By Valerie Schultz
Issue 95, July/August 1999
When we mix together our busy schedules, nursing babies, and an unforgiving budget, my husband and I rarely get away together as the marriage experts advise. Our vacations are usually visits to friends or relatives, or family camp-outs. Our idea of decadence is take-out Chinese food eaten after the kids are asleep. A play or a concert is an extraordinary treat. Even a movie on a big screen happens in a blue moon - especially if the movie is not made by Disney.
Of course we love our children. We love being Mommy and Daddy. But sometimes we love - we need - just to be us. So when my husband got the nod from his school district to attend a weekend conference in Big Bear Lake , complete with a private hotel room, we did not need to think twice. In our minds we were already there. And naked.
Finally on our way to the conference, our first stop is my parents' house to drop off our children. We unload all their clothes and stuffed companions, kiss the kids, wish my folks all the best, and drive through the fog and threatening snow to the mountains.
The hotel room is gorgeous, sumptuous. The bed is topped by a canopy, and sheer foamy fabric drapes seductively from the top four corners. A fringed shawl hangs above an ornate mirror, and starry curtains frame the window. There is an armoire, a fragile table and two chairs, an inviting tub. The lamp by the bed is turned down low. The gas fireplace hisses instantly, intimately, at the flick of the switch. We leave our bags by the door and melt.
In the morning a whole new world greets us. Snow hugs the limbs of the pine trees out our window. We're awakened from our cocoon by a telephoned wake-up call, instead of by the patter of little feet ready for play or by a dog's cold nose.
Morning desire need not be furtive or unsatisfied. We eat bagels and bananas in bed. We shower together. When my husband leaves for his first scheduled meeting, the new day is at my mercy.
Part of me luxuriates: shall I pull out my unread novel, go for a walk, polish my essay-in-progress, order tea, watch a movie, shop for souvenirs? Part of me panics: what will I do all day? No plans, no schedule, no carpools, no responsibility, no example to set? What a wild and terrifying prospect for a mother of four on a Saturday morning! What if I make the wrong choices and later regret my free hours, unwisely spent? I watch the fire and decide to find my book. I hangout the "Do Not Disturb" sign, feeling deliciously wicked. I'm going to be just fine.
When I meet my husband for lunch, we walk arm-in-arm, as we match our strides like we used to in college. We still fit perfectly. We order lunch, and we talk to each other the whole time. Our conversation dips below the surface, beneath the house needing painting and our daughter's lost tooth. We talk concepts and dreams we didn't even know we thought, but which are freed by uninterrupted time. We fall in love.
Our weekend, when not committed to meetings, is devoted to sex. Sex at home is comfortable, fulfilling, warm. Sex in a hotel room is on a steamier level. The kind light of the fireplace means even I can successfully wear a garter belt. We can make more noise. We can stay naked all the time. And we can be certain that the person in Room 225 is not going to have a raptor-nightmare and want to curl up on a corner of our bed. Sex on a stolen weekend is everything you read about and more.
Big Bear Lake ? Oh, yes, it is very nice. We eat hearty meals, admire the lake, take in the shopping village, jog through towering pines. The people are lovely, the conference informative, and the parking not bad. But to be honest, a weekend in Mojave would probably bring the same light to our eyes.
Sunday arrives. We pack up, check out, make our way down the mountain. As wondrous as the weekend has been, as much as I love the quiet conversation of our driving time, I feel the flutter of anticipation in my belly: the kids. I really have missed them.
I wonder how they have been - if they've eaten well, if they've picked up their toys and watched out for each other. I wonder if they've missed us, but I know they have. I imagine them flying across the driveway when we pull up, all tight hugs and wide smiles. They will be taller and brighter, even in two days.
We have brought them souvenirs, little bears and smelly soaps. They will tell us all their high adventures with their grandparents, 48 hours' worth. Life will be instantly back to normal as we all come together again.
We will cherish in our hearts our two days of rejuvenation and refreshment, and exchange private smiles. My husband still looks great naked.
Freelance writer Valerie Schultz (42) lives in Tehachapi , California , with her husband Randy and their four daughters: Morgan, Zoe, Raven, and Mariah. She has published essays, short fiction, and poetry. Her work has appeared in Mothering, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Family Fun, Catholic Parent, Sojourners, The Other Side, The Sun, High Plains Literary Review, Radiance, and Hip Mama.
Photo by Tony Stone.