Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2003 / 4 Shevat, 5763

Deborah Mathis

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Consumer Reports

A mom has to let go, but she can do so in style | A couple of years ago, I splurged on a big vacation for my three young adult children and me.

Flew them from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, where I was covering the Democratic National Convention. The kids had never been to California.

A limousine met them at the airport and took them to our hotel, where they lolled away the hours until it was time to get all gussied up for the big nomination night festivities. A friend of my daughter's got them VIP seats in the gigantic, raucous Staples Center. Other friends got them into the round of post-convention parties. The next day, while I worked, the limo came and took them and their pals to Hollywood, Rodeo Drive and lunch on the beach.

When the convention ended, the four of us hopped in a nice, new, rented SUV and sped toward San Diego, where we spent three more days sleeping late, eating too much, shopping, sightseeing and lying by the pool. Oh yeah, we each got hourlong massages.

To cap it off, we stopped in Las Vegas on the way home. Twelve hours there. They agreed with the wisdom that Las Vegas is a one-of-a-place; the kind you have to see to believe. Especially at night.

Then we hopped a midnight flight and came home.

Now, I must tell you, I couldn't afford it. In fact, my pocketbook is still feeling the effects of those indulgences. Not that I'm surprised. I knew when I was planning it that it would be a strain. And don't think I didn't notice my colleagues' faces when, overhearing my arrangement-making, their jaws dropped. One or two even said, "Good grief, girl; isn't that kinda extravagant?"

It was and I admitted it. But, my reasoning was this: Given that my children were no longer children but had reached ages when people begin to let go of the ol' apron strings - or are yanked away by new obligations - the summer of 2000 may have been the last chance we get to vacation as just the four of us. Someone could get married, for goodness sake. Someone could move away for a job or graduate studies and would be unavailable. This could be it, I said.

Well, it wasn't. True, the summer of 2001 was impossible, thanks to work and school schedules. And this past summer, the young women were busy moving back down South, while my son was busy helping them move and later took a trip to Europe. Meanwhile, I was headed for a writing job in Turkey, of all places, and could not pass it up because I needed the money to help pay off the summer of 2000 trip.

But we have managed to get together regularly, despite being spread far and wide. So does that mean I spent all that money for nothing?

Hardly. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has brought up the trip in conversation, or shared photos from the trip, or shown off a souvenir, or played the videotape the younger daughter took to document it.

I wish I had a dollar for every chuckle or smile we've had in recalling the vacation.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard one of the kids call the trip "absolutely perfect," "the best time in the world," or "a trip I'll never ever forget."

If I had a dollar for each of those, I could pay for the past.

But even if it takes me the rest of my days - and it may - I will never regret having gone overboard this one time. What's the going price for a priceless memory these days? Whatever it is, I still think I got a deal.

Getting together is getting harder. My children now have grownup lives and grownup obligations. Rent and car notes that have to be paid. Meetings to make. And there are other people creeping into their lives. Young men with stars in their eyes and parents they want my daughters to meet. A young woman who seems to go to mush when my son is around. Summer internship applications. Grad school exams to take. It's happening.

What gets me is that this gets me. There I was, as a young mother, so positively certain that I would be ready for them to get going when the time came. And here I am, older, alone and sick with sentimentality. There are times when I miss seeing them so much that I literally feel like I'm suffocating. Now, ain't that a mess?

Earlier today, I saw an ad for a new videophone that attaches to regular analog phones. It seems to be very user friendly and, if the ads are to be believed, the resolution of the images is quite good.

Here's the hitch: The things cost $500 a pair. I can't afford that right now.

But I'm going to get them. In fact, I'm going to get a couple of pairs because my daughters are in one place, my son is in another and I need to see them all.

I can hear the head-shaking and tut-tutting now. But in anticipation of accusations that I'm being extravagant once again, I ask you to please remember that little respiratory matter.

"There's no fool like an old fool," someone once said.

Wrong. There's an old mother.

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12/26/02: We've given overwork a makeover and called it "multitasking"
12/23/02: The bad guys have underestimated our adaptability


© 2002, TMS