A Week Off From Parenting

Jennifer Savage essays

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Last summer we embarked on grandparent camp for the first time. Our children happily went to stay with Seth’s parents in Oregon for two weeks and we were left to fend for ourselves. Our schedules were blissfully free and uncommitted except for the fact that we had to pack up our house and move. We didn’t really know what to do with ourselves for that half a day before the boxes and tape came out to swallow our stuff, our time off. At the end of the two weeks we’d packed, we’d moved. We were roundly exhausted but probably could not have done it without having someone else look after our lovelies. This year when Eliza and Lucille went to grandparent camp we came home to a quiet house and plotted how we’d spend the time without them. Somehow the week started with ambitious intentions and unraveled into reading magazines on the bed and eating from food carts almost every night.

But it was sweet, oh was it sweet.

Day One: Checked phone for texts from grandparents about 20 times before noon. Texted. Then called. Then worried and Googled police reports from the town where we met grandparents for drop off. Reminded myself to chill out. Considered anti-anxiety meds. Checked police reports again. Got in touch with Grandmother who assured us they had been picking fruit at an ideal spot along the John Day River. Took a deep breath. Made a giant To-Do list of every house project in the history of the world. Embarked on a mountain of laundry including all the sheets and duvet covers. Remade beds. Shopped for pillows. Washed outside of car. Ran uphill, literally and on purpose. Met friends out for beers and burgers. Opened a bottle of wine from our wedding a dear friend saved for us for all these years.

Day Two: Googled some noxious concoction that could clean the interior of my car (Dawn dish detergent and hydrogen peroxide). Mixed up a batch and applied to car mats. Sprayed them with the hose to rise and watched red dirt, smoothie remnants and God knows what run off them. Applied to the interior of car. Stood back in amazement, sure my seats had never been cleaner. Ran in the heat and thought about going back to school. Accosted neighbor about this very thing because, you know, she did it and maybe should could give me some advice. Realized she needed to go and reminded myself to talk to another adult before 3pm the next day. Pruned tomatoes. Ate dinner from a food cart at our local brewery. Noticed Seth had shaved funny. Noticed that I noticed Seth. He noticed too. Watched a movie about a tiny house while sitting in our tiny house. Laughed that our tiny house isn’t really that tiny because the people in the movie live in, like, really tiny houses. Dreamed about building a really tiny house and putting it in the pasture in Arlee. 

Day Three: Drank coffee on the porch. Ironed a skirt to wear to work. That is a nonfiction statement. Went home for lunch. Scratched dog behind the ears. Sorted through a bowl of mail that dates back to at least 2004. Considered paying bills. Ate a bowl of cereal instead. Thought about making a nice dinner later, resigned myself to find another food cart. Walked back by the folded but not yet put away laundry. Closed the door and went somewhere to write. Sent Lucille a picture of a sunflower. Ate ice cream in bed. Curled into Seth, fell into a deep, deep sleep.

Day Four: We took the day off. Packed a bag to climb a mountain. Arrived at the trailhead, drizzle hanging in the air. Hiked up and up to a hillside covered in bear grass, Indian Paintbrush  and huckleberries. We talked. We listened. Uninterrupted. So blissfully uninterrupted. Sat at the lake under Graywolf Peak. Sipped whiskey. Picked two liters of huckleberries on the way down. Drove to our house in Arlee. Stood in the pasture, the scene of the crime. Looked out on the valley where we got married 10 years ago to the day. Stood there a little longer. Sent a selfie to the kids. Dressed up. Went out for a late dinner. Toasted another 10 years.

Day Five: Woke up sore but relaxed. Told Seth I loved him as he set off for a long drive to go get the children. Had a knot in my throat as he left because it felt as though I might not see him again, really see him, for months. Worked for a few hours then went rafting in the sun. Later, while tidying the house, came across the To-Do list I’d made a few days earlier. Stuffed in the drawer, many boxes unchecked. Read the New Yorker in the last few hours of quiet in our house. Peeled myself off the bed and went grocery shopping at 9:30pm because we had nothing to feed the children and they were coming home. I had to back track several times due to my inefficient, not-on-my-mom game strolling. Prince was on the radio so I never got in a hurry. Arrived home to two little girls who smelled like horses. Snuggled them to sleep. So happy they were home. So sad to see the our week off come to an end.


About the Author

Jennifer Savage

Jennifer Savage is a writer and mama of Eliza and Lucille. Lately, she's learning to be a farm girl, again. She writes from her home at the base of the Mission Mountains in Arlee, Montana. She is also one of Mamalode's favorite writers and you can fall in love with her too at .

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