On the boys’ last day of school, pre-break, I counted out the number of days before school would resume. Seventeen. It seemed….long. ‘Seventeen days,’ I warned the moms who stood on the compound waiting for their spawn to be released from the school’s custody. And they, unaware of the exact number of days that awaited them, received the information with looks of trepidation.
Fast forward thirteen days and I must confess the break has merely been a (mostly) delightful blur of time, punctuated with Christmas and the arrival of another year, and all I have to show for any of it is a completely trashed house and Lindt-ball-sized rolls where my waist used to be.
[Cue a reprise of last year’s New Year’s resolutions: exercise, eat fewer Lindt balls, eat more vegetables.]
The professor and I did manage to escape for 25 hours, at the insistence of my mom who held down the fort with the boys.
As we steered our unfashionable, rather empty, minivan towards downtown, we saw a package-carrying man crossing the road with three boys. ‘Aw, he has three sons too,’ I instantly assumed kinship with the man. ‘Yeah, he has three boys,’ the professor empathized in a less nostalgic manner, ‘just look at his face.’ His face looked familiar – tired tinged with resignation. Weary from days spent saying things like ‘what were you thinking’ when one brother swings his other brother’s head directly into a table. ‘That’s three-boy face,’ the professor explained. ‘He was just going to take a package to his mother and then his wife insisted he take the boys along.’
The made-up story sounded personal.
After checking in at our hotel, we headed for the elevator to drop off our bags. A couple exited the elevator carrying an infant carseat. ‘Can you just check with the desk clerk to make sure we’re not staying next to those people,’ I worried aloud, fearing my annual chance for a full night’s sleep might be impeded by someone else’s crying baby.
Next on our 25-hours-without-kids agenda? A walk. Because the forecast indicated winter’s return was imminent, and did I mention there were no little people to complain about the temperature or the excruciatingly slow passage of time or the pain in their feet?
We trekked through snow for a good, long while, comparing the snow-covered frozen reservoir to the [less-white] beaches of Hawaii; half-wishing we’d brought along a beach towel and umbrella for an amusing photo shoot.
An hour and a half later, we returned to the minivan and drove towards the nearest cappuccino. We contemplated our next destination, because time without kids brings out the over-achiever in me. What are all the things I prefer to do without the company of my wonderboys and how many of them can I cram into one day?
We decided to see a movie, though we had little idea of the when and where. ‘Use your phone,’ I remembered about the professor’s smart-phone. And then, like the couple of septuagenarians we seem to be, we sat and stared at the little black rectangle; unable to convince it to relinquish movie showtimes.
We clicked and clicked again and nothing happened and I couldn’t believe the ridiculousness of it all. ‘Why don’t you just tell me the name of the movie you want to see,‘ the professor summoned his best Kramer impersonation which, aside from eliciting a momentary chuckle from moi, did nothing to help our cause. ‘Let me look in the Metro,’ he left the table in search of the dubious daily. ‘They don’t put movie listings in the paper anymore, do they?’ I doubted.
I don’t remember the what or the how but at some point we learned that American Hustle was showing at the West Hills Cineplex and we had exactly 13 minutes to get there. We ran out of the coffee shop, jumped in the van and hightailed it to the theater.
‘Do you want to get popcorn,’ the professor offered, aware of my fondness for mindless snacking. I hesitated, both leery of the nutritional profile of movie theater popcorn and the professor’s disdain for it, ‘but you don’t like popcorn,’ and he shrugged. I had visions of enhancing my Lindt-ball sized rolls with trans-fats and forced myself to keep going.
It being 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon, the movie theather wasn’t exactly crowded. ‘What was the last movie you saw in a theater,’ I asked the man I’ve been watching movies with for 20 years. ‘Mmmh, I don’t know, maybe that one by the guy who did Pulp Fiction?’
‘Or that Coen Brothers one with Matt Damon.’
American Hustle finally began, with a painful scene in which Christian Bale fixes his vile comb-over just so. I sat back, fully expecting to love the movie as much as its enthusiastic reviews but, in the end, I found I concurred with one Rotten Tomatoes reviewer: ‘the actors act up a storm and the tacky period detail..fills the screen, but in the end it all feels too staged….too self-aware to fully work.’
Translation: the actual plot seemed to take a backseat to the outfits and the hair.
Next we stopped for some dinner and the annual-date-gods seemed to smile on us again as the first restaurant we tried happened to have an empty table.
A young boy sat with his sister and parents and another couple at a table in front of us. ‘Look at how still he’s sitting,’ the professor grumbled enviously, no doubt remembering our less-than-smooth dining experiences avec enfants. Many minutes later, when I thought we’d moved on in conversation, he suddenly blurted out, ‘I knew it! That kid’s playing video games under the table. No wonder he’s being so good.’
Vindicated, he turned his attention to the childless couple at the same table. ‘That guy’s never having children,’ he predicted, ‘just look at his face.’ I stared at the fresh-faced man whose sleepless nights had probably been a result of merriment rather than duty.
‘Yep, definitely not three-boy face.’