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Unspoken Words

A short story of the first day of a family vacation. Does anything ever really go according to plan? Sometimes it's better if things go unsaid. But unspoken language is more than biting your tongue--at times, it's a healing embrace.

The first official day of vacation, such a glorious way to start a full week off. Except that on this day of packing, herding children, and beginning a road trip, Naomi fully understood the urge some animals have to eat their young. Maybe husbands too. Is that a thing? she wondered.

Oh, the packing…the packing started two days prior. Because when you are the mother of two children you get to pack your items and the children’s. Every…single...time. Apparently, this was a specific requirement under the knowledge, skills, and abilities portion of the Motherhood job description. But shockingly, it was completely absent from the Fatherhood job description. Ok, maybe not so shockingly absent. But that revelation remained elusive until after offspring are delivered and traveling reared its head.

With the kids (finally) appropriately packed, Naomi stayed up late the night before to pack her own things. Her husband Dominic, a notorious last-minute packer, was adamant he would have plenty of time to handle his own affairs in the morning. Before the departure time of 6:30 am. Too tired to vocalize what she really wanted to say, Naomi went to bed at midnight.

At 2:46 am Brooklyn, her six-year-old daughter, shook her awake. She suffered from a nightmare…on the night before vacation. Reassuring her that giant teddy bears were in fact not going to stomp on all her toys while they were gone, Naomi walked her back to her bedroom and tucked her back into bed.

Staring at the ceiling until at least 3:30, she approximated two hours of sleep were left.

The alarm blared its revolting beep at 5:30, and as much as Naomi wanted to hit the snooze button—vacation awaited. Nudging Dominic to wake him up, she proceeded to venture down the hallway to awaken all remaining vacation participants.

Jordan, her eleven-year-old, had a mostly hate relationship with mornings. At the breakfast table, he started an argument with Brooklyn over his belief that she was eating up his favorite cereal too rapidly. Naomi nipped that in the bud and went to check on Dominic’s progress.

Time check 6:21 am and he had not even STARTED! She heard a conversation coming from their bathroom. By the sounds of it, work had not yet released him from their grasp. No telling when that would end. Naomi knew herself enough to know that if she opened her mouth, it would be as unstoppable as a dam breaking. She settled for getting his eye contact and tapping on her watch.

Time marched forever onwards, and 6:30 turned to 7:30 and then 8:00. Naomi packed everything into the car, save Dominic’s suitcase. He came outside as Naomi glanced at her watch again--8:17.

“Hey babe, can you drive the first half?” Dominic asked.

Sure, it’s not like I packed 75% of the items we’re bringing, got woken up in the middle of the night, broke up an argument over cereal, received an inadequate amount of sleep, or had to wait an hour and a half for you to get your things together. Rather than say all of THAT, she responded with “Fine.”

The word ‘fine’ uttered by a woman always means the exact opposite. To translate, if a woman said ‘fine’ during nuclear negotiations, there would be multiple mushroom clouds over the continent before she left the conference room.

“Thanks babe,” he said, completely unaffected by the mine-laden field he entered.

Mile marker 227 seemed as good a place as any to refuel, grab lunch, and switch drivers. Naomi had driven her half in complete silence, all the while Dominic scrolled through his phone, read some magazines, and then finally fell asleep for a nap. Must be nice, she thought.

Switching to the passenger seat, she had just taken a bite out of her burger when a commotion began in the back seat.

“Mom, can I have some napkins?” Brooklyn asked.

Naomi grabbed a couple of napkins from the glovebox, turned around, and saw that Brooklyn’s cup had completely overturned on the floormat. A literal puddle of sweet tea sloshed around, the ice cubes floating like icebergs on the ocean.

“Dominic, pull over we have to clean this up,” Naomi said.

Their vehicle came to a safe stop on the interstate shoulder and Naomi hopped out to find a beach towel in the trunk. Dominic’s happened to be on top, so she used his to sop up the tea. Rather appropriate, she surmised.

In four short hours, we’ll be at the beach, Naomi repeated to herself.

The hours ticked by faster than expected, and there were not any additional incidents in the car. Their accommodations emerged from the tree line and everyone perked up in anticipation.

Once suitcases, bookbags, beach toys, and laptop cases were unloaded and carted to their unit three flights up, Brooklyn and Jordan ran to their room to claim their beds. Naomi took this opportunity to slip away unnoticed and walk on the beach.

She walked the shoreline, unpacking everything that had built up for so long. Stress, work, home, the constant go, go, go. She felt whittled down by it all. With the breeze and ocean as her therapists, every step brought her a modicum of peace. She walked and walked until her mind slowed to a trickle. When she turned around to retrace her steps back, she knew she was not quite ready to put on the face of Mom and Wife. She found a deserted place to sit not too far from the beach entrance.

The tears came then. She released all the pent-up feelings, the feelings she uttered to no one but herself. A torrent of emotion flooded out of her system.

Dominic found her there. He lingered out of view for a moment, watching her sit apart from the others. God, she was beautiful. Even wounded and raw, she emanated an authenticity not many possessed.

Naomi saw Dominic approaching, and she wiped her face with her sleeve. Rather than saying anything, he sat beside her and enveloped her in his arms. His thumb wiped the remaining salt-tinged streams trailing from her eyes.

They sat there together like that without a word passing. None were needed. The sand, sea, and their faith and love in each other expressed fully their unspoken language.

Everything would be okay. They had each other.

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3 commenti

What a sweet story. I think every wife and mother can relate to it. It reminded me of a book that Charles Lindberg's wife wrote, how when life wore her down, she would go to the beach to refresh herself. In it she said women gave so much of themselves to their family, they became empty, and she found she could refill herself at the beach.

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Me too. Wonder if it is because we're mostly made up of water? Grin.

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