There was a time not long ago when I would roll my eyes and snicker when some politician or CEO would quit his bigtime job saying, "I want to spend more time with my family."
To me, that was code for "I got caught doing something, so I'm going home."
All that was before I temporarily retired and actually had more time to spend with my family. Though some bigwigs will continue, no doubt, to use the family as an excuse, I can see how they could really mean it.
My hiatus was 10 weeks in September and October, during which I actually spent time with my family. And it was wonderful. I drove to Louisiana (1,643 miles round trip) to visit with my sister and nephew. I had long, leisurely visits with my mom in Port Richey (hope I wasn't too much of a pest, Mom). We strolled through Wal-Mart, took two hours for a nice lunch or dinner and just sat in her living room and chatted.
My mom is an incredible storyteller, and with a little urging, she retold me the stories of her childhood in Oklahoma. I'd heard them before when I was a kid, but I listened more closely this time, with more appreciation. She was born in the Indian Territory just eight years after Oklahoma became a state, and her life would make a terrific movie. The stories prompted me to do further research, and I have learned all kinds of stuff I wouldn't have known otherwise.
It took me a while to get accustomed to having significant swaths of time that wasn't under obligation. No deadlines. No business calls to make and take. No notes to scribble during a show. Just, well, enjoy.
Movies on the spur of the moment in the middle of the day. Telephone calls that could go on for an hour without my feeling obligated to dust the furniture or wash the dishes while I talked (I have a wireless headphone, so I actually do that). Walks that didn't go anywhere. Books that could be read from cover to cover without interruption.
Time with family.
I'm back at work now feeling my job squeeze the life out of my life again. I'm looking back on those two months off with a nostalgia and longing I haven't felt since my son graduated from high school and went to find his own life, without me. I think it was sweeter because I knew it was going to be short and soon come to an end.
At the same time, it's fun to be back in the whirl of things, especially now, at the height of theater season and with so many new shows to see and talk about.
And it's nice not to be so cynical about people who say they are leaving some job to spend more time with their loved ones. Maybe they are.
Just like home
I went to see Matthew McGee and Candler Budd in A Tuna Christmas at American Stage in St. Petersburg, and it was just as much fun as I hoped it would be.
Set in the tiny, mythical town of Tuna, Texas, it's a two-man show with 22 characters (each guy plays 11 different people). The Times reviewer was rather lukewarm about the play but most complimentary about the actors.
Perhaps it's because I was born and reared in Texas, but I loved every second of it. I recognize all the people; they were my neighbors and family (four even have my relatives' names, and McGee's character Bertha looks just like old photos of one of my cousins).
Some Tuna-dwellers are venal, others pompous, mean-spirited, or cluelessly holier-than-thou (love the Smut Snatchers who want to censor the "round young virgin" line in Silent Night).
But others are fun-loving, tender-hearted, forgiving, accepting, or insightful. Just like the people in a real town.
It's not a non-stop knee-slapper, though there are many laugh-out-loud jokes. The best parts are the subtle lines and observations that glide by like a leaf on the coffee-colored Neches River, sweet rewards for the careful listener.
I'd go back to see this show in a New York minute. Or maybe that would be a Lubbock minute, which is something altogether different.
(Tickets are $24-$39, depending on day and time. Call 727-823-7529 or visit americanstage.org.)