Confession: I ran away from home. Just three hours north, but I still did it. I ran away. I didn't throw a fit, or flourish my skirts on the way out of the room while screaming, "I'm leaving and I may never come back" before slamming the door. It wasn't nearly that dramatic. I just was, as we say here in the south, "full up."
It's been a difficult month, so when I got in my car and headed out of the city leaving Matt and Jane behind, I felt really indulgent and really guilty.
The guilt went away as soon as I stopped at my first roadside antique mall.
Vacationing alone is new to me. When I was a child there was always a wagon load of us in the suburban. We fought, and herded, and hiked, and inevitably Rachel got her nose out of joint because a waitress put cheese on her burger so she'd grumble, scowling and scraping the cheese off with her fingernails. Looking back I tip my hat to my parents for vacationing with all of three kids. I would have ditched us somewhere.
Then I went to college, where I never went anywhere without a friend. Not even the cafeteria. I had a phobia. Most of us did. To be seen alone, eating, reading a book signaled "don't date me." Or at least that's what we thought.
Then I got married. My trips with Matt are always filled with lots of good food and drink and strolling. It's fun. It's fun until I start making him stop the car to go into roadside antique malls. This violates his "rocket ship" travel principle, in that the car is a rocket ship traveling with fire behind it, never to stop unless I'm about to wet my pants. He's not above using an empty soda cup.
So I went to my favorite place in the whole wide world. And I've discovered that I love vacationing alone.
I walked idly, taking pictures of Victorian houses.
I ate breakfast in a ball room.
I got ice cream for lunch.
I went to a spa where everything smelled like mint.
I slept in.
I chatted with a shop owner who showed me the spring underneath his house. It was cool and musty, and there were candles. It was a total Harry Potter dork-out moment for me. Normally in such an environment I'd be a little freaked out, worrying that the owner might lock me down there and keep me as a pet. But there were other customers and the owner seemed nice. Plus, I'm a scrappy fighter.
Then I thought to myself, "I think I'll go back to the hotel and take a nap until it cools down this evening."
I took a nap. An actual, honest to goodness nap. No dog sniffing my face, intensely trying to communicate she needs to pee. No toddler wailing in her bedroom. No delivery guy ringing the doorbell. I woke up in time for dinner.
I clipped my toenails and watched cable.
I visited a Catholic mass in a tiny 150 year old church named after St. Elizabeth. I kept whispering, "My name is Elizabeth" to people and got looks that clearly said, "Big deal, half the world is named Elizabeth." Oh how I love all the saint statues and candles. I grew up in the Church of Christ and the most interesting things you'd find in our sanctuary was a board at the front with attendance numbers, and a block of pamphlets in the back with titles like, "How can I be sure I'm going to heaven?"
(I'm not bashing the Church of Christ, they're sweet committed people, but I do think a few less pamphlets and a little more ambiance wouldn't kill them. Same goes for the Baptists and their industrial carpet.)
I ate dinner alone in a restaurant with tin tiled ceilings and dark leather chairs and Tiffany lights.
I read a book.
I took another walk and counted pink gingerbread houses. There were four.
I sat on my own balcony, watched the sun go down, and wrote 20 pages of a new story.
In summary, as I sat on a giant king sized bed just for me, working on blog posts and a new book idea, watching the sun go down through the french doors in my room, WHILE the church bells at St. Elizabeth's rang goodnight... I realized that running away was long over due.