“I honestly feel no guilt about this.”
My girlfriend Rachel couldn’t understand why I did.
Of course, sitting in airports for an extra 11 hours, on account of having missed our original early morning flight out of Ft. Lauderdale, was a bummer. A 17-hour irritation, during which the only highpoint was finding a comfortable way to slouch into an airport chair.
Rachel agreed; it was annoying to think that we were sitting at our third airport, when we could be home by now. We could, had we woken up when our alarm went off at 5:25 this morning. We could, had the country not transpired against us in planning Daylight Savings Time to begin the morning after a friend’s wedding in South Florida. We could, had late last night the hotel bartender not created a special drink in our honor. A fluffy pinkish drink floating a cherry, which matched the bridesmaids’ watermelon-hued dresses perfectly, a drink we called the “Peaceful Easy Feeling” (inspired by an especially rousing version of that Eagles’ song, courtesy the hotel bar singer’s musical prowess.)
I was feeling, at the moment, neither peaceful nor at ease. I was feeling that I should, really, have been home by now.
But Rachel again explained that while it was exasperating, being at Gate B57 in Denver instead of at home in bed, it’s really not that big a deal.
I nodded in weary agreement, and willed Rachel’s logic to help me swallow the black lump that had been bobbing in my throat since I cracked my eyes open that morning, utterly defeated to see that we had needed to be checking in at the airport at that very minute.
I tried, but I couldn’t swallow the lump. I told this to Rachel.
“So, just imagine it. Your mom was gone for four days and then she was supposed to be home, but then she just doesn’t come home when she was supposed to, and your dad has to explain that your mom won’t be home until late late tonight, after you’ve already gone to bed, and you won’t see her until tomorrow. But she’s supposed to work tomorrow so you’re really not going to see her for another entire day.”
Rachel, last night’s eyeliner making the bags under her eyes appear even darker (I could have been looking into a mirror, I knew) tilted her chin.
“Do you really think Elodie has any concept….”
I laughed. Elodie is 1 year old.
“No! I mean, I guess I mean figuratively. It’s just that I don’t think people who are mothers should do things like miss their flights home.”
The trip to Florida for a college friend’s wedding was put on the calendar months ago, leaving plenty of time for my expectations to grow. It was to be my first trip away from the baby. I would be traveling with and visiting friends from college, some of whom I hadn’t seen in many years. There would be cabana clubs and People magazines to read poolside in the sun. There would be fruity cocktails and new stories to tell. I packed my bag with a new dress and mascara and high-heeled shoes, got a pedicure and shaved my legs. And off I went, baby- and husband-less, to a wonderful, soul-warming wedding in Delray Beach. The trip had lived up to my expectations. It was an absolute blast.
But then I had to go and ruin things by missing my flight home.
Rachel was still skeptical, and deciding it was a lost cause trying to convince me that I’m not, in fact, a terrible mother, went back to reading her novel.
Which gave me more time alone with my thoughts. Which, after the last fourteen or fifteen hours spent in airports alongside a friend who has the irksome ability to fall asleep anywhere, were getting pretty loud and obnoxious. I miss Elle. What is she doing? Does she miss me? I’m so mad at myself. My boobs hurt. I ruined my week. I miss Elle.
When I had called Craig that morning to tell him of the fiasco, and how we were praying we could get on a flight standby from Ft. Lauderdale to Houston, where we would then embark upon a trip that would end up taking more than twice as long as our original trip, he had laughed.
“You should totally just stay in Ft. Lauderdale. Can’t you catch your same flight tomorrow?”
We could. And it would probably be much more enjoyable. But I couldn’t, I explained. And it’s not because I’m supposed to work tomorrow. It’s because I’m supposed to be with my daughter today.
I had missed Elle all weekend, missed her in a way that was quiet and easy and didn’t make me feel like there was a lump in my throat. I missed her when a pixie with curly blonde hair walked past me on the beach, and I missed her when my friend’s baby Laird reached up to the lights dangling from the reception tent. But the way I missed her in the airport that day made my chest feel full of jagged rocks.
Now that I’ve made it home, the guilt I felt seems a bit overdramatic. Elle was fine. But perhaps it wasn’t Elle’s wellbeing that I was ultimately so consumed with during my self-inflicted guilt trip from the East Coast to home. What I had so much time to think about throughout those 17 annoying travel hours was that I could physically be without my baby, but I could still not take a vacation from being a mother. My actions, regardless of how silly their outcomes, did, ultimately, have outcomes. And spending a Sunday afternoon with my daughter after four days without her was an outcome I desperately wanted.
An outcome infinitely more delicious than a “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”