Sunday, January 8, 2012


For ten years now, I've been staying home with one, then two, then three children while my husband traveled for work. Some years were very, very heavy with travel. I've single-handedly dealt with flooding basements, snowed-in driveways, sick kids, my own illness, broken appliances--you name it, and over and over. Some trips were uneventful, of course, but I still managed the house and the schedules and the children, with no other adult walking through the door for a week or 10 days or even two weeks, sometimes, to share the load. And while many trips were routine, my husband has traveled to numerous countries in three continents. He has seen the Pearl Harbor Memorial, the remnants of the Berlin Wall, and the Panama Canal. He has toured Pompeii and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef. I have stayed home and nursed babies. Make no mistake, we have our roles clearly defined, and I wouldn't have wanted to leave the kids as often as he's had to, but you have to admit that touring Pompeii and scraping a child's vomit off the carpet while shivering with your own fever are not...equitable.

Along the line I began saying that when I was able to--when the kids were older, when the youngest was weaned--I was going away, somewhere. Somewhere I'd sleep through the night without interruption and somebody else would cut the fruit. See, so much of the job of young children involves doing things for others with no benefit to yourself, such as cutting fruit you never even eat. Years ago my sister had the opportunity to attend SOAR, and when she returned, she told me, almost wonderingly, "I didn't cut fruit the entire time. Somebody else cut the fruit for me." So it's become a shorthand of sorts.

Four years ago, the nebulous somewhere of  my dreams was given an identity: the Squam Art Workshops. The first one appeared, almost like magic, in 2008. It's so close--I can drive there in under four hours--but for so long it's been so far. In 2008 I was pregnant, delightedly pregnant with a long-yearned-for third child, determined that this last pregnancy would go full term. I wasn't in a place, physically or financially, to go to Squam. I watched. I read. In 2009, I was nursing that baby. In 2010, too. A year ago, I looked at the class and registration information and thought that even September 2011 would be cutting it close (I was right). But, my husband and I decided, 2012 was the year. We set aside the money. 2012. That's the year. (And that's motherhood, isn't it? You defer.)

2012 is this year. I signed up for email notification; I downloaded the registration form; but up until just a few days ago I wasn't even certain I'd send it in. And in my head I had September, but when I really looked at the class offerings, I realized June was calling me more. June is soon. June is this school year. It's within spitting distance. Whoa.

I have a million and one reasons I shouldn't go, you know. I can talk myself out of anything. It's not that I'll be going by myself, although the number of Ravelers and bloggers who are making plans to meet up with all their Squam friends did give me pause there. I took myself to Europe for a month at 21, because nobody else I knew had time, money, or inclination at the same time. That's no reason not to do something. No, I have other anxieties:

* I've never been away from my youngest overnight. I've only been away from her brothers when I was in the hospital after having babies. I know my husband is eminently capable of managing as well as I do when he's away. I don't have the added anxiety of whether they'll be well cared for while I'm gone. They'll probably have a blast. Just...I've never done it. (For the record, my husband says things like No matter what's going on here, I think you need to do this and, more simply, Go.)

* It feels a bit selfish to spend all this money; suppose I don't make the most of it? What would making the most of it entail? I'm not even sure.

* Suppose I get up there all by myself with no kids, not carrying around a bag that contains crackers and a change of clothes and a little portable toilet seat because public toilets are so big and wet wipes just in case (ok, maybe crackers; I get hungry too), and I realize I've become a dull person devoid of original creative thought? I'm almost never by myself anymore. I can't even go to the bathroom by myself; if I manage to sneak in and shut the door, invariably the youngest is waiting outside the door, chatting, when I'm done. I can't even string two thoughts together without interruption unless I'm awake at 3 am. Suppose I've forgotten how to be alone? (I used to love to be alone.)

