This last holiday to Florence was like no other trip I’ve taken before.
On the face of it, we didn’t look any different to how we used to on short city breaks (okay, we looked decidedly older – I’ll give you that), but this time, everything was different. This time, we were without our Holiday Baby.
He turns two this week. Twenty-four months gone in the blink of an eye. But in so many ways those two years have been the longest of my life. The hours between midnight and 5 am pass so slowly when you don’t spend them sleeping. There’s been feeding, changing, shushing and cuddling, plus a fair dose of crying throughout my nights, and the tears weren’t always the baby’s, I can assure you of that.
I reached a point around September, when we’d just come back from a blissful beach holiday back in my beloved Crete to find that I was just as exhausted as before I left. Oh woe is me, I know. But he still wasn’t sleeping. I still wasn’t sleeping. And I hadn’t had a real conversation with my husband in months.
I started thinking about half term, given the mister’s job as a school teacher. It wouldn’t be the same week off as Scotland where he’s from, and where his family live, meaning flying out of Glasgow would be cheap. Holiday Baby’s paternal grandparents would be overjoyed to have him stay and he could see his other cousin, born in the same week as him. My idea became a plan. And we booked return flights to Pisa for £60 each, knowing Florence was an easy train trip at the Italy end.
Of course when the time came, I was a bit of an anxious wreck, but I needn’t have worried. Our son was as at home in Scotland as I’d hoped and after the initial twelve or so hours away, I relaxed. Instead of looking at my son (not a hardship!), I looked up. I marvelled at Italy as I’ve longed to do since our trip to Sorrento back in 2013.
I let my obsession with bedtime routines slide away with a glass of Chianti. I ate my dinner without a chunky little hand creeping onto my plate, trying to steal my food. I said things to my husband like, “how’ve you been?” and I listened to the answer while looking at him rather than his little boy. I held his hand instead of our son’s. We visited a museum together and took time to read all the notes on the exhibits we saw. It was like it used to be.
Only it wasn’t.
He was still there, our Holiday Baby. In every breath, every word and every look we shared. But talking about him and how he’s changed our lives without him physically distracting us was lovely in its own way. And then we slept. Not late (will we ever remember how to do that?), but at least without being on red alert.
So I think I found who I used to be in Florence. I didn’t realise how much I had missed her. But it took this trip for me to appreciate that I am still her (albeit with a bigger bum), I’ve just evolved.
It meant, if anything, that those three days in Florence were more special than any city break I’ve taken before because the new old me understands just how precious time actually is due to all those flitting motherhood moments. The result was that I savoured that short holiday so much more. It’s not something we’ll do all the time, because our short trips to Barcelona and Porto this year have taught us that seeing the world with our son is nothing short of magic. But once a year? Well, perhaps. The old me needs setting free now and again. And if he’s honest, I think my husband sometimes misses her just as much as I do.