Imagine a perfect day’s beginning: Glimmers of the sun slowly rising over the ocean, spotted only from the small opening between drawn curtains.
Lying on crisp white sheets and plump feather pillows. The knowledge that you may sleep for as long as you like. No plans await you, just vague notions of lounging on your sea-facing balcony or strolling along the quiet off-season boardwalk.
Thus began a Mother’s Day get-away to Ocean City, Md., with two friends who are also mothers. We lay in our beds, adjusting to the idea that we had absolutely no obligations for two luxurious days.
And then the marching band began.
Right outside our balcony, about 20 high school students banged cymbals, beat drums and blew horns.
We groaned, but couldn’t keep smiles at bay long. After all, we were on vacation! And besides, we couldn’t help grinning about how delighted our children would’ve been to have that wake-up call.
Deciding to go away for two nights on Mother’s Day weekend had felt a smidge wrong at first. After all, my 6-year-old, Emma, would certainly be bringing home a handmade card from first grade, covered with hearts and proclaiming me to be the best.
On Sunday, she and her 3-year-old brother, Benny, would no doubt deliver me breakfast in bed, a feast of peanut butter clumps on bread sprinkled with dried cranberries. I’d be covered in kisses, in between honoring requests for snacks, churning through loads of laundry, wiping bottoms and mouths, and the countless other mommy-related jobs that await me.
“Go for it,” my husband said when I told him about the last-minute getaway. “Have fun.”
When I told Emma that I’d be leaving for the weekend, I braced myself for her tears.
“Bring me something back,” she said instead. “A seashell, or jewelry, or shoes, or …”
Benny watched me pack my suitcase. “I’ll miss having a mother,” he said as my heart broke. And then later Jon reminded him that they’d spend the day together, going to yard sales and festivals, and playing outside. “Have fun, Mama,” Benny said and scooted closer to Jon.
Among the no-kids perks my friends and I looked forward to were not having to share portions of any meals, not needing to monitor another person’s sunscreen usage, not having to do the mommy walk on the beach (you know, trudging along loaded down with sand toys, souvenirs and bulky bags), and not needing to constantly field the “what’s next” question.
After the marching band left to wake other vacationers, we went to breakfast. We ended up splitting our platters three ways so each of us could try the fried potatoes, berry-filled crepes and vegetable omelet.
Then we lay poolside for a few hours, chatting about our children and making sure everyone got a little shade when the sun beat down upon us.
We strolled on the boardwalk, and came back to our hotel juggling new beach toys and souvenirs for our children. “What’s next?” we asked each other.
So there is never a truly child-free vacation. If you’re a mother, you’re a mother no matter where you are, no matter where your children are.
But Mother’s Day seemed even sweeter Sunday when I came home to squeals and a small pile of crayon-scrawled portraits of me. I sat down to a delicious dinner, rising a few times to fill cups of milk, hand out napkins and wipe sticky mouths and fingers. I realized just how blessed I am to be Emma and Benny’s mother.
“I love you, Mama,” Emma said, her face nestled against my shoulder. “What did you bring me?”
Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 6, and son, Benny, 3. For more Smart Mama columns visit www.smartmamapa.com.