This morning I dropped Aidan off for his first day at his new school, where he is going to junior kindergarten.
Vacation is officially over.
I thought it was over on September 28, when we flew from Los Angeles to Boston, after a month-long trip that took us from Boston to LA to Chicago back to LA to Seattle to Vancouver and back to LA again. Whoo, that’s a mouthful!
I’d traveled with Harlan and Aidan, by myself, alone with Harlan, alone with Aidan. I’d gone to a film conference, the fantastic Getty Villa and Art Institute of Chicago, an arcade on Granville Island, the beach more times than I could count. I’d roamed the banks of the Chicago River, by foot and by boat, threw billions of balls in the mouth of a painted puppy at the arcade so Aidan could win enough tickets to buy a squirt gun, and celebrated both Harlan’s and my seventh anniversary and my high school friends Julie and Ritchie’s marriage to each other.
I’d gone through boxes of old books, photos and files in my parents’ garage to trash as much as I could. I’d uncovered hundreds of crabs scuttling for shelter in Deep Cove and sand crabs digging for dear life on the beaches of Venice and Santa Monica. I’d eaten dozens of bowls of oatmeal and ice cream with my parents and fresh crab and blackberries fresh from the bramble with Harlan’s. I’d dined with my uncle Jack and aunt Rose and gawked proudly at the magazine in which my cousin David’s article and photographs appeared (hours before he hopped onto a plane to Cairo, where he will spend the next nine months).
I’d shopped for dresses and patent leather pumps with my sister and gabbed poolside, drinks in hand, with her and her friend Delia one day and Sam another. I’d done yoga classes, had my toenails and hair done and soaked in hot and cold pools and been scrubbed till my skin screamed at the Korean spa. I’d taken a bike ride with my friend Carolynn to hear Latin music at the Santa Monica pier at sunset.
I’d drunk like a frat boy on more than one occasion (and so much at the wedding that the night became a blur of dancing, smoking cigarettes and gushing extravagantly to guys I hadn’t seen in twenty years). I’d shared drinks and food and hours of conversation with my girlfriends Melissa, Jenni, Alex, Aimee, Leslie, Courtney, Mae, Sara, Gretchen, Carolynn, Emily, Joey and Elizabeth, the soul sisters with whom I can relax and let down my guard and laugh about myself and my life. I’d worked out my frustration at no longer living in the town where I feel most myself by hoofing down the dusty path at the end of my parents’ street to dive into the ocean in my underwear and shirt, then racing back across the PCH and up the steep hill less than an hour before we had to leave for the wedding.
I’d spent hours digging my toes into the sand and feeling the sun warm my face. As the skin on my arms and face freckled and turned brown, despite my wistfulness, my soul grew lighter and my smile stayed more often upon my face.
And always (except for my four days in Chicago) there was Aidan, following wherever his parents led him, beaming at his grandparents’ constant adoration and frequent gifts, squealing for joy as he flew a kite high over Gasworks Park, or chased Grandma’s dog Gus around and around and around the house, or kicked a ball over Grandpa’s head, or beat Papa Haig at checkers, or filled a baggie with seashells or blackberries, or ate another bite of Meema’s chocolate pudding, or jumped another wave, or dumped another squirming sand crab into the swimming pool he’d dug for it.
And usually (except for my two days alone in Chicago and two days with Aidan and friends in Vancouver) there was Harlan, probably secretly devising his fall syllabus in his head all along, but still relaxing his shoulders more than usual and rubbing mine and hugging and kissing me as much as ever.
I was ready to come back to my real life as we soared eastward over the United States. I had planned to pull out my most recent to-do list on the plane and update it for fall. Instead, I played Uno with Aidan, watched a surprisingly sweet, smart indie called Jeff, Who Lives at Home and finished reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which moved and inspired me.
What I didn’t do on my trip was write. At all. Well, a couple of times when my allergies kept me up at night I might have typed journal-style for a few moments, but I don’t think I amassed 1000 words the whole time. I took a vacation from all that, a vacation from my vocation. And I felt fine about it.
Then when we got back I realized real life wasn’t going to start as soon as I’d imagined. With Aidan still out of school and Harlan back at work, I got a dose of more straight mommy time than I’d had since July, back when Harlan was shooting in New York and the grandparent/babysitters were still on the other side of the country. We jetlagged slackers slept until 11 and played games in our pajamas until 2. We went to the playground. We kicked around the neighborhood, ran through sprinklers when it was hot, jumped in puddles after it rained. Yesterday we ran errands like maniacs: got our cat Jack his Prozac, dropped off late library books, got Aidan a brand new lunch box, water bottle and nifty containers for his sandwiches and snacks.
But today all that came to an end.
Today my big boy started junior kindergarten and I sat down to write. I took a break for a yoga class and then came back to my computer to finish what I had started.