Friday, March 5, 2010

When the going gets tough, the tough run off to Africa

So--I'm pretty sure being a good mother does not entail leaving one's offspring in a massive blizzard for two weeks while one enjoys the warmth and beauty of East Africa. I'm guessing. But that is exactly what I did last month. I had the great fortune of leaving the morning of--the hour before, in fact--the arrival of Snowmageddon in DC to go on a work trip to Uganda and Kenya (which is where I grew up and literally one of the most beautiful countries in the world, not biased at all). Although I left Charlotte in the far, far superior hands of her grandmother, a "classic mom" if ever there were one (see "The Moms"), Kevin cautioned me about going at all, because according to all those ridiculous child development books and studies he insists on reading, Charlotte is at the peak of her attachment to me, and my leaving for two weeks might irreparably damage her psyche and probably at least give her an eating disorder. My response to this horrifying information was that of any decent mother: Screw you.

So I left. I did feel a little bad when I saw on CNN International Washingtonians wading through 3 feet of snow to toilet their dogs, the dogs peeing all over themselves because they couldn't lift their legs high enough. I became very concerned in fact when I saw forecasts that another 2 feet of snow was right behind that. Although there was pretty much no chance my family would run out of food anytime this century--thanks to the massive freezer parked in our garage, which is in fact bigger than our car, and Costco--I had visions of our roof caving in, or Kevin losing Charlotte in the tundra when they went out to play, or America turning into some kind of Lord of the Flies world without a federal government for week (funny how that didn't happen). But I got frantic when I heard there were thousands of people without power in the DC area. I could imagine Kevin, Charlotte and Grandma huddled around our fireplace, their only source of heat, burning my cherished collection of African wood carvings for fuel. I called every day with a new suggestion for how they could cope without burning any of my things in the event of a power loss. These included chopping down trees in our yard with the hand saw in our garage, cross country skiing to my cousin's house 20 minutes away, and somehow hooking our heating unit to the car battery.

But they all survived just fine, and soon I was luxuriating in a childless existence. Between the plane rides and the 24 hour satellite movie channels in my hotels, I watched more movies in two weeks than I have in the last two years. I even had the pleasure of watching half of "All the Right Moves," a lost Tom Cruise flick from the 80's. Despite its gripping plot--Would Lea Thompson sleep with Tom Cruise? Would Tom Cruise get reinstated on the football team? Would Tom Cruise get into college without a football scholarship? Could Tom Cruise keep his face in a cool yet earnest expression the entire film?--I fell asleep before the end. But I did finish a host of other very fine films, which could have been anything, because no one was bothering me while I was watching them. A Steven Seagal film suddenly becomes Oscar-worthy when you are a refugee from motherhood, much as stale bread probably tastes like mint chocolate chip ice cream when you are a real refugee, I imagine.

In addition to watching millions of movies, I slept in several times; ate numerous meals in peace (and gained 5 pounds as a result, but whatever); read actual books, as opposed to "Bambi Gets Lost;" routinely went to the toilet by myself (although I'm assuming I shared some of them with numerous germs and diseases just based on appearance and smell); physically went shopping, as opposed to doing it online; and generally enjoyed my own company and that of some relatively mature adults. True, I had to work and even got stuck overnight somewhere I did not anticipate staying and had to wash my hair with hand soap, but who's complaining. It was awesome. Best of all, I missed being confined to my house for 10 days with Charlotte, who, while perfectly angelic when under the care of others, acts as if she will in fact die a painful death if she is not touching me at all times when I am around.

Since my return, I have fielded some horrified queries from other mothers about how I could stand being apart from Charlotte for that long. In response, I quote Yo Gabba Gabba, Charlotte's favorite TV show: Try it, you'll like it. Probably too much.

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