This year when my husband asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, I was ready.
“Nothing,” I said. “And I know just the place to do it.”
My reply didn’t have anything to do with pandemic-limited restaurant and entertainment options, and everything to do with needing a break and a change of scenery.
Both of those things are an option thanks to the generosity of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. They own a cabin at Diamond Lake that they keep open year-round, offering it to family members who want to get away.
Unlike many whose work situations have changed due to COVID-19, I’ve always worked from home. The short commute from my bedroom to my basement work area, with a detour to the kitchen for coffee, is a godsend. The downside is I’m never really away from work. It’s always waiting, just a few steps away.
Also waiting? Hungry men folk, needy cats, baskets of laundry and weekly shopping lists.
I’m not good at ignoring any of those things, which means days off feel pretty much like days on.
After checking the cabin’s availability with my sister-in-law, I took a deep breath. It’s wonderful to have something to look forward to, even if that something is doing nothing.
I called Mom to let her know we’d be out of town for a few days.
“But it’s winter! What’s there to do at Diamond Lake in the winter?” she asked.
“We’re just going to snack, sleep, watch TV, and do a jigsaw puzzle,” I replied.
Mom wasn’t impressed.
“Oh, honey, don’t do THAT! That’s what OLD LADIES do ALL the time!”
I pointed out that I’m in my 50s, and old-age is fast approaching.
“Well, you don’t need to rush into it,” she said.
But being at the lake is the opposite of rushing – it’s resting. From the moment we drove across the crusty snow, through the gate, we both relaxed.
After schlepping supplies from the car, I opened the slider and stood on the deck, bundled up against the cold. The frozen lake glinted in the afternoon sun. In the distance I spotted a lone ice-fishing hut. The deep tones of a wind chime, the only sound.
Meanwhile, Derek had set out some snacks and had opened the jigsaw. When we stayed at the lake in November, I had purchased a 1,000-piece puzzle featuring cats and books – two of my favorite things.
“Kittens? Books? Why didn’t you get a puzzle with whiskey and cars?” Derek grumbled.
However, he’d been quickly obsessed with what turned out to be an incredibly challenging puzzle, staying up till the wee hours and rising early to finish it before we had to go home.
We can’t do puzzles at home. For one thing, we have actual cats; for another thing we have no table space.
Mindful of our limited stay, Derek requested that this time I buy a 750-piece puzzle, which I did.
“Cats again!” he said, looking at the box.
I can’t help it if the only 750-piece puzzle I found featured cats. Of course, I didn’t look too hard once I’d spotted it.
Aside from a lovely afternoon in Sandpoint, we spent the next three days cuddled up in the cozy cabin. Noshing on snacks, reading, binge-watching a new Amazon show, napping, and of course working on the puzzle.
The snow-shrouded lake provided a peaceful backdrop. One morning we were watching an ice boat skitter across the frozen expanse, its single sail, taut in the stiff breeze.
No computers, no work calls, no work emails, no cats waking me up demanding breakfast. It was possibly one of the best birthdays in recent memory.
Honestly, I still wrestle with the working mom mentality in which quietness and rest often seem self-indulgent. That’s why sometimes it takes a special occasion for me to give myself permission to do nothing. And when I do it feels blissfully satisfying, like fitting the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle into place.
If Mom’s right and my idea of a fun birthday moves me directly into the old lady category, I’m ready. Bring it on.
Diamond Lake in winter.