* I'm worried about the food. You can check "gluten free" on the registration form, but is it celiac-level gluten free or just no gluten ingredients gluten free, for the folks who feel better without gluten but won't initiate an auto-immune cascade if they eat carrots that were chopped on a cutting board that once held bread? It's on a buffet line, too. Buffets are notorious for cross-contamination. Suppose I can't eat anything safely and have to spend five days eating the yogurt and apples I bring with me? Everyone says how wonderful the food is at Squam, too...

* And there is the nagging feeling that I'm just not cool/creative/artistic/something enough to hang out at Squam with all those amazing people.

* And finally, I'm worried that after waiting for so long, all the spots will be filled and I won't actually, really, truly get to go.

But still, there's the form, all ready to be mailed tomorrow, the first day it can be postmarked. I could drive it to Providence myself in 45 minutes, but I'll resist my obsessive tendencies and mail it from my local post office. It was a long time ago, but I'm pretty sure the idea of flying to Europe by myself was intimidating, too. Somewhere buried within the organized, capable Mother is still the girl who would leave her apartment with nothing but some cash, lip balm, and a blank book; who landed in Paris without knowing a soul there; who was happy to spend hours just sitting and people watching with a notebook. Who felt that anything was possible and adventures definitely were for her. I want to take that girl to the woods of New Hampshire in June. I want to let her loose.


Rose Red said...

Wow, what a fantastic opportunity! It sounds perfect for you. And you will ake the most of it, you know you will.

*michelle said...

oh amy, i love reading your story...

and it makes me so happy to know that your hubby totally gets that you need to do this...for you...and am proud of YOU for taking the girl to the woods.

can't wait to meet you in june!!

about a fox said...

oh Amy---

You have no idea how you wrote this for ALL of us-- thank you SO much for pouring it out and being so honest because I promise you-- you are not alone in these concerns/feelings/thoughts-- not at all.

And, I am thrilled you are giving yourself this gift and trust it will all unfold precisely as it is meant to and feed that part of you (with no gluten, of course!) that longs for some time just for you.

xooxxo, e

Bells said...

go go go! Yes yes yes!

I think your fears are all perfectly natural and it's such a huge thing you've been waiting for that you're understandably a bunch of mixed feelings.

But yes! Wonderful! You deserve this.

Jen said...

I just came across your blog from the squam twitter feed. One of these years I hope to attend squam as well. What a wonderful gift to yourself to attend! I'm a fellow Rhode Islander too!

MadMad said...

Oh, good for you, Amy! I am so glad you're doing this - you deserve the getaway with like-minded people. You will love it. Don't be nervous. Everyone is in your shoes, even probably the instructors, though their concerns may differ slightly, it's only slightly. I'm so happy for you!

Katheen said...

Hi Amy - I found your blog via the Squam twitter feed and hope I can help with one of your concerns. If you post your question about gluten issues on Ravelry in the Squam group I know some previous attendees can comment on the food. Hope to meet you at Squam!

jen gray said...

dear amy,
i so appreciate your honesty, because everyone feels a bit of the nervousness. i am just so glad you are taking the step this year,... (and know that you will be surrounded by so many wonderful and kind people).
jen gray

Donna Lee said...

this is so exciting. You should have no fears in the creative department. You'll fit right in-not because you know everything but because you're willling to try everything.

I can't wait to hear how it goes! I kept looking at the photos and dreaming of going one day myself.

amy said...

Thank you, everyone!! I am SO excited!! The registration form is in the mail. I told my husband that the fact that I'm going to Squam feels like a small lovely thing I can take out and pet whenever I want/need to.

Also, I contacted the organizers thru the website & have heard from Michelle & Elizabeth & I'll be able to talk to the food prep folks myself beforehand. I *know* that I tend to limit what I do because of worries of accidentally getting sick, and I didn't want to let that stop me from going. Although I do wish I managed to go before the diagnosis so I could've tried those Belgian matter, though, small sacrifice!!

My Soul Can Dance said...

this post moves me....brings tears to my eyes. i am letting "that girl" loose in 2012 too.

reading this is perfect timing.

Jenn C. / Siercia said...


