A couple of months ago, my husband gave me an assignment. He demanded that I plan a trip for the moms in our small group. He also made the suggestion that changed everything.
“Pick a date. You’re going no matter what. And whoever can join you, great.”
…Because we’ve tried this before, and it’s never worked. At least once a year, all of us mothers start talking about how very much we need to get away, and dream about a beach trip. Or a mountain trip. Or whatever, as long as no one is asking us to wipe their butt or pour their juice or fix their Lego creation for the fifth time in five minutes.
(Because we love our children. Very much. And to be able to love one’s children very much, one must escape from said children. Regularly.)
But anyway. Every other time we start planning, we start by suggesting weekends until we run out of weekends, and never is there ever a weekend that we’re all available. So Chris’ suggestion of “If this is just you, great. If it’s everyone, great. Just plan it and see who can come” was brilliant.
And it totally worked. Because six out of nine of the moms were able to make it work.
See these happy shiny faces? These Mommies are all loving their kids better this week – because they left for the weekend.
(We were super sad that the other three moms couldn’t go, but as soon as I got back, Chris told me he’d “obligated” me that morning at church to plan a make-up trip for the others, and for any other moms who wanted/needed a repeat.)
I headed north early on Friday so that I could get us set up in our rental house and get a run in before our weekend of laziness kicked in. But it rained on me all the way, so I felt magnetically drawn to stop at Noccalula Falls in Gadsden on the way up – to see what it looked like at overflow levels.
For comparison, this was the same waterfall last August:
It was totally worth getting my feet sloshy-wet to see.
It was still raining when I arrived at our destination, Gorham’s Bluff, and the moisture made the view of Lake Guntersville eerily steamy.
I ran while I waited on the other moms to arrive, and managed to scare a herd of deer and a rabbit with my apparently intimidating presence (either that or they don’t approve of leggings as pants, either.)
I highly enjoyed the beautiful views,
which was good, because as soon as it quit raining, everything became completely enshrouded in fog. The valley was white nothingness, and the lodge immediately looked like the setting for a murder mystery, just like the first time Chris and I visited.
When the other moms arrived, they didn’t even believe me that there was a valley beneath the clouds. We spent the evening chatting and doing nothing, just as all moms dream of doing every evening.
The next morning, the fog was still there, and they still doubted my stories of views and valleys. We biked and walked around the property, disappearing and reappearing in the fog, all feeling very much like we had just entered into a Hollywood thriller, and we were going to start being picked off one by one any minute.
It was deliciously exciting.
Then, right as we were about to leave for a small road trip (literally – I was driving away), the fog lifted. Everyone jumped out of my car and eagerly ran to the edge of the ridge to see what was below.
And they believed me at last. Redemption felt fantastic.
Then we continued on. They had all read my stories of Unclaimed Baggage, and wanted to experience it for themselves. And let me tell you – six moms loose in that store with no kids nagging to leave is a mighty force.
Besides almost all of us finding things we actually bought and loved, we also discovered some very special garments.
The review happening here was, “Eight dollars for the best night of my life? Yes ma’am!”
We texted pictures to our husbands, knowing full well we were making their weirdest dreams come true.
And then we found the shoes.
Oh, the shoes that people pack to fly on a plane. WHERE are these people going? HOW do they have such good balance? And WHAT do they do to make it through security without their footwear being declared a weapon?
It took Ashley a full five minutes to get into these shoes, and she could not let go of the rack, but the effect was totally worth it.
Nikki’s were an iridescent purple/green magical color-changing shoe – totally meant to be worn in a production of Wicked.
And when Kristin, the tallest member of our group, put on her selected pair,
We knew it was time for a photo op with Ashley, the shortest member of the group.
Because it was the Mommy version of Shaq and Kevin Hart.
We went back to Gorham’s Bluff and soaked in the majesty of our surroundings.
We found their waterfall,
The Old Lady Arm Tree,
And the best place to hang off the mountain and watch the storms in the distance.
…which is when Kelly and Kristin spotted it.
A blue van in the bottom of the ravine.
We all clamored to the edge to get a better view, all while postulating wildly about how it arrived at its destination.
Was it a high school kid’s prank?
Someone who got lost in the fog?
A victim of the North Alabama Mafia?
I of all people cannot let a mystery lie, so I asked the innkeeper later, after one of our beautiful meals.
She said, “A blue van? We don’t know about a blue van. There’s a really old car somewhere else down there…but it’s not a blue van. I guess I’ll be needing to call the Sheriff’s department…”
My eyes widened. I schemed as to how I could stay indefinitely at the fog-covered inn to write my first True Crime novel. Or if I could rappel off the mountain and discover the secrets for myself.
The other moms peacefully wiled away the afternoon reading, gazing, and talking, while my brain paced back and forth in my head, trying to solve The Mystery of The Blue Van.
Which I didn’t do. Yet. But you better believe I returned to the scene of the crime at sunset – just to make sure nothing had changed.
On Sunday before I left, I took a final bike ride, and I made a last round of photography before I left,
and then I drove back home, back to real life – and, back to a tornado.
And that’s why Moms need retreats. Because our lives are often a tornado – sometimes literally, but most of the time figuratively.