Mother’s Day is a “brunch holiday.” I detest brunch. There is something so very non-committal about it. Besides, all the best food (not to mention the alcohol to go with it) comes out after dark. In the early years of being a mother I devoted considerable time and energy in the month of April to oh-so-subtly delivering my anti-brunch message (my husband comes from a Mother’s-Day-Brunch family). By the time we had two toddlers I’d given up on subtle and had “Sophie hates brunch” tattooed on hubby’s arm. Let’s face it there is NOTHING relaxing or celebratory about trying to consume a meal in a nice restaurant with two toddlers. And, crazy as it may seem, I’ve always been under the impression that a gift is supposed to delight and relax its recipient.
Motherhood is not, generally speaking, a relaxing occupation. Everything is prone to interruption. Everything. If you are a mother and you’ve been drawn, shampoo-still-in-hair, from the shower by disturbing sounds from elsewhere in your house—sounds suggesting that either furniture or children are being broken—then you know precisely what I mean. The TRULY perfect Mother’s Day gift would be an exotic getaway. A weekend on a beach inBali. Shopping inParis. A day at the spa. Heck, I drive past a Dominican retreat on my appointed motherly rounds, and lately I’ve been thinking a day with the nuns would do wonders for me. Please note, I am not even Catholic.
The truth is, for many of us, an actually physical getaway is pipe dream. There are kids to be delivered to and from a myriad of activities (anyone who’s had a “oh my god I forgot to pick up [insert child’s name here]” moment, raise your hand), homework to help with, etc. And can you just imagine the size of the laundry pile that would await a mother’s return should she actually manage to slip away toBali?
But being a mom is a joy and an avocation. It’s taught me a lot of things including how to live in the moment. After two decades of motherhood I know that I need to both treasure and expect my “me time” in small increments. You have perhaps heard of the twenty-minute power nap? Well, I have become the master of the eleven-minute sitting-in-the-car-getaway. And that leads me to books.
Books offer the perfect, portable, getaway. I may look like I am in the carpool line, waiting for the man with the whistle to call a hundred car engines to life, but I am not. I am in ancient Rome thanks to Kate Quinn’s Empress of the Seven Hills. I am in regency England watching a confirmed bachelor-dandy fall head-over-heels thanks to Miranda Neville. I am spending an afternoon with Catherine de Medici thanks to biographer R. J. Knecht. I am attending festivities at the Valois court with Philippe Erlanger. I am discovering a set of sisters from Provence in a secondary research source on Notre Dame de Paris—sisters who will lead me on an adventure ultimately resulting in the publication of my debut novel, The Sister Queens.
The cost of these getaways is negligible (certainly not in the league of airline tickets to Bali). For the cost of a brunch I’d hate for the five of us, my family can get me a whole armload of books I’ll love and that will fit into my schedule. Yes, I may get snappish when I am forced to put down a novel at a climatic moment to help find a uniform skirt gone missing, or “check” on someone who has already been in bed for an hour but is still not asleep (you know who you are, son). But it’s a lot easier to settle back down on the couch and slip back into the French Revolution with Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud than it is to sop up all the water and suds from interrupted tub-time. When I travel by novel I can get back home from Paris for tuck-in time. Try doing that by airplane (especially in a TSA infested air-travel world).
So, husband dearest, books please. Mother’s Day is still more than a week away. Don’t make me tattoo this on your. . . oh, never mind.