For the first time in our five years as parents, we left the kids with my parents and took a weekend away.
We flew to Tampa on Friday for a wedding, and after a bit of a rough start, we felt our way back into coupledom. Bonnie was passing by on its eastbound, spill-cleanup-disrupting run, and we ate dinner at Rod & Reel on Anna Maria, at the edge of a tropical storm.
The waitress told us that a couple hours before we arrived, all the skimmer ships had been sitting in a line a bit north of the restaurant, as they abandoned the cleanup effort. The tiny pier held a fluctuating crowd of forty to eighty people, some fishing, some coming upstairs to eat, but apparently this was a molasses-slow day; usually a table at this place entails a two-hour wait. The owner told us he was considering closing early due to weather. (!) The wind pummeled the poor birds, the waves lashed at the pier, but the food was terrific.
It was well past sunset when we left and began meandering our way back down the island to Longboat Key and the condo. Along the way, we stopped so I could say hello to the Gulf of Mexico.
By dark, the rain had at last cleared out, and the winds along with it. I expected the surf to continue crashing all night, but it was as if, following the passage of the storm, the Gulf went to sleep. We took red velvet and cheese cake out to the beach and sat listening to the low grumble. And in the morning, we entertained guests: my uncle and aunt came to spend the morning at the beach.
Although off in the distance, the storm still pounded the Gulf, it was a perfect day at the beach. Uncle Matt and I spent an hour body-surfing the waves, which had sprung back up due to the distant storm. We had to convince Christian and Patti to come join us, but in the end we prevailed. (But I don’t have a waterproof camera, so I can’t share that.)
After lunch, we showered for the wedding and headed up to St. Petersburg, where we spent an hour in the Sunken Gardens…sweating profusely, reinforcing our certainty that we will never, never, NEVER be more than visitors in Florida. (Item: in Florida, the air conditioning is set at approximately 40 degrees. Thus, whenever you go inside you nearly shut down from hypothermia, and when you walk outside, your glasses immediately fog up. Every time. In case you didn’t know this, consider yourself warned.)
And then the camera broke. Oh, well. It ate batteries, anyway.
After a beautiful wedding on the beach, we returned to the condo to stare up at a full moon and stars that twinkled, improbably bright. Outside our window, the silhouette of two palm trees framed the darkness of the ocean. It is the first time in years that I have actually gotten to enjoy a night landscape without the interference of street lights, headlights, security lights. I had forgotten how something that would ordinarily seem pitch black is actually only murky gray.
But most of all, we spent thirty-six hours simply being two become one. Holding hands as we walked. Being quiet. Not talking about the kids…much. The partnership that we have developed these past few years served us well when we were by ourselves. We reveled in the freedom of solitude, of traveling without strollers and diapers and kids to entertain, of (gasp!) quiet in the back seat.
Frankly, as much as I felt the heart-tug when we talked to the munchkins on the phone, I wasn’t ready to return to the chaos that met us instantaneously upon returning home. But I sigh, I shrug, I wax philosophical and remind myself that endless as it seems, this stage of life will pass away soon enough.
In the meantime, I am so, so grateful for the gift.