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Friday, July 25, 2008

The Family Vacation--You've Been There

I am vacationing in the mountains of Colorado with my family, the first true break we have taken in six months. It has been a grueling spring—I have been prepping for my first ever book tour, trying to fish my new novel out of the fast moving river launching my recently released novel, and still practicing anesthesia. My husband is finishing up two houses and taking care of his elderly father. Trader Joe’s is a dinner staple and the kids are rotating KP. To put it bluntly, nobody’s mopping the floors or scrubbing the bathtubs. We need this break.

Now, the one downside to this writing thing is that there really is no break. Your hands may not be on the keyboard every minute but, rather like gestation, if a new novel is in the making, your writing mind is fully occupied and your fingers are itching. The fact that you are always in working mode is definitely mitigated by the requisite writing wardrobe—a bathrobe and coffee-stained Uggs—but I think I’ve given up any memory of a real summer vacation. Oh well, it’s not like motherhood comes with actual time off either.

So the beckoning anticipation I’ve been conjuring for this mountain getaway is time to write: time just after dawn when everyone else is still puffing away in breathless dreams at this unfamiliar altitude, or after dinner when they are all locked in games of Cranium and Apples to Apples and I can sneak away to a back bedroom with my laptop. I want time inside a house that does not require my attention, with no desk covered with unpaid bills and unanswered mail, with no yard to weed or laundry to sort.

We tuck in that first night and I have to force myself not to think about the first words I want to put on the LCD screen in seven or eight hours. Maybe I will dream about the ending to the novel that I don’t yet know. My eyes open at first light and I look at the clock—only five, at least one more hour to go. Now it is six and I slip out from the comforter without waking my husband, pull on the bathrobe and start scooping coffee grounds into the filter.

Then I hear it. Every mother knows it. The low groan followed by the crescendo of a retch—and no, it’s not the dog. I drop the bag of coffee into the sink and I’m in the back bedroom before last night’s dinner can hit the floor. The next eight hours will be spent rinsing pans and washcloths and rocking this child to sleep whenever he can. And then another child will have incubated this virus to personal maturity and we can start again. Another novel put on hold. Another vacation memory made.

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