I am so so glad you popped your registration in the mail. Having a few days of not having to cut the fruit will be amazing for you, and getting to do it at Squam will be even more amazing!

Your husband is a wise man, pushing you out to go do this.

Karen D said...

Oh Yes.. this was And I keep going back, its' worth it, YOU'RE worth it. enjoy spending time on you.


Maegan Beishline said...

Dear Amy...
I could have written this post. Sincerely. From the three kids, to the being pregnant in 2008 and dreaming of Squam, to never having been away from your youngest overnight, to the supportive husband that says to just go, to seeing registration open this year and knowing that, yes, this was the year. I'll be going in September and am feeling the very same rush of extreme emotions! In fact, I even took a picture of my registration envelope yesterday that could nearly mirror yours! I'm very happy for you...for both of us! Congratulations!
Maegan {a kindred soul}

mayaluna said...

YOU DID IT!!! I thought of you this weekend wondering if you'd take the leap. Hoping you would! Knowing how badly you wanted it. How super exciting to discover that you did indeed register... from Elizabeth's post!! I cried. I still am. I can't wait to finally meet you. See you on the dock, Amy!!

melissa said...

GO! You won't regret it and you deserve it. I had the same fears when I went the first year and those fears just melted away once I stepped foot in those beautiful woods with all those lovely souls. Thank you for sharing your story and have a great time in June!

Kimberly said...

Love it!
This fall I took myself on a retreat alone. It was bliss. I slept, ate what and when I wanted, walked, met up with a new friend, drank red wine and ate chocolate watercolouring in my room alone. Bliss. And I didn't have to milk a cow.
The last time I had this much time ALONE was on a artists retreat before my first of three kids was born. It was time.

Jmillie said...

Amy I so enjoyed reading your story about family and your journey to Squam. I eat gluten free as well but do not have celiac. I found that there was plenty to eat and most if not all dishes are labeled with ingredients or gluten free if applicable. Yes, whole fruit and fruit salad are present at each meal with a serving spoon! I do know that some folks would stop by the kitchen to check on certain dishes and I believe all received assistance. I would be certain to carry along some gluten free snacks for evenings.


~Kristina said...

Yes! YES!! Let her loose. Congratulations on mailing off your registration.
I am excited to read your thoughts when you return.

Celia said...

This year will be my first time attending Squam....and I just wrote about it and my own fears on my blog. I will be attending Squam in September and even through my fears and doubts the excitement is coming through!

Jennifer Finn said...

Thanks for posting!! I sent my registration off this morning and I'm scared too. I'll be traveling from Oregon. Maybe we will meet each other at the retreat in June?! Here's to happy thoughts about it all until then! =)

Michelle said...

You DID mail that in yesterday, correct?

So freaking glad you're doing this. You so deserve it!

Only in Louisiana ~ documenting the adventures we call Life! said...

Read the post and your comments - glad you are going! Sounds like something your "soul" needs right now! Enjoy!

Olivia said...

I'm coming in late here so... what everyone else said. Yay! Excited for you.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I hear all of that! Every year I go to Bendigo, and I share a house with Kate, who has a degree in library science, and Jen, a former journalist, and Donni, who is an artist and has travelled all over the world, and Leonie, who has a PHD in chemistry, and Ceri, who has FIVE degrees, and I can never quite believe that these amazing women let boring old housewife me sit at the grown-up table with them. But they do, and I will always love them for it.

Go, enjoy, refresh yourself and rediscover that girl. You will be so glad you did.

Teri S. said...

I heard about Squam two years ago and was thoroughly intimidated. These people were real artists. But when Spring Squam rolled around last year, I made the decision to go. I shared your fears as well (except for worrying about the children since I don't have any). I planned a road trip, drove up from Virginia by myself, didn't know a soul when I got there, and had the best time. Everyone was so supportive and open. There were times when the beauty and magic of it all overwhelmed me and brought tears to my eyes.

The lesson that I learned was to just be and absorb what happens. It was a wonderful experience!