Saturday morning I drank my coffee alone.
There were no children rippling the calm waters of my morning with the skipping stones of their demands. No one needed help finding Baby Bear, or getting the excruciatingly funky seam of their socks properly adjusted. No one needed an egg fried–urgently–after I had just set up shop at the kitchen table with newspaper and coffee.
For the first time in five years I wasn’t awoken by a battalion of elbows and knees, or someone’s hot breath on my sleepy face begging to nurse.
One word, friends: sleepover.
The little people had their first sleepover ever with their grandparents this weekend. They packed their Winnie the Pooh suitcase with the essentials and waited expectantly like prom dates for their beloved Baba and Nana. They seemed so small and vulnerable strapped into the backseat of my parents rental car, and just a bit askew, like we had mistakenly dressed them in our adult clothes or had accidentally dropped them off on a Greyhound bus next to the guy with the mildewy duffle bag.
My mom finally interrupted my painfully protracted, 10-step goodbye (a hug, a kiss, three more hugs, hand squeezes, wishing them a good night sleep, gazing at them like they’re going off to war and I must memorize their faces and one more kiss) and shooed me off.
“I feel like they’re about to lose their virginity!” I told Dan as they zoomed away, to which he replied “I hope I’m about to lose my virginity.”
Dan and I dressed up (eschewing regulation-issue great-aunt elastic) and rode our bikes downtown–rode our bikes like people without a curfew! And despite a harrowing moment where I tried to dismount while my skirt remained tucked around my bike seat, everything had this subtle romantic airbrushing to it. “It’s like we’re hominids again,” Dan said cheerfully as we walked into a pub arm-in-arm.
We met up with some friends and stood around with our drinks, pretending like it was perfectly normal to be chatting with other adults at 9:30pm, while a DJ spun tunes that could only be described as “loud,” and most likely no one in the packed room was carrying spare diapers.
“I wonder what they’re doing now,” I mused to Dan every fifteen minutes. “Do you think they’re sleeping yet? You don’t think Col will roll off the bed do you? Do you think Rose will be able to sleep?”
It was fun to see friends without the buzz-kill of swiping kids’ dangling boogers or managing complicated preschool relationships. But at the same time I felt shy and awkward, as if caught in the spotlight that I so naturally deflect onto my children while I’m backstage wiping smudges from their faces and stage-whispering their lines: “now, say you’re sorry!” But we dutifully drank our beers, enjoying adult conversation with dear friends, despite (or maybe because of) the topic of our collective brood popping up routinely like Waldo in those Where’s Waldo books.
Dan and I rode home in the thick, invisible dark, the Guinnesses massaging out the tight spots in our muscles and our apprehension about coming home to an empty house.
I had a hard time falling asleep. I wasn’t worried about the kids, but it was more like something was missing, something as vital and ordinary as my own hands. It was extraordinary late for us, possibly from being happily unchained from the shackles under which we ordinarily conduct our sex life – with ears vaguely aimed towards little threats of ambush. Instead, leisurely.
And Saturday morning, I had the tangy pleasure of missing my kids, which is like rhubarb syrup – sweet with a sharp, creeping sourness or possibly the other way around. Dan left before sunrise for a hike and the house was uncannily quiet and still. I did chicken chores without rushing against the clock of leaving children unsupervised inside. I read the paper and drank my coffee and savored the exotic taste of a quiet house.
*The kids did great on their sleepover. They gave a token fuss at teeth-brushing time, more to keep up appearances of being bedtime-scoundrels than any real issue. Col woke up before 6:00 am, crawled in bed with my parents and fell back asleep. And sure I missed them, but not enough to forego dreaming about backpacking alone with Dan during the next sleepover.