The three-day weekend. (ahhh). The three-day weekend with the kids running through the house. (Ugh).

Our energies and our bank account were depleted. We needed loafing time, gastronomic binges on honeydew melon and shrimp, and (gasp!) uninterrupted conversation about heady topics like whose bill should wait so we could pay the orthodontist. But there was (yuk) no money, and (sigh) the kids.

A real three-day weekend seemed a flight of madness until some kindly grandparents with unusual temerity for people in their 60s invited the children to visit . . .

Next Step: Choosing an inexpensive place close to the country for hiking, but proximate to the city for museum crawling and good food. We decided to stay home.

The children said goodbye to their friends for the duration, and we hastened to add that the abandoned friends shouldn't bother to ring the