Ye gods, people, you have no idea how much shorter an eight-hour drive is with no children in the back seat. The whole way to the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Rachel and I kept marveling at how easy this was: no backseat DJing from the three-year-old dictator, no “Are we there yet?”s, no placating a restless Isaac with chunks of Arrowroot cookie and half-grapes, passed into the backseat at regular intervals. No doling out points for every “motorcycle-go!” passed on the highway. No ending the last leg of every driving interval with a screaming baby whose limits had been pushed past breaking point. No skulking around the sleeping children in a hotel room at 7:30 p.m., only to be wakened by the very same children at 4:34 a.m. So not like last year.
Just me and my girl, on the road with grown-up music and coffee and the cell phone I finally acquiesced to. And oh my God, it was sweet.
Those of you with small children who have not yet gone away for a few days with your partner: do it. If you can swing it at all, do it. Leave them with a trusted somebody and hightail it out of town. It barely matters where. I mean, the Folk Festival was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but the real highlight of the weekend was not being responsible for anyone else’s needs. From Friday morning — a getaway marred only by Rowan’s sudden tears and pleas for us to stay (he was fine, fine, five minutes later, as we confirmed by said cell phone) — until Monday evening, I did not have to worry about anyone else eating, sleeping, sharing, peeing, hurting, running off, waking up, being bored, throwing sand, or otherwise Behaving or Needing or just plain Existing under my jurisdiction. We travelled with three other sets of parents of relatively small children, none of whom had ever left their kids behind either, and we all walked around with slightly goofy, dazed expressions on our faces. We half-declared a moratorium on conversations that began with, “If the kids were here...,” but eventually gave up. It was just too much fun to gloat.
Even the camping — such as it was, what with nice flat fields of open grass and cooking facilities and bathrooms nearby — was magical. I slept, uninterrupted, under a duvet on our air mattress, until whatever time I chose to wake up in the morning. Our second morning there, Rachel brought a steaming mug of tea to me as a 10:30 wake-up call. And I remembered what it was like to be pampered, how easy it was to be romantic, when not pulled in two directions at once, not mentally mapping out the morning, the hour, how to entice children from Point A to Point B.
And the people! The beautiful people everywhere, eating the beautiful food that we simply bought when we were hungry, washed down by the microbrews in the beer tent when we had a hankering. The baked goods! (Rachel would like me to mention for the record that we ate fried dough in four different forms.) The swimming, the conversations, reading large chunks of my novel, the setting up of camp chairs and hanging out for hours on end in ways that we haven’t hung out in far, far too long.
And, uh, the music. “What did you see?” my sister-in-law asked when we got back. “I don’t actually know,” I admitted. Because, sacrilegious as it sounds to the hard-core festivalgoers, I didn’t really care all that much, at least after k.d. lang cancelled and we missed Elvis Costello and Martha Wainwright on the Wednesday night. Neko Case was pretty rockin’, as was a UK band called Bellowhead. I liked Iron and Wine, and I kind of thought Steven Page was a bit pathetic, what with singing all the old Barenaked Ladies songs he wrote, thank you very much.
But really? As long as it wasn’t Raffi, I wasn’t complaining.