Party in Room 324

Getting out of town ain’t what it used to be.

Just one year ago I left the husband and kids in my dust as I departed for a long-overdue ladies weekend in Austin. It was an incredible time. I missed no one.

This Saturday as I packed my bags and memorized my itinerary for a fast 48 hours in Ohio (woot!), the faces around my house were longer than either leg of my MKE to Dayton flights. Mom was going out of town – okay, fine, everybody can deal with that. But taking the baby along for the ride? Sunday morning I watched with one eye as the older kids crept into my room to take silent selfies with the baby and sneak him goodbye kisses. I remembered the bottle of wine I slid into the refrigerator – buoyed by optimism and sentimentality – just the night before.  But then I had packed and promptly fallen asleep. Now, 12 hours later, I was leaving the state with my baby and without a 13th anniversary toast with my husband. Things felt kind of gloomy.

The airport drop-off was undramatic. The turbulence on my first flight was. I celebrated National Margarita Day in the Detroit airport, confessing over chips and Don Julio that leaving home is getting harder to do. My friend, colleague and traveling companion (one person rolled into one; not three persons) agreed.

Celebrity Sighting!

Even the obligatory airport celebrity sighting made me homesick. When my friend spied Santa Claus on the electric sidewalk I stifled my sniffles. My kids aren’t big believers, but a random Santa sighting would’ve piqued their interest long enough to get them to stop asking for Beats, iPods, kidney-shaped pillows from the airport store. Or, they would have at least asked Santa for them and given me a break.

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I saw mommy harassing Santa Claus at the Detroit airport last night.

If my kids or any kids – but especially my kids – are reading this please note that Santa is real and he says not brushing teeth is no. 3 on his list of Hygiene Offenses Deserving of Coal (HODCs). Lying about brushing teeth is no. 7. He told me so in Detroit. Unlike things that happen in Vegas, things that happen in Detroit can be photographed and shared liberally. You’ve been warned and you’re welcome.

By the time I reached the hotel in Dayton, I was grateful for the farty, snorty, drooling baby and his entourage of personal-care items I brought with me: humidifier, amoxicillin, stroller, mucus extractor, vast personal wardrobe – he had 18 outfits for two days and I had two outfits, one each for worktime and bedtime. These items absorbed some of the quiet cleanliness of the room. Even baby knew something was up, however. He kept looking around the room, bobbing his head like a little brown sparrow. He was looking for people, clamor, noise, a sibling with a pirate/sheriff/ninja costume to stuff him into for a photo shoot. I needed more people with me. Or more stuff! Traveling lightly and solo felt completely, deeply lonely in that instant.

What was wrong with me? Just a few weeks ago I had been weeping over long-forgotten friends facebook videos. Now this! What kind of over-sentimentalized drip had I become that I couldn’t even enjoy an underscheduled night in a comfy hotel room with Wifi, wine and tiny bottles of Paul Mitchell? In Detroit I had promised Santa that we would be on our very best behavior during this work trip. My promise would be kept as I settled into homesick boredom. I had no interest in tomfoolery of any sorts.

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How moms party.

Dinner a deux

Eventually I meet my friend/mom/traveling companion for dinner in the lobby because if I stay in my room sobbing any longer/louder I am worried room 323 might call the police on me. Me and room 322 linger over wine and Olive Garden (Insert Dayton-area dining recommendations here). Our Momma’s-Away melancholy fades over conversation and digestion, but a night alone in the room looms ever larger as my wine glass empties. I think about inviting my friend to sleep over in the unoccupied queen bed next to mine. But maybe it’s too soon. Will she think me forward? Does she snore?

Ultimately I decide that I can do this – handle a night of quiet, empty beds without the stressors of lunch-packing and tooth-brushing times three. (I promise I will never write in detail about my kids and hygiene. I promise I will never write in detail about my kids and hygiene. It’s a constant struggle for me, people.)

6:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Baby and me sleep through the night without incident. I awaken early for breakfast and hair styling. The baby sleeps three hours more, worn from the travel, his first week away from mom (aforementioned daycare debut) and related illnesses. Our day at the Kettering Foundation is productive, conversational. My Parents for Public Schools colleagues come from all over the country and around this table at the Kettering Foundation to talk about community, education and children – and to coo over mine. It’s a good day.

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My work station at the foundation.

5:45 p.m. As the sun sets and dessert is served, I feel the Momma’s-Away Melancholy nibbling at the edges of a gentle red-wine buzz. I can’t handle another night alone! I invite a freshly arrived traveling companion/colleague/friend to my room for drinks and TV when we get back to the hotel. We agree to meet up 90 minutes. My other companion-colleague-friend agrees to join us.

7:30 p.m. I get to my room, delighted to have tasks to occupy the 90 minutes until it’s party time in Room 324. I change the baby, steam his RSV in the shower, change his clothes, call the family back at home, refill the humidifier, nurse baby, then head to the hotel “bistro” for one last glass of red. (Sorry Santa!) The steady pulse of domestic tasks is the perfect antidote to a day of sitting, deliberating, categorizing and downloading data. Suddenly I’m not lonely. I’m the busiest lady in Dayton!

9 p.m. Last night’s Olive Garden date texts: “Count me out. I am falling asleep.” “You snooze you lose, lady,” I sneer but don’t text. I check my hair in the mirror, brush my teeth and wipe the baby’s nose one last time as I wait for my last (only) remaining guest to arrive. I hope the pajama pants are not too informal. They are my best ones.

9:20 p.m. My guest arrives with a laptop. “I hope you don’t mind if I multi-task,” she says in her sweatpants and wet hair. “I hope you don’t mind sharing that glass of red wine with me,” I reply. Baby is lights-out on one queen bed. We divvy the remaining glass of red wine. I pore through Netflix while my friend checks her work email. A spontaneous and synchronized duo, we agree that “Catching Fire” will keep us up too late and settle on the first episode of “Call the Midwives.”

10:30 p.m. Episode over we trade labor and delivery memories for 15 minutes. We say good night. Departure time the next day is a no-nonsense 8:15 a.m.

What Happens in Dayton …

I won’t say “There’s no place like home.” I’m not that trite, not tonight, not even after 1,200 words of mom drivel. What I am is glad I got away, even if I can’t fully appreciate the opportunity for peace, solitude and civic engagement.

And if you’re the kind of curious and patient reader who made it all the way to the end of this post, you’ve probably already learned something about “When in Dayton” disclosure rules. If you haven’t, I’ll spell them out: “What happens in Dayton stays in Dayton, except nothing really happens in Dayton when you’re a drippy mom-and-baby duo. So you can reveal pretty much everything, which I just did.”

Maybe I should have warned you about this earlier in my post. You probably didn’t see it coming,

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