I'm home from Florida. At least I'm home physically, although I think that my spirit and my heart are still adrift somewhere in mid-air between Tampa and Houston, or perhaps, they are lolling about in the Gulf of Mexico.
I'm home for a mere two days and then Ben and I will jump into the car and trek to LegoLand/San Diego for eight days.
I should have been home a couple of days earlier but a drunken conversation, followed by a drunken phone call to Expedia resulted in an extra day and a half on the Gulf Coast.
Lesson number one: I probably should have had that conversation, the one about changing the ticket, before my date and I uncorked the second bottle of wine. Before we went to a DIY wine tasting bar that operated like a DIY frozen yogurt shop, minus the yogurt. Before we hit a great restaurant for more wine and then a fun dance club for vodka concoctions.
Maybe I would have given some thought to the masses of piles of laundry that awaited me or the long list of "To Dos" that come with any and every trip involving one single parent and one six-year-old.
Perhaps my date would have had an easier week planned, one that didn't involve seminars, and graduations, and family, and parties.
I'll blame it on the Gulf.
The Gulf had me on Day One of my trip. Actually, it was the first night of my visit that the warm water enfolded me, made me buoyant, caused me to wonder why the ocean water in Maui was never this warm?
I made my way back to the Gulf each day, either in a kayak, or on a boat, or just simply laying on my back with my ears under the water, reveling in the blessed silence that lulled my body and my spirit into a dreamy existence. An existence where I did not once hear any words that had to do with Mario or horrible grilled chicken or dreaded day camp. Blissful, it was.
Can you see why I didn't want to come home?
Then, there was my friend. The one I went to see. The friend I knew so little about yet wanted to know so much more of. The friend who captivated me on a warm, Sacramento night. A chance encounter. So many words. So little time. That was nearly two months ago.
When I arrived, I felt the same gravitational pull to him. After leaving the airport, we left reality. We went straight into our own world of delicious wine, amazing food, languid afternoons by the pool, sun-on-our-backs kayaking. I escaped to bikinis (one for each day), little sundresses, glittery make-up, scented lotions, curly hair held back by the tiniest of headbands, floppy sunhats.
He held my hand constantly. I don't think I stopped smiling. Minutes blurred into hours, days slipped by. I think I was sleepy but I know I was too happy to care.
Nights were late with local bands. I told the lead singer of one band to take off her sunglasses and show her gorgeous face. We were both thrilled when she did.
We danced. We shared food. We sat on the veranda and ate the biggest Gulf shrimp I've ever had in my life.
And then it was time to come home to reality. But the logistics were scattered and I found myself with an extra day to soak up the Florida sun. I made my way to the Gulf. I sat in the shallow, warm water and covered my legs with sand. Then my arms. I laid on my stomach where my warm, salty tears met the warm, salty Gulf waters.
I called my sister. I called my friend, Ruth. I called on my internal strength to help me walk away from the Gulf. To help me fly away from this friend who I had grown, over just a few short days, to care deeply for.
My friend is carrying on this week - seemingly, business as usual - to graduate from his PhD program. His family arrives in town today. He'll be "capped" by his professor on Saturday with a commencement ceremony and then he will celebrate at a beach house with all of his family and his friends. They'll be together all weekend and they'll be with him next week when he turns 41.
I started to cry before I even left the Gulf. I cried in the Tampa airport. I cried on the plane. I cried in Houston. And I cried the hardest when I slipped into the passenger side of my mom's awaiting car in Sacramento.
I'm responsible for this lesson and I've told myself that all along. "You might come home in tears, Janeen." I had this conversation dozens of times with my friends before going. "No expectations, just fun."
But the fact remains that I'm horrible at compartmentalizing. If I care about you, then I want you to know it. I not only want you to know it, I want you to feel it. I want you to swim in that assurance and let it consume you, just like the warm, clear waters of the Gulf can do.
As for the future with my friend, my guess is as good - or as bad - as anyone else's
I asked the dreaded question before I left: "Do you think we'll see one another again?"
Even having to ask the question gave me a general sense of what the answer could be.
But it wasn't that clear, not clear at all.
I will say that no one pulled out their calendars to search for an opportunity to come together again. No one said, "Call me later." Maybe one of us said something about texting, or email but I'm not clear.
What I am clear on is how easily I can let myself escape and how seductive it is for me to momentarily forget my responsibilities, my day-to-day routine, my sense of who I am as a single mom to a lovely child in Sacramento, California.
And then when I "re-enter" and it all comes back, I'm keenly aware of how much I want this person - maybe not my Florida friend - but the man who pulls me close and says, "I don't want you to go, I want you to stay with me forever and we'll do whatever it takes to make it work and you're so worth it and I want to know you as a mom, as a friend, as a daughter, as the divine spirit that God put on this earth to reign down your compassion and your grace and I want to swim in that amazing, warm and deep ocean of love that flows through all the layers of your being."
Do I want too much?
It doesn't have to be my Florida friend. But I'm ready for it to be somebody.
My "somebody" for now is re-entering his own little world, fresh off a trip with his dad. He'll spend a night at home with me before we pack the car and make the journey to his own personal happiest place on earth: LegoLand.
I've added a fun side-trip to the itinerary with a stop-over at the Embassy Suites in Los Angeles for some late afternoon swimming. I already know that he'll love having dinner in the lush and tropical atrium and that I'll be ready for a cocktail before we pounce on the OC in the early AM.
He has one more surprise in the wings. His Aunt Alisa is going to fly down for a couple of days. I eluded to that fact on the phone last night and he shrieked with excitement. Bless Aunt Alisa. She knows how hard it is for me to manage Ben for days on end in an environment that is ever-changing; one that is hugely demanding for one adult to handle.
As I un-packed and re-packed for this next trip, I had to stop and laugh at how the contents had shifted. Gone were the cute Victoria Secret bikinis; instead I'm taking one Target swim suit. But it's likely that I won't need it, because unlike the 90 degree Florida heat, San Diego is weather is going to be downright chilly. Sundresses, sandals and board shorts were cast aside for khakis, jeans and not-so-cute walking shoes.
Sometimes, the best thing I can possibly do is gaze at my life with wonder. My sun-drenched Florida week, filled with anticipation, nervous energy, the cutest of things to take; to be followed with a road trip adventure with my small son, involving nine hours of drive time (at least) and mandates of "If you're good, you get to decide what we do EVERY SINGLE DAY and if you're bad, we're going to the MALL instead of Lego Land!"
Back to back.
July to August.
Extreme to extreme.
Being taken care of to being the caretaker.
Vodka to coffee.
Laughter to tears.
Tears to laughter.
Prawns to nuggets.
Backless to jackets.
Gulf to Pacific.
Single "cute" mom to single mom with a million things to juggle and "don't you dare do that one more time or so help me, that Nintendo player is going straight out the window!"
Lessons to blessings.
Lust to love.
Fantasy to reality.
Appreciation for living in two worlds for now. Two worlds that afford me two different perspectives and sometimes, two very different identities.
It's time to go being my favorite character: Ben's mom.
Au revoir, Gulf of Mexico. Until next time...