Monday, February 2, 2009

Vacationing without children

I'm in London in the worst snowfall in 18 years. Without my snow boots. My husband is working and this is supposed to be my time for me, away from the kids, having fun and doing some writing. So here I am at 4:00 in the afternoon, working on my blog. I'd imagined sitting in some cute cafe, being hip and urbane, writing on my laptop or in a notebook, sipping tea (I don't do coffee) and generally being carefree. A few things happened to foil my perfect plan. First of all, there was the snow. Lots of it, for London anyway. Everything is shut down, including many tube lines. Secondly, the Starbucks virus has invaded London almost as thoroughly as it has New York. If I'd wanted to sit in a Starbucks looking cool, I could have stayed at home. Third, as I mentioned, I don't have the right shoes. We're staying in Canary Wharf, which is sort of a cross between the World Financial Center and South Street Seaport - a former fishing area on the water that has been turned into a cute shopping area, with a large business center and lots of hotels. So, I think, great, I'll buy snow boots, have lunch, then head into the center of London. Oh, and while I'm at it, I'll refill the minutes on my cell phone so that I can call the kids later.

Needless to say, that plan didn't work out all that well, either. It turns out that the network I'm on isn't widely available so "topping up" my card isn't that easy. The store where I bought the phone (cheaper than using the hotel phone) isn't open due to the weather. In fact, half the stores in the mall are closed. It isn't until 3:00 that I find an open shoe store that carries boots that would be appropriate in the snow and don't cost an arm and a leg. I try them on even thought technically, they should be too small. They fit. I decide to go back to my room, top up my phone via internet (which you can only do if you use a UK address) and then head out. When I leave the mall and see how gray and miserable it is outside, I'm no longer sure that I want to brave going into central London. Then I watch the news, which continues to send out dire warnings about staying home unless you absolutely have to get out. And I find that while I don't mind walking around in the snow (in my new snow boots), I can't bear the thought of being stuck inside a tube station waiting for a train that may never come.

I start wondering what to do. I could write some more, but my sterile hotel room feels a bit stifling and jet lag is starting to set in. I could go to the movies, but "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" is the only thing playing locally within the hour. Mostly, I realize, I miss the hectic nature of my life, and if I'm truthful, I miss my kids. While I'm with them, I'm dreaming of time to myself. Now that I've got it, and no responsibilities other than to maybe be back in time for dinner, I find that I'm at a loss. It's as if I'm missing a limb and haven't quite figured out how to manage without it. I'm thinking about what they're doing in school, whether or not they'll be able to concentrate or finish homework or sleep when I'm not there. So far, it hasn't been a problem for either of them. Perhaps I should take a cue from them - their life goes on when I'm not there, as it should. Maybe I will go see "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" and pretend for a while that I'm carefree and a teenager. And enjoy this time I have, since it's unlikely to happen again soon.