Once a year, the clergy in our diocese go on retreat. Basically, this means they go to a Benadictine monestary, get fed fresh organic food grown by the monks, spend half their day in silent contemplation, and the other half in such spiritual disciplines as soccer and bowling. I think they may do some prayer and discussion of biblical texts or the like in their extra spare time.
At the same time, my friend Sharon and I have established our own clergy wives' "retreat". This consists of us and our multiple children hanging out for 3 days at Sharon's house. We do such things as put children to bed, take them to school, the park and library time, make food we hope will be eaten, clean up the floor after meals, and carry on an ongoing discussion of life, motherhood, politics, religion, and feminist issues (ie -- children, marriage, work possibilites for the future, child rearing philosophies vs practical realities of parenting, rights to life/ death / conception / children's care, and how generally frustrating it can be to be the mother of small children), not to mention the really important things in life like clothes and paint colours and curtains. My son is happy, because he has new toys to play with, and Sharon's kids are happy because they have a new friend to play with all week. And we are happy because they are relatively distracted from missing their dads.
Last year, Sharon had two children and was 8 months pregnant. This time, she had three kids and I had Andrew and am 6 months pregnant. Since she is, reportedly done having children, I guess I'll have to manage to be pregnant again by next year to keep up our tradition of adding a child every year.
It was a good week, and quite refreshing. Its nice to split up some of the cleaning, cooking and housework (although Sharon did the lion's share and I slacked off -- but I did make lots of coffee and hot chocolate). Its especially nice to have another like minded, intelligent woman around to share my thoughts with (thus my lack of need to blog last week). And its fun to see my son's world expand to include people other than me and Dave.
The Hetke's house is one of the only places we go where he will enter into the fray without hestitation or extended periods of leg-clinging. He adores Edmund, as only a little boy can adore a bigger boy who will play with him. He and Bea tell mysterious jokes to each other over dinner (something to do with "castle?!?" that they though was hilarious, and that changed slightly every meal) and explore the world together. Andrew even defended Bea at one point: Sharon said "Bea, take that string off your head, its not a hat." and Andrew said "For pretend". He is fascinated more each time we go to visit by this growing person we call "baby Marie", who is now moving and taking stuff away from him.
One of the highlights for me was that my goddaughter, Marie, recognized me this time. She would crawl over to where I was sitting and look up at me, smiling, trying to pull herself up to the couch. Then I would pick her up, and she would snuggle into my shoulder in a way that is totally foreign to me with my active, high-strung boy. It was really sweet.
Three days was the perfect length of time for our retreat. On the last day Andrew was starting to really miss his dad, and get overtired and overstimulated. Sharon and I had not yet run out of things to talk about, so we didn't have any of that aukward "well, we've run out of things to say . . . what now?" time, and, hopefully, she was not quite sick of cooking for 5 instead of 4, and finding Andrew's food - filled shirts bundled up in odd places in her kitchen. I was not yet feeling that urge to just be back in my own house that is so strong in women when they are pregnant and caring for young children.
So, although we may not have been pampered as much as our husbands, and our time may not have been quite as tranquil and contemplative, it was none the less refreshing. I'm glad we did it, and I hope we can carry on our tradition next year. As my friend from theatre classes used to say when asked to give feedback to a given performance, "I like it, it was good."