When I was a corporate lawyer, I used to really stress over asking for days off. I felt that it would be viewed as weakness or a lack of commitment. This was probably due to my own paranoia, as well as an unspoken reality, confirmed by the occasional comment by an associate or partner bragging about the fact that "it has been months since I have had a day off."
Needless to say, a major perk of me leaving my job is not having to ask for vacation time. I have only my husband and kids to answer to, and they are generally more accommodating than your typical law firm partner. Which means I can start to catch up on trips that I've been meaning to take for a while. First stop on the post-lawyer tour? Kentucky and Ohio. Not the most luxurious for sure, but for me, a kind of coming home. I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and lived there for nine years before I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where I graduated high school. I have not been to Louisville since 1990, and since my parents have moved, I only make it to Cincinnati every couple of years.
I came up with the grand idea to combine both destinations and do a "finding my roots" kind of trip. Maybe it's because I have left my career and am trying to turn over a new leaf. Maybe I'm having a mid-life crisis of sorts. Or maybe I was just inspired by that Miranda Lambert song. Regardless, the decision was made to take the trip, take Braden with me, and make stops in Louisville, Lexington, and Cincinnati. And, since you are on the edge of your seat, here is a brief play-by-play of my homecoming:
Stop 1: Louisville, Kentucky
Upon arrival at the Louisville airport, I was bombarded by southern accents and gentility. A gate agent spotted us walking towards the baggage claim area and gave Braden some stickers. How nice! This definitely would not happen at LaGuardia. We picked up the rental car and after wrestling with the carseat, headed over to the home of my former nanny, Betty. Betty took care of my sister and I until we moved to Cincinnati when I was 9, and I had not seen her in over ten years. (For more background, see last week's post entitled "Betty").
After eating lunch, we headed to my old house, which I had not been to since 1988. I spent ages 2 through 9 living in that house, and I have a lot of memories from there - good and bad. Seeing it at first was a bit surreal. My first thought was how small it was! In my nine year old memory, it was huge. I looked at Braden and pondered whether he will think that our little rambler is also a mansion. In any event, I had the nerve to knock on the door and ask if we could take a tour through the house, and the woman actually said yes. I watched Braden run from room to room, just as I had when I was his age. And there was Betty standing in the doorway, just as she had with me over 25 years ago. It was definitely a special moment. While Braden went on a running tour of the house, I took some pictures:
After our home tour, we took Braden to a park where Betty used to take my sister and I. She took over playing with Braden as if it was the most natural thing ever:
It was a much needed visit, and was long overdue. I promised Betty that I would visit again, and I meant it.
Stop 2: Lexington, Kentucky
After our afternoon with Betty we set off for our next destination: Lexington, to visit Katie, one of my best friends from high school. It was a great drive - a beautiful sunny day, and a wide selection of country music stations. Braden slept the whole way.
Katie and I were best friends from 5th to 12th grade, and for 8 consecutive summers, she came to Cape Cod with me and my family. We haven't been the best at keeping in touch, but she did make the trip to Cape Cod five years ago for my wedding, which really meant a lot. Katie was married in September, and moved from Cincinnati to Lexington to live on a horse breeding farm that her husband's family owns. When I couldn't make her wedding (since I was almost 8 months pregnant), I vowed to visit her. So there I was.
The farm was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. Everywhere I looked were expansive green fields dotted by horses and surrounded by white picket fences. I definitely felt like I was in Kentucky. "I can't believe you live here!" was one of the first things I said to her. Five years ago, I would have meant this in a negative way. But now, it comes from envy - I would love to be far away from the hustle and bustle and live somewhere so peaceful and serene. (To learn more about the farm, see the farm's website here.)
We had a lovely evening, and stayed up late talking and drinking wine. It was great to reconnect and spend quality time with an old friend, which has been a resolution of my post-career transition. And Braden slept through the night and only broke a potted plant and a door handle ornament. Overall, a huge success.
Stop 3: Cincinnati, Ohio
Friday morning Braden and I headed to our last and final destination, Cincinnati, where I lived from ages 9-17. I generally go back every other year to see my best friend, Dana, whom I talk to on the phone every single day (sometimes multiple times). She has a 5 year old daughter and a son just 6 months younger than Braden, so the weekend promised to be kid-centered. But that's life these days!
Since Dana was working on Friday, Braden and I had the morning to ourselves. Our first stop was my Cincinnati childhood home, to complete the childhood home tour. This time the owners weren't home, so I decided to take pictures by peaking in the windows and climbing over the fence. I definitely considered the fact that I could get arrested, but thought Braden would be the sympathy card. In any event, here's a picture of my backyard growing up, which explains why I will never be satisfied with the small homes in suburban DC that are twice the cost and half the size:
Our next stop, Skyline Chili. I am not sure how many readers have ever heard of Skyline, but let me tell you, it is the most amazing eating establishment ever. EVER! Why it has not gone worldwide, let alone nationwide, is beyond me. Lets just say that if I had to choose a last meal of my life, it would involve two cheese coneys from Skyline. (For more info on Skyline, click here. Really, you should). Braden even liked it, and that says something.
After doing a couple of short visits with other old friends, we finally arrived at Dana's house, and the relaxing part of the weekend could begin. We were staying put, for two days at least. And even though it rained all day Saturday, Braden and Dana's son, Jake, seemed to hit it off (when they weren't fighting over toys).
And the highlight of my weekend? Saturday night date night with Dana. Thank you to Dana's husband for babysitting, so that Dana and I could have a night out together - something we only get once a year, if that. We had good conversation, good food, and good martinis.
Braden and I left the next morning, and as I drove in the rain to the Dayton airport, I felt happy and sad at the same time: sad to be leaving friends I rarely see, but yet so happy that I finally made the trip happen. This is part of what leaving my job was all about - time. Time to spend with my kids. Time to do things that are long overdue. Time to see people I want to see. Time to rediscover myself, my roots, and my future. Time to focus on what is truly important. And since I have it, I plan to use my time wisely.