I am a father of two small children, and next to winning the lottery and winning a date with Jessica Alba, the greatest thing that can happen to a father of two small children is to be alone for a weekend. My wife and kids were away in California this weekend visiting the grandparents, and I stayed behind.
(I’ll pause here while all toddler moms and dads reading this take 60 seconds to fantasize about how incredibly phenomenal and awesome it would be to have three, almost four, entire days to yourself. OK, wake up, back to reality.)
Everyone I told about my big upcoming solo weekend got that McAuley Culkin look on their faces when they heard I’d be “Home Alone.” Usually they said things like, “Uh-oh!” or “Look out!” or other things that people say leading up to impending and unavoidable disasters. They were having that same vision of single, freewheeling, 20-something wildness that most guys have when 99% of their responsibilities jump on a plane and fly 1,500 miles away.
The possibilities were endless. Stay out all night? Party? Gamble? Cause trouble? Go to jail? Break out of jail? Break some guys I don’t even know out of jail? Nothing’s off the table this weekend, baby.
As it turns out, my life is a lot more like “The Shawshank Redemption” than “Home Alone.” If you haven’t seen these movies, a) Jesus, where were you during the 1990s?; b) let me break down the themes of these movies for you:
HOME ALONE: “Woo-hoo! Being alone is awesome, liberating and jubilant! An explosion of spontaneous and chaotic fun awaits you the moment your family leaves the house!”
SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION: “Life is prison. You cannot leave the prison. Those rare few who actually get to leave the prison find that freedom is an even worse prison, because they’re so accustomed to the real prison. Then they hang themselves. Now, run along and enjoy the rest of your life.”
Also, Morgan Freeman narrates the entire movie, which actually makes it even more depressing. Don’t believe me? This clip contains the happiest, most uplifting 19 seconds of “Shawshank.”
Not exactly “Hoosiers” now, is it? If only Morgan Freeman could’ve narrated the last 72 hours of my life…
Red: “Five o’clock came, and Josh and his buddies went to Sanford’s for dinner. It was a spartan meal of pasta and vegetables. He wanted to watch ‘The Big Lebowski’ on DVD, but he couldn’t find his copy. So he went to Mr. Movies and signed up for a membership. The store was completely empty, dead silent…things sure have changed on the outside. Time was, there were 40 or 50 people in here every night, fighting over the new releases…”
Let’s fast-forward to Friday night, when the action really heats up:
Red: “Josh bought his movie ticket, and Iron Man was indeed as good as the townfolk had said. It was 9:50, and the night was winding down. He got a hankering for a strawberry sundae, and drove to the Coldstone Creamery…but there were 25 people in line with three employees. So he drove on over to McDonald’s and ordered a strawberry sundae, but the young folks inside said they ain’t served strawberry sundaes for years…Time was, a man could get a fast and cheap strawberry sundae from any McDonald’s drive-thru, but those days had done passed him by. ‘Oh well,’ he thought. ‘Those celery sticks at home will do just fine…'”
You can see where this is going. It gets no better on Saturday.
Red: “He sat at the park, reading a magazine in his car. It was a way to get out in the nice weather without having to interact with other people. He drove 45 minutes to the casino to play blackjack for 45 minutes and turned around and drove the 45 minutes back, $50 poorer. It was 9:02, and he was tired. By 10, he was in bed with the heating pad on his back.”
WOO-HOO, MCAULEY CULKIN! WHERE YOU AT, BROTHER! YEAH! THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!
Sunday — well, that’s today. Today I called my buddy Steve and told him about my weekend. He said, “This is one of the most depressing conversations I’ve ever had.”
But the weekend was not a total loss. I did clean out the refrigerator in the garage, and I straightened up the front yard. I paid a couple of bills, and read the paper in peace. I ate breakfast and had a nice, long conversation with my parents. In short, I remained the painfully boring person that I am, even in the face of complete freedom. A man deserves points for that.
And here’s the kicker — I’m not even sorry or down or regretful. I miss my wife and kids terribly. The happiest part of my weekend will be tonight when I get them at the airport and my son and daughter are overtired and screaming at each other and my wife is cranky from traveling with them. Without them, I’m sorta like that old bastard in “Shawshank Redemption” who just wanders around lost until he offs himself. (Concerned readers may rest assured that I’m not quite to that point yet — I have a lot of DVDs to watch, business planning to do and emails to send. Plus, one of the dogs is always up in my face and licking me, so I don’t totally lack companionship).
You know, on second thought, scratch Jessica Alba — I’d be self-conscious for being out of shape, her conversation would bore me and by 10:30 p.m. I’d just want to go to home and go to sleep. And everyone knows lottery winners are broken in five years anyway.
Now I’m just counting down the hours. After all, prison is lonely without your cellmates.