Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Mental Vacation

There was something very different about today that catapulted me into a mental vacation, a psychologial experience so few and far between. I left home and went away somewhere without having to open the front door or leave the backyard, hazard the inequities of travel or the costs therein.

The picture is my vacation spot, my backyard.

It being Sunday, my day to get up with the kids, the day started bright and early at 6:45, and Matthew and I (Natalie slept in until 8:30, lucky stiff) enjoyed breakfast together and some funny playtime. I reveled in his laughter and was awestruck by his interaction with Baby Einstein. He saw an apple, pointed at it with his usual amusement and declared: “Apple,” followed by a fit of hysterical laughter. This happened most every time he saw something he could call out by name, and then turned to me with a look on his face like, “Papa! Did you see that? Did you see that crazy lizard water that flower? And did you see the flower? Well, did you? It perked right up when he wasn’t looking! Imagine that!”

There was something unusual about today, as a series of events and conditions all converged to form a perfect pseudo-vacation day. The sun was bright and warm; the sky a sharp, deep blue--the kind of blue you don't find at home--there was a slight wind blowing in a strange different smell; I had very little to do; and what I did do were things I don’t normally get to do.

What was really great about today is that I didn't go out of my way to have a nice day. I usually don't wake up and exclaim: "Today is going to be a great day!" Most days are boring humdrum spent rueing the fact that I had to get out of bed and waiting anxiously until I can return. But today! Today was something different. I felt, dare I say it? Alive.

I started my day listening to this song, which has somehow put me in a good mood since I first heard it on Friday (even though the video is some strange Communistic montage of sorts that I can’t readily figure out).

After wrestling Kara and Natalie out of bed, I climbed back in, not because I was tired but more because it was so comfortable and I wanted to lay there in peace. The bed was warm and inviting, but I didn’t sleep. I didn't try to, just laid there, as if enjoying the relaxing experience of slowly waking up on a lazy Sunday morning.

I basically spent the rest of the day outside, something I wouldn’t normally do. The smells that filled the air today were a cross of sage, something that always reminds me of the vacations I took as a kid (so much so that I need to find some to plant in the backyard), and sweet smelling flowers, coming from somewhere, signifying the arrival of spring. The breezes burst into gusts, which made me feel as though I was somewhere else, and I took advantage of that feeling, convincing myself that I was at a resort somewhere... best of all, it didn't cost me a dime!

I got a book (Pledged by Alexandra Robbins), climbed into a chair on the grass and read while the kids cheerfully busied themselves with activities around the backyard… [Matthew always just a few feet behind his big sister all day, doing what she does, following her every move from walking on all fours like a Caribou (her idea) to climbing the big rocks to coloring suns with chalk on the patio to attempting a tremendous feat, trying to jump over the dog... much to Elsa's chagrin, he just belly-flops onto her back].

Even the chair I sat in was different, like I was on a beach chair at a hotel, because it was one I haven't spent any time it. Last week, I was showing my parents the pre-school Natalie will be attending in the Fall, and as we drove around the back, there were two white wooden chairs sitting by the trash, rather on the small side so I assumed they would be great for the kids. When I got home, I called the church to see if they were being thrown out, and they told me to come down and pick them up. After a few additional screws, the eviction and execution of this giant black widow and her equally huge egg sack (yikes!), and a coat of fresh paint, they were almost good as new.

I spent some time kicking a soccer ball around the yard with Matthew, while he emptied a sippy cup of juice. He giggled when I kicked it up the hill so it hit the wall and rolled back down to us, and when I passed it to him, he screamed “No, no, no!” at the ball, kicking it away—which is what I wanted him to do in the first place. He found it hilarious.

Kara came home from the gym and we attempted to fly a kite in the backyard, with mixed results, and then I read so more. I figured I shouldn’t waste the sun, so I took off my shirt to see how my white pasty skin would react. Since I didn’t instantly burst into flames and I didn’t hear any sizzling sounds, I figured I was okay.

I had a restaurant review to do today, a steak and rib place, so I only had a bowl of cereal to make sure there would be enough room to scarf down about $50 worth of meat (it ended up being closer to $75). I opened the windows to the bathroom to let in the breezes, and carried with it was such an unusual smell. I stood in the shower, and it was as if I was taking a shower in some different location, a strange hotel room maybe, as the room filled with a vanilla-meets-chlorine odor that I found rather interesting and oddly appealing. I cupped my hands to smell the water and all I smelled was soap, but every time I took in a breath, I was smelling vacation air.

So, why not go with it. I was a little despondent that I had to leave my little mental vacation to do the review, but I was happily able to incorporate it into my mental trip. You gotta eat, right? And it was a restaurant that I wouldn’t normally go to, with food I wouldn’t normally buy (or would want to afford… I wouldn’t have bought a $40 ribs/steak/chicken/shrimp sampler platter, followed by a rib-eye steak… followed by a country fried steak… followed by three soups. Who eats like that? That’s right, people on vacation. Me. Today.

When I came home, it was just as nice. The sun had ducked behind the trees and the backyard was awash in the long shadows of the afternoon. I resumed my book, tasted one of those new Diet Cokes with vitamins and minerals (meh…) and had the whole house to myself (Kara and the tots were at the store).

It was nice. I have two articles to write today and tomorrow, but I didn’t worry about them. I wasn’t going to worry, because I was on vacation, one of those rare ones that take your mind away but leave your body at home.

And true to form for any vacation involving the sun, I got sunburned.

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