“How can I get my hands on one of those light sabers?” I asked the guy at the front desk when we checked into the hotel. There was a display behind him with a beach tote and a pair of glowing, multi-colored light sabers.
The guy behind the desk beamed at me. “I’ll give them to you for free. All you have to do is visit our Vacation Gallery for a brief presentation.”
So I signed up for the presentation and walked out of the hotel lobby with my new set of light sabers.
At the time, which is to say after a glass or two of wine, it seemed a small price to pay.
Days later, Scott and I sat, sober and drinking decaf at the Vacation Gallery. Damien, a tall guy, no more than 30, joined us at our table. He was all limbs and a giant suit, but had a relaxed air about him as he leaned back and began to extoll the virtues of timeshare ownership—the hotel points, the resorts, the free tote bag.
Scott and I listened politely, drinking our free coffee and already feeling vaguely guilty for letting Damien go on, knowing full well that the only reason we were there was because I’d decided I had to have a stupid glowing light saber.
Damien finished his pitch, and was silent for a few moments, letting us drink it all in. And then he leaned toward us, like this was about to get very real indeed.
“Let me ask you this,” he said. “What do you want to get out of a vacation?”
I didn’t hesitate. “Radical togetherness,” I replied.
Scott and Damien both looked at me.
“The kids are seven and five. Now that we don’t have to haul diapers and car seats, they’ve become fun to travel with, they’re just going to keep getting older. We need to be together as much as possible and we need to do it now.”
Whatever Damien thought I was going to say (See the world! Get away from it all!), it was clearly not this. He and Scott went back and forth on the value of the points versus the money and whether it was worth it. While they were talking, and knowing that we were in no danger of buying a timeshare, I started thinking about what our next vacation would be. The value in the timeshare, I decided, was not the hotel points or access to the resorts, but the fact that you are pretty much forced to take a vacation. We are not good about making sure we get away. There is always some project, there is school, there’s the money.
Damien left to get some piece of paper he promised would make everything much more interesting for us. We watched him go.
Scott looked at me. “We should get the kids passports,” he said.
The next day, at the resort pool, I saw a little boy about three, blond hair and blue eyes and a mischievous grin. He reminded me so much of Kai at that age that I was realized with a sudden jolt just how old Kai really is. When I kiss him, he says “Ew.” Whatever affection he wants to give me I have to wait patiently for. He holds my hand because I ask him to so I can be sure of him, not so he can be sure of me.
And later, on the way home, I found out that my children are now too old for family boarding on Southwest, that my days of bottles and strollers and holding a squirming kid on my lap for four hours are long behind me. Kai went to the airplane bathroom all by himself. When Ryan got hungry, she asked the flight attendant for pretzels. Neither one of them pestered me at all. Instead, I had some wine and did some writing and passed an incredibly pleasant three hours.
I don’t miss the work of caring for a baby, the diapers, the constant vigilance of trying to keep them from killing themselves. But I do miss their snuggly little bodies, the nuclear heat they give off when they fall asleep on your shoulder, the feeling of nursing them.
I miss having all that time with them in front of me.
There was a moment during the trip when Scott turned to me as we were walking and said, “I like our weird vacation.”
It was true that this vacation was unlike any vacation we’d ever had. It was not in any way relaxing. Nothing major went wrong, just small stuff, like Kai freaking out during Captain EO at Epcot and needing to leave right now, or Kai telling the Japanese teppanyaki chef that he didn’t want to watch her “cooking show” any more, or Ryan having a massive meltdown because I wouldn’t buy her a cookie and punching me in front of an old lady who tsked and shook her head at me like I was the biggest failure in the history of motherhood, or repeatedly missing the free shuttle to the parks.
It wasn’t perfect, but nothing really bad happened, either. We hadn’t lost Kai, no one got sick, no one tried to drink the water in Small World.
But we were enjoying a moment in time, when we would walk four abreast holding hands, when the kids were seven and five and we went to Disney World together.
On the last morning of vacation, Scott and I woke up with both children in our bed.
Kai had come in to bed with us around midnight, tossing and turning, eventually coming to rest with his head near our knees and his feet on the pillow. Ryan came in some hours after that, snuggling her jack-rabbity body against me and pushing Kai closer to Scott. None of us slept well, particularly Scott, who kept getting scratched in the face by Kai’s creepily long toenails.
I lay there for some time after I woke up. I put my arm around Ryan and held her close. She smelled like pee, and it took me a long time to realize that it was because she’d wet the bed.
And so we lay there, the four of us, Scott trying to avoid getting kicked in the head, me lying in a warm circle of someone else’s urine.
It wasn’t perfect, of course.
But we were, for a moment in time, radically together.