Breathing Fire

I hate coming home from vacations. Love the vacations. But re-acclimating sits extremely high on the list of things I don’t excel at. And this week’s return had some added factors that have resulted in my family clearing any room I enter. I hear them before I appear, but by the time I cross the threshold, they are hidden by curtains, under rugs or have simply vanished leaving a dusty, windblown whoosh behind.

This was our annual family vacation – spent at the beach – with my mom, dad, brother and his wife. It was a great week – after my usual few days of settling into the relaxing part while reminding myself not to obsess over making sure everyone else is happy. I think that’s a female thing – wondering if you’re juggling all parties correctly and completely forgetting that you’re there to have fun, too.

What made this vacation a bit more tricky was knowing that, once it was over, my brother and his wife (my soul sister) were departing for Texas in a relocation brought on by a bit of an explosion at my brother’s refinery a few months ago. An explosion that kicked off a chain of opportunities too good to pass up and will eventually land them near Waco. Home to my other soul sister, Joanna Gaines.

While it certainly is exciting, my heart has ached with pre-missing them since I found out. Yes, it is a plane ride away. Yes, the phones still work. Yes, driving four hours north to their (former) house was a bit of a ridiculous, though solid, back up plan in the event I suddenly decided this life was too hard. Don’t we all have a tiny ‘back up plan’ compartment stuffed deep in center of our brains? No? Just me? Shoot.

Now my heart aches with actual missing of them and slight panic over the loss of my life preserver. And then there’s that nagging, whispering voice asking ‘what if they have so much fun that they forget all about me? What if Chip & Joanna ask them to move in and nobody remembers that I used to be the one my brother called first?’ Highly unlikely. Yet still annoying.

Vacation was also a bit different as the kids seemed to have outgrown our usual routines. Our daily plans were often met with looks of ‘oh, not again…’ Yes again! We always go to the boardwalk! We always go to Broadway at the Beach! We always buy stupid tchotchkes at the Gay Dolphin.

This year…not much interest. Instead, we spent a day (and a lot of dollars, though, thank goodness for Groupon) on a Hail Mary – pseudo wake-boarding. It’s like actual wake-boarding but with a towline rather than a boat. A source of great entertainment for the 13 year old and great bruises for the 48 year olds. Imagine closing your eyes while someone launches a medicine ball at you every fifteen minutes. The 17 year old was not sold, but did play a good cheerleader.

The real downward spiral kicked in a few hours away from our arrival back home. I went from staring out the windshield, wishing I wasn’t travelling away from my family, to suddenly seeing a to-do list begin bullet pointing itself on the glass. This is a repeated script when I return home from anywhere where I could forget about responsibilities for five minutes.

This time it was primarily related to school and I pulled out my phone and began paying school fees, beefing up lunch money accounts and ordering school college ruled paper in bulk. By the time I was home, I’d drafted a paper list of appointments to be made, phone calls to be returned and a slew of pre-flooring installation tasks. I carried this list into the house and placed it prominently on my coffee table to stare back at me.

For me, relaxation seems to be an on/off switch. Once I’m out of vacation mode, I’m back in life mode, balls out. Whistle at the ready, orders written out, taskmaster hat placed firmly on my head. And this is what sends the family scurrying. There will be no easing back into life. Especially not this time, with a week until school, a work trip for Rich, carpets and flooring arriving in days and a newly discovered cat pee epidemic in every corner we own on two floors. No, this re-entry has been dramatic.

I tried my usual tricks. Keeping busy. Making crafty stuff. Watching mindless television. Trying to engage Rich in an argument (he didn’t bite). Going to bed early. Doing some exercise. Barking at the kids (also no engagement). Eventually, Rich found me elbows deep in ground beef making meatballs while actively having a good cry. Recognizing the pure ridiculousness of this…I went for the last resort. Open mouth, insert Clonazepam.

Fast forward a few hours and the grumpy girl had left the building. I’m never sure why I wait so long for the last resort or why it’s the last resort. But today I combined it with a visit to my friend Jenny’s house (while delivering the boy for some boyish playtime) and left holding a huge bag of reassurance, confirmation that it was going to be okay and, maybe, just maybe…the knowledge that it is hard to make the trip back to reality – for many people, not just me.

The dragon has slipped out of the house. The kids have started to appear again. Rich has taken off his referee shirt. We’ve gotten as ready as we can for new carpets and flooring. Cats are at the vet for a few days. School supplies have started trickling in. The list is shorter, but not by much. Apparently I don’t have to get it done in one day, despite what the windshield said.

I’ve also starting working on a new back up plan.

Hopefully Jenny won’t mind when I move in.

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