It's Friday night at 5 o'clock in a Lincoln Tunnel traffic jam on a steamy summer afternoon in New York. My two daughters and I have begun our annual "run away from home" weekend. Kiss the husbands goodbye, leave some frozen dinners in the freezer and a note under their pillows, and we're gone. Last year it was four days at the Tanglewood Music Festival, and this year a serious wander through the gardens of the Delaware Valley. It's not that we're such modern Millies, although both my daughters work and raise families.
We have recently discovered the pleasure of being together for a few days without having to consider anyone else. Oh, yes, they know we're going: They sigh patiently and send us off with a puzzled wave. We sit in the tunnel and laugh at the inauspicious start to our jaunt while the sandwiches get soggy and the ice puddles around the soft drinks.
Perhaps the greatest gift of our holiday is a shared sense of the absurd. Laughter bubbles up among us, overflowing like a chocolate soda when it's stirred. We laugh with our husbands, but it's a different kind of laughter. They don't find anything funny about getting lost and asking for directions, or being caught in a downpour with no umbrella, or speeding past the next route number spied across the divided highway with no left turn for 10 miles.
In earlier days, women often met together around common tasks: churning butter, picking fruit, quilting, cooking, even birthing. It doesn't happen much in families anymore as we whirl about in separate orbits, often many miles apart.
My daughters' lives and skills are so different from mine. I am awestruck by their pocket organizers where every detail of information they need is stashed away to be called up in an instant. (Mine are scribbled on the backs of envelopes stuffed in a kitchen drawer.) Their cellular phones look like folded Thin Mints and connect us to the world wherever we happen to be. They know about computers, the mysterious Internet, and the wonders of tofu and Lycra. I know about feeding a crowd, volunteering, and staying the course. We share our admiration for one another unhampered by any ripples of their growing-up years.
I watch them bent over the riotous flower beds, taking notes for their own gardens. In the morning I see their images together in the mirror while they blow-dry their hair, and at night I listen to their companionable lights-out conversation as I drift off to sleep.
On the drive home, we start planning our next trip. Often we talk about including our husbands. But in the end we decide this time together is a special grace like no other. We hug it to ourselves and return home gratefully to take up our lives again with our men where we have chosen to be. Vive la diffrence!