February 21, 2024 | Rome, Italy


By |2018-03-21T18:26:24+01:00December 28th, 2009|Lifestyle Archive|
Why not walk away.

alking through San Francisco airport last week I felt like a character in that dream in which you’re walking around with a smile on your face while everyone else is laughing at you. You don’t know why until you look at your shoes and realize you’re completely naked, wearing only mismatched pompom socks.

Jolted, I looked down and breathed a sigh a relief. My socks matched and I was fully dressed but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was out of place.

It wasn’t until the TSA agent barked “ya forgettin sumthin?!” as I walked out of security that I realized something was indeed missing.

Cursory inspection confirmed that I had all my physical possessions: my driver’s license, $10, a credit card and a John Le Carrè novel. But I had none of my usual appendages — mom purse, cell phone, husband, dog or children within 1,000-mile radius.

I hadn’t forgotten or misplaced them. No, I’d just left them behind as easily as you walk away from a bad date. No mention of “thank you”; no mercy phone call.

As you may imagine, I had no idea what to do with my sudden, newfound freedom. I meandered the airport, trying to remember my former favorite pastimes, thinking and flirting. Realistically, I wasn’t interested in picking up airport riffraff, especially considering that my flight had a layover in Detroit and we had two prisoners with accompanying U.S. Marshals. (Note: 2007 was the “Year of the Marshall.” Five different U.S. Marshals in five different airport Chili’s offered to buy me layover drinks. I pretended to ignore the layover pun.)

I picked thinking over flirting and started window-shopping. And as I expected, my thoughts ran to the obvious: “What if I changed my flight and just disappeared?”

For the first time in at least two years I didn’t have to take anyone else to the bathroom with me; I didn’t have to run home to feed and walk the dog; I didn’t have to make sure my purse had snacks. My only obligation was to remember to change my contact lenses (then again, I could also wear my glasses).

I relished my time alone. I didn’t miss my family or my dog. I was truly unaccountable. It made me thin back a decade, to 2000, when I didn’t own a mobile phone and the only constant in my life was my monthly letter from American Education Services, my student loan.

Now my student loan is paid off and I have a higher credit limit. “You could pretty much go any where in the world,” I thought to myself as I browsed through Detroit Airport’s Forever Silver shop.

But what about the children? Would I worry? Easy to answer: No, the Professor, my husband, has been a father for seven years and my cousins would help him.

What about Bella? Now, here’s the moment when you’d think I’d say that I’d need to take me with her. But no. I’d consider coming back to visit and I’d worry that the Professor wouldn’t walk her enough, forget to give her cuddles, incontinence pills and rabies shots.

But after eight hours of unadulterated freedom, I liked its feel and wanted more. I wanted to make flight reservations without thinking about dog sitters or tickets; likewise dinner plans without thinking about babysitters. I wanted to travel without the words “are you dog/kid friendly?”

Just call me Bad Mom.

Moral of the story? I’m back in Rome, have embraced my two well-fed children and my vaccinated Yorkshire Terrier. Mom purse, children, cell phone, husband, and dog are all back, present and accounted for.

About the Author:

Erica Firpo wrote The American's pet advice column from 2006 to 2009. She is a freelance travel and culture writer who lives in Rome with husband, daughter and faithful sidekick Bella. She has worked for Fodor's Rome edition, Luxe City Guides and National Geographic Travel, as well as writing art reviews for Zing and other U.S.-based magazines.