While the children are away, the parents will play. Or will they?


AS I WRITE this, LaVeta is taking the kids to my mother's for four days, which means we're finally going to be free.

Don't get me wrong. I love the children. They are the light of my life. But there are times when you need to do grown-up things without fear of little people getting in the way. There are times when you want to walk around the house in your skivvies. There are times when you want to lie on the couch, secure in the knowledge that no one is going to turn on "High School Musical 15."

I'm free to do all those things for the next four days, and while it would be nice to simply binge-watch "The X-Files" on Netflix without being judged by a 12- and 9-year-old, LaVeta and I have even bigger plans. Well, sort of.

We'd like to drive across country, but four days isn't enough time. Or maybe we could go hiking in the Poconos, except hiking isn't really our thing. Truth is, we're not quite sure where to go, because while we have a tank full of gas and hearts filled with hope, we're just not accustomed to having this much time without kids.

When you've been married for 14 years, and had little ones for 12, you grow accustomed to being on lockdown. Oh, sure, you get a night out here or there, because you can always get someone to keep the kids for a few hours. But getting someone to keep them for four days in a row?

That's like being locked in a dark tunnel for years, and suddenly having a good Samaritan come along. When they finally let you out into the light, you squint and throw your hands in front of your eyes, trying desperately to figure out what you used to do when confronted by sunlight.

"Let's drive to New York," I said, when LaVeta asked what we should do.

"Drive there for what?"

"I don't know. Just so we could say we were in New York, I guess."

She looked at me like I was that 13-year-old kid who's still waiting for a fat guy in a red suit to come down the chimney.

Duly chastised, I tried to redeem myself. "How about Baltimore?" I asked. "We could go to the Inner Harbor."

"The people who live in Baltimore don't even want to be in Baltimore," she said.

Again, she had a point, but I was getting annoyed. "OK, Smarty-pants, what do you think we should do?"

LaVeta looked at my nightstand. "We should go to that," she said, pointing to a card that advertised a West Philly jazz festival.

Seeing the words "West Philly" made the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" song flash in my mind. "In West Philadelphia born and raised . . . On the playground is where I spent most of my days."

I was halfway through the second stanza when LaVeta pressed me for an answer. "Do you want to go to the jazz festival or not?"

I thought on it for a moment, and envisioned us at festivals of old, back when we were dating. In the days before we had to worry about overdoing it with fatty foods, we would go to the African Cajun Fish cart whenever there was a music event at Penn's Landing. For a mere $10, we could buy a greasy slice of heaven.

We'd purchase a single order of spicy fish with fries and coleslaw. A server would hand over two forks and a Styrofoam container filled with our cholesterol-laden goodies. Then we'd chow down while staring into each other's eyes and listening to the sound of music wafting through the air.

Now that we have more than $10, festivals with food vendors are dangerous places. If we went to such a place, we wouldn't hold it to just one platter. We'd get two platters, and then we'd make our way from one food vendor to another, sampling all manner of sinfully delicious junk.

By the time we finished eating, the music wouldn't matter anymore. Only the funnel cakes, and water ice, and fried fish, and baked goods. A trip to a neighborhood jazz festival was playing with fire. It was dangerous. It was naughty. It was - dare I say it - sexy.

"So, do you want to go to the festival?" LaVeta asked.

"Let me get my keys," I said.

And with that, our four days of freedom began.

Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.