The in-laws just descended on my 1,070-square-foot inland bungalow for an 11-day stay. (I think I just heard a few of you fall to the floor in a collective and magnificent blackout.) One of the first things my mother-in-law did, moments after being delivered from the land of corn and cheese and truly happy cows, was to compliment me on how great I look-now that I've 'put on a couple of pounds.' Grrrrr. She meant well, and so do I when I say that perhaps her eyeballs are retaining water.
I love my mother-in-law. I do. I love both of Sam's parents. They're beautiful, kind and funny people. But let's face reality: Regardless of how stellar your relationship is with your in-laws, any composed adult would be undone at the prospect of a two-week sojourn with them. Just think about it for a second. Close your eyes and imagine sharing one bathroom with your spouse, the parents of your spouse and a toddler in the midst of potty training. Did I mention the part about 11 days? Go ahead. Visualize it. I'll wait.
Pretty terrifying, huh?
Well, lucky for me, they're not staying with 'us.' They're staying with Ruby while Sam and I head for a country we wouldn't be embarrassed to be from. Thanks to their generous babysitting services, we are taking our first vacation.
I should actually clarify that a bit. We've traveled extensively, both in the states and abroad, but always with friends or family. Always. There was the first summer after we got married when we loaded our Toyota truck with our gear, our dog and a case of oil-the truck was hemorrhaging oil-and drove to Breckenridge to visit friends. My BFF (I'll call her 'Gail') says this 'sort of counts' as a couples-only vacation, but I say, no, it doesn't. We may have had hundreds of miles alone together in the cab of our oil-sucking lemon as it huffed its way up mountain passes at 30 mph. But rolling to the middle of an air mattress in an apartment over a garage shared by a family of three and a 115-pound dog didn't see me home with star-filled eyes and freshly fucked hair. No, Gail, that does not count. In fact, it's only one or two degrees removed from the in-law situation previously imagined.
Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to our vacation. I can't wait to stay out late without thought of the sitter's mounting salary. I can't wait for fresh sheets every day and for sleeping late sans 6 a.m. screeches of 'MAAAHmuh!' I can't wait to order room service for breakfast and not have to wash dishes for the eleventeenth time since waking up. I can't wait to spend an uninterrupted week with the man I married.
But I gotta be honest here. I'm also a little apprehensive because I am about to spend an uninterrupted week with the man I married! I'm not convinced I know how to behave in those circumstances-it's been so long. Who are we anymore, anyway?
An American nitwit once bemoaned his presidency as 'harrrd worrrk.' I don't doubt this is true. But I don't think there is harder work than the real highest office in the land, the office of Married With Kid. The child part of that equation is the reason 'three is a crowd' means something. Though extremely rewarding, parenthood demands that a couple endure the elevated threat of backbreaking, mind-numbing, minutia-navigating day-to-day drudgery. Life becomes eerily like an episode of The Simpsons in which chaos reigns and disaster is averted by the narrowest of margins in 15-minute intervals.
When Homer and Marge met in the episode aptly titled 'The Way We Was,' they swooned even as she insisted he wasn't her type. She was an outspoken feminist and he the bad boy she met in detention. Their courtship was romantic and naughty and dangerous and foolish, as new love often is. But fast forward a few years and they're submerged in a desire-muted life unrecognizable to that of the former couple who once threw down carelessly enough to become pregnant out of wedlock. D'oh!
I see a bit of us in Homer and Marge. Our life now, though rich and vibrant, inspires déjà vu when compared to its earlier cousin, and I admit that I have trouble getting back to that place where we began. Even with all its perks-the right to eat dessert before dinner is one of my favs-grownup life is often stressful. Passion and stomach butterflies are utterly incompatible with the drone of obligations. Eroticism is stamped out like a bag of flaming dog shit left on the curmudgeonly neighbor's doorstep.
All the honey-did-you-call-the-accountant/doctor/babysitter/psychiatrist/plumber/mechanic-today conversations do not sustain a courtship. A successful parenting team possibly, but it can't be the foreplay for an enduring relationship. And if you make it through another day of this particular monotony, stacked as it is with Legos and bee stings and spilled soy milk and tantrums, and you still have the energy for sex, then you're a world-champion human being in my book. If you're this couple, congratulations! You win. You should bottle the formula for survival and sell it on Oprah. You'll make gatrillions.
Whether intended or not, this trip has a lot riding on it. Aware of the danger inherent in expectation and the corresponding possibility of disappointment, we've intentionally left everything unplanned and unscheduled, wholly unlike each hour of our regular life. With direct flights and a swanky hotel, we've pre-empted failure. And we've agreed that it's OK if we don't have a bottomless wellspring of conversation as we get reacquainted with us, circa 1997 B.C. (Before Child). It's OK to just be.
With the help of a departing cocktail at the airport, we hope to glide easily into vacation mode, tap into that old part of us simmering just beneath the cover of domesticity and return home rejuvenated after a week of carefree, childfree adventure. I'd like to come back with a few extra pounds on my hips from the fabulous food we'll feed each other, and a special hairdo that my savvy mother-in-law will appreciate and most certainly comment upon.