Sunday, April 24, 2011

Destination Unknown

This was written a few days ago, on Thursday, April 21st.  Due to spotty WiFi at the hotel and piles of laundry upon my return home, I am just getting around to posting it...

I have been traveling a lot this year, more than in any other year of my life.  Every 4 to 6 weeks, it seems, I’m in another fabulous place wondering, “Well, how did I get here?”

This time, I’m in Palm Springs again.  It’s just past 7 am and the kids are still sleeping.  It’s just the girls and me in the room – a deluxe patio room on the 1st floor of the very centrally located Hotel Zoso – although we met up with friends for this short getaway.  The morning air in the desert is so alluring that, even though I could probably feign exhaustion or vacation and sleep another few minutes, I’m sitting on the covered patio and gaping at the majestic palm trees, soft pink mountain mounds rising up behind them. 

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that I grew up near Palm Springs.  Not as close as I’d like to believe, but about 60 miles up Hwy 60, in 29 Palms.  The interesting part is that, as hard as it is for me to visit the desert of my youth in 29 Palms – the dusty trail my brother and I walked to get to school, the hard plastic table-with-attached-bench at Foster’s Freeze that seemed to hold so much promise to a 7-year-old with serious ice cream lust, the cactus “garden” in our front yard, the fact that my childhood home became a meth house eventually – I love Palm Springs.  My car will travel the hours and distance until we arrive in Palm Springs, then stop and hover for a few days, then turn around and go back home, to MY home, the home of my choosing.

I’m digressing, however.  The occasion of this journey is one of a leap of faith.  Sure, it’s Spring Break and most people try to find at least one little getaway during the week, even if it’s to a nearby park or beach, something to take them out of the ordinary and into vacation mode.  Curiously, I hadn’t planned on any such trip for the week.  With all of the trips I’ve been taking, I guess I was just going to wait and see what happened, maybe let my kids sleep in every day, catch up on a little writing, organize a closet or two.  Here’s what happened instead…

On the very first day of school, I saw Marlowe sitting near another little girl, probably just two feet apart, and both of them were just watching the other kids play.  They were each smiling, quiet, observant.  It wasn’t sad, like they were being excluded or anything like that, but sort of sweet.  They had a nice, comfortable “being together” that I really loved.  And that girl, Bella, has become a very sweet friend of Marlowe’s. 

Okay, so you’re still with me… About a month ago, Bella’s mom and I were talking on the phone and she mentioned that she really wanted to go away during Spring Break, that she and another friend were hoping to just take their kids – no husbands – on a short trip.  A breath later, thinking aloud, she said, “Would you want to bring your girls along?  I know Bella would love having a friend there.”

Now, I don’t know Bella’s mom very well, but you know how you get a good sense about someone immediately?  Much like how I knew Bella would be a great friend for Marlowe, I just knew her mom would be a sweet, easy-to-get-along-with travel companion. I found myself saying yes, not with a question mark or a long pause, but with conviction and excitement.

Still, yesterday, as the girls and I drove from the overcast, chilly northern bits of Los Angeles to the windy Hwy 111 that leads from Interstate 10 to Palm Canyon Drive, I had a few moments of wondering, “What the heck am I doing?” 

I had to remind myself that I did the same thing – exactly – as I boarded the plane to Rome in February, and wound up having one of the best times of my entire life.  I thought about the Anais Nin quote (I’m paraphrasing here) about how the day came when it took more energy for the flower to remain tightly curled up in a bud than to bloom.  I decided to let myself bloom.  And I pointed my car and my kids toward the desert, MY desert, the desert of my choosing. 

(Postscript: By the way, it was a blast.  There was a friend for Bella’s twin brother, Bella & Marlowe were in friend heaven, and Emme & Serena enjoyed time together without a little sister tagging along every moment.  I don’t know about all of them, but this leap of faith seems to be going along fine…)

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