Get out of Town

It’s never easy. The last days before leaving for a trip always get ugly. No matter how I try to plan ahead, think ahead, and even pack ahead, there is no avoiding the inevitable frenzy and departure stress. Finishing up work projects so the hanging threads are at least minimized. Getting De-facto and the girls packed in the car and on their way to the country house. Setting in order the details of the household: bills paid, last minute errands, picking up dry cleaning, running by the post to drop some birthday cards in the mail, baskets of white clothes to be washed and ironed, suitcase packed. Get that last invoice out, answer those emails sulking in the bottom of the inbox. Stop by the bank to get cash for the trip, find a moment to shop for a new pair of cheap shoes for trudging through the gray silt of the upcoming Pamplona party. The list would not end, and the series of bullet-pointed colored Post-it notes plastered over the kitchen island seemed to multiply despite the fact that I plowed through the list industriously, barely stopping to eat or sleep, let alone to put my feet up.

There was a pedicure – a must before any summer trip and of course the visit to the beauty nurse to deal with the hair you don’t want, but then to the coiffeur to deal with the hair you do want. If only there’d been time for a facial. De-facto laughs at me when I run around at pre-voyage pace, stressed about my to-do list, on which a third of the items are beauty treatments, which he considers lavish. But I’m telling you this not a luxury; at my age, it’s called maintenance.

My usual start-of-summer departure stress was compounded this year by the necessary packing or purging of all bottles, boxes, tubes and personal toiletry items on every shelf of our bathroom and our w.c. We have arranged for both to be gutted and renovated during our absence, which meant a last-minute consultation with the contractor, some dashing about to pick up the new shower fixture and special-order lamps which meant I completely spaced out about a conference call I was supposed to join.

I’d turned the corner from frenzied to flakey.

But wait, there’s more: I knew this was not the ideal moment to wipe out my hard-drive and upgrade to a new operating system, however my recently-sluggish computer decided to freeze, upgrading this task from would-be-nice-if-you-get-to-it to the must-do-it-now status. The installation was more complicated than it should have been, requiring a manual reassembly of my document files, photos, browser preferences and email accounts. The good news is I had a fresh backup from which to work. The bad news: it still took hours. I was up restructuring my library files until three a.m.

It would help if I wasn’t so hell-bent on leaving home with everything in order. I cannot leave the house with perishable food in the fridge. The laundry needs to be put away and the tables cleared and chairs pushed in, the dishwasher emptied. I want beds made and the shoes put away, papers and books and things put away and out of sight. I like to leave the house in such a way that it’s a relief to come home. This adds a number of possibly superfluous tasks to my cluster of Post-it notes, but it does pay off. The return home is always smoother for this painful frenzy of preparation.

Keep your eye on the prize. This is the mantra I kept repeating to myself all week. Soon I’d be in the green of the hills of the Basque country at a favorite little hotel, sipping rosé and eating asparagus de Navarra. Just a few days later, I’ll be clinking champagne flutes in a room full of friends dressed in white (with a splash of red) in the middle of an entire city full of people dressed in white (with a splash of red) where for exactly one week I will be lost in the revelry and reverie that is the fiesta of San Fermín. The days ahead are days I dream of all year long: when I am beholden to nobody, when there is no end-of-day-deadline because I have to pick up the kids, no promises to keep, no paperwork to submit, no phone call to forget. These are the days spent wandering with purposeful abandon in an non-stop-impromptu parade with a posse of good friends, days where I am free to float, un-tethered and in the moment, subject only to my own whim of iron. These are the days I’ve been waiting for all year, and oh yes, they’re just ahead – if I can just get out of town.

7 Responses to “Get out of Town”

  • Marinera Says:

    great post… I’m leaving on Thursday for a 5-day trip (to a wedding in Piemonte, so it includes packing everything from party dress/heels so swimming pool stuff). The frenzy of “getting ready” is complicated by my new kitchen arriving same day I come back, so that means emptying/painting/redoing electricity-gas etc all BEFORE LEAVING also… I love the “purposeful abandon in an non-stop-impromptu parade”… enjoy it! 🙂

  • Marinera Says:

    And I totally agree: leaving the house in such a way that it’s a relief to come home, pays off!

  • Helga Says:

    I am in the midst of doing this very same thing right this second! And I’m going to a wedding today as well. Should not be online at all but I couldn’t resist reading your post. Tomorrow at this time I will be on a ferry to an island for the next 5 weeks but today I am in packing & cleaning hell. Enjoy your summer! You’ve earned it!

  • Amy Sparrow Says:

    I am not like this. no. i leave the house a total catastrophy, all is fixated on bringing all the STUFF i need to make the vacation just right AND i don’t think a bit about the mess at home until I step in the door when i return. But i also don’t get pedicures and manicures anymore. Do it myself on the beach. really. no, it doesn’t look as good and my cuticles are a mess. so. i do have one question: is there REALLY such a thing as a “beauty nurse”? ? Oh o get it! a brazilian! been thinking, now, that THAT might well be worth it. 😉 Have a great trip MD!

  • Elizabeth Marie Says:

    I am leaving in less than three weeks for a two-week residency, and I’m starting to panic about everything I want to do before I go (“want” being the operative word here). I’ll most likely leave my house a dreadful mess. I’m sure you’ll have an excellent time. It sounds like heaven. And when you’re done, you’ll return home to a different kind of heaven, huh?

  • hpretty Says:

    Oh god this is me. I can’t leave the house without the bed being made. It makes me physically sick. If i’m going away on hols i can’t leave it in a tip, cause i fret about how stressed i will feel to come back to it. Peas in a pod.


  • Lori Popkewitz Alper Says:

    Beautiful post that really captured how I feel each and every time I go on vacation. Keeping my eye on the prize gets me through…..enjoy your prize my friend. Happy summer.

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