Volunteer early for getaway errands

Because I Said So column for The Commercial Appeal

May 10, 2012

Every parent needs to get away from time to time. We need to step out of our role as caretaker and the crushing weight of responsibility that comes with it. We need time for ourselves, time to clear our mind, a change of scenery. We need silence.

However, a weekend on the Florida coast or a Caribbean island might not be available to all of us. A trip to New York or San Francisco might interfere with soccer games, homework projects and sleepovers.

So what I do is, when I’m sent up to the Kroger on Sanderlin for a necessary dinner item or forgotten lunch staple, I take a little time just for me and stroll around the store. I sight-see and explore for things like fruits I’ve never seen or a new flavor of toothpaste. Perhaps I’ll run into someone I know or just sit and watch the lobsters for a bit.

It is the saddest vacation available in the Frommer’s travel guide.

There are times when a special item is needed and Kroger becomes a layover before traveling on to Whole Foods. This is the closest I come to visiting a foreign land. The foods there are exotic, the people concerned and the ambience organic. I feel, while walking around that store with no children tagging along, as free to range as their chickens.

There are other vacation packages available as well. There is the obvious choice of the hardware store. The aisles of Home Depot and Lowe’s are populated by fathers who have “run up to the store for a minute” for a box of nails or “a bracket for that thing I’m working on.” I see them wandering, clutching a roll of duct tape like it’s luggage and admiring a 12-amp reciprocating saw as though they were browsing the duty-free between flights. A trip like this could take an hour; in the spring, when the garden center is in full bloom, an hour-and-a-half. Bracket For That Thing I’m Working On would be a good name for some sort of VIP lounge if those companies were so inclined.

The trick, of course, is to buy your ticket early. Not too early — don’t look too eager — but claim it just before your spouse has the chance to volunteer picking up that pack of toilet paper or a head of garlic. It’s why I always offer first to travel to Gibson’s Donuts. It’s just something, I tell my wife, that I want to do for my family. I’ll get the dozen donuts and then get one just for me and a cup of coffee. It’s 10 minutes of “me time,” 20 if that train at Poplar, blessedly, delays me.

The trip home from any of these excursions should be a long, circuitous one. I’m the one you’re stuck behind and cussing as I meander just below the speed limit to take in the changing leaves or the progress my neighbors are making on renovations. I know they’re renovating because I see them at Home Depot all the time. The escaped parent finding himself alone in the car does not care about gas prices. He is not concerned (at the moment) with the environment. He is alone and at peace with the windows down and the dulcet tones of NPR to keep him company.

Being able to spend quality time with family is a gift we all should cherish. Being able to spend a few moments away from the kids and the television and the responsibility is like an exotic trinket from a far-away gift shop.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal