
Who knows. When I took this job, I knew I would be traveling for about one night a month on average over the course of a year. The idea actually appealed to me. I love fancy hotels. I love to travel. And what mom doesn't fantasize about a night away (let alone one guaranteed night of sleep each month)?
The reality is a trickier adjustment. Yes, the sleep is awesome (to the extent sleeping alone in a strange bed is actually restorative). And, yes, I love being able to catch up with friends I don't otherwise get to see. Also - nothing bad about flying with nothing more than a tiny carry-on and my purse. But the disruption of my travel is a challenge for all four of us.
On Thursday night, with all four of us home, Squish, Bug, and I were in the kitchen. Squish was standing without any support, and I said to Bug, "Look at [Squish]! He's been standing by himself this whole time!"
Bug got very excited and went out of the kitchen shouting to my husband, "Look! Look, Daddy! Look! [Squish] is standing!!"
My husband came into the kitchen.
The three of us watched Squish with the quietest anticipation.
Then, he did it. He took a step forward - one Squish leg swinging out to the side and ahead. Then, the other leg followed suit. Two steps. Then collapse.
I asked my husband, "Has he been doing that for the last couple of days?!??!!?"
He said, "No -- that is the first time I've ever seen him do that!!"
Bug, my husband, and I were in the kitchen clapping and cheering for our Squish.
I am so, so glad to have been here with them that night, and I will always consider the timing of Squish's first steps as his gift to me.