August 11th, 2008

I spent the weekend in Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland. We drove up as a family on Saturday morning, had lunch, played at a playground, went on a short walk, and then my husband drove back down with the boys and I stayed the night and returned home in time for dinner Sunday.

I didn’t do anything. I didn’t go on a hike, or a walk, or even ride the gondola to the foothills above the village to gain a “stunning view of the Alps.” I actually said to myself, I see a panorama of the Alps every day I don’t really need to do that. Can you believe it? The Swiss Alps, yeah, whatever. Instead I moved from one cafe to another, working my way up the main shopping street of the village one latte machiatto at a time. I didn’t write anything, or revise a poem, or do a few of the things I had brought along with me that needed to be done. I had my camera with me but once the boys left I stopped taking pictures. I simply sat and watched the people go by, drank my coffee and ate my apple strudle and now and then half-heartedly read the book I had brought with me.

It was all I wanted to do, all I had the energy to do. Introverts, I sometimes think, should not have children. Their very presence, after a while, becomes exhausting. Little Boy A is attached to me in the extreme; I call him my Velcro Baby. The touching, after a while, becomes exhausting. And the noise. Oh the noise noise noise noise! It’s like Who-ville on Christmas morning with me in the role of the Grinch before his heart grew two sizes. I long for stillness and quiet and solitude. Time to just sit there and not be touched. To read four sentences in a row without being interupted. To spend an hour without the constant soundtrack of firetrucks (“doo DAH da da! doo DAH da da!”) in the background; and foreground. It is the greatest challenge of parenthood for me, the absolute constancy of it all.

So I fled for twenty-four hours to the Bernese Oberland, those green Alpine valleys with the stereotypical Swiss challet houses, their windows and balconies bedecked with vermillion geraniums. The sky was pristine blue, not a cloud to be seen. Farmers were out cutting hay, those stubborn traditional Swiss famers whose cows and sheep and hay-cutting make the low mountains of the Bernese Oberland so beautiful, so traditional, so Swiss. And I sat there, drinking my lattes alone, storing up the silence, the solitude, the sheer self-indulgence of it all, sometimes watching the tourists with their high-end shopping bags (Gstaad is a high-end sort of place, not the sort of place we usually go) sometimes positioning my chair for a view of the Voralpen, the foot-hills, with their pastures and challets and lines of sage-colored cut hay drying in the sun.

There wasn’t a thing in the world I wanted to be doing besides just sitting there, alone, blessedly, brieflly, alone.