I really wasn't going to go. It was so far. A 2 hour drive, 3 hour flight, another 2 hour drive. Three nights away. Four whole days. It wasn't really worry about the kids that made me want to stay home. I knew they'd be fine with Erik and, since his mom came down to help, that no one would really notice my absence. It was a kind of laziness and a kind of tiredness of the writing business. And I would miss my people so much. I knew they'd be fine without me but not so much vise versa. Plus pumping. For four days. Ick.
But I made myself get up at 4:00 a.m. and drive in the dark down the mountain, looking out for elk and training my eye on the white line on the road. Once, the white line disappeared. I almost drove off the road. I hit traffic. I didn't care. If I missed my flight, I'd turn around and come back. But the traffic was due to an accident and abated pretty quickly.
Conferences are good for several things--especially this one. A chance to read your theories about creative nonfiction, a chance to hear others read theirs. Alison Bechdel, one of my heroes, spoke. I got to act like a grown-up or, rather, an adolescent, and go to too many bars and stay up past midnight (I know! Past midnight!). I saw people who I miss all the time and have deepened friendships that were slight before my conference going. I made new friends. I represented, as I said on Facebook, the crazy woman who has a baby and still goes to conferences. Not many folks at the just-had-a-baby-stage went. There were young-uns there, just out of grad school. It may be insane to travel while pumping and leave your ten month baby at home but it's also a choice you can make and survive, I wanted to tell them. Plus, they're a good audience to complain to about the 4 days of pumping. They've lived in Iowa. They've been to the state fair. They've seen the dairy contraptions attached to the udders of cows. They understand my pain. So did Margot. Thanks Margot! I want to say publicly, for hanging out with me and for listening me to also complain about the pumping. It's also good to go for the new ideas and new projects and general sense that at least 400 people in the world care about nonfiction and of those 400, at least 6 wanted to read again the paper I'd delivered and want a copy of their own. A little positive encouragement goes a long way these days.
And I admit. It's good to take a break. I didn't know it was a break. It was work in its own way. But, when you get home and you have to feed the people and there are no servers and very few excuses to go to lunch. I swear, if one didn't have to feed the children, they would be nothing but a breeze but they like so much food. Dinner, breakfast, lunch. And I like food too so then I cook for me and for Z and for Max, similar foods but delivered differently and by the time I'm done the kitchen is undone, I think, hmm, airplanes don't suck entirely.
But the way Max leaped out of his grandma's arms and tried to fling himself across the room at me and the way Zoe ran over to me to give me her notes that she'd been writing each day I was gone, I remember why I may well never go to a conference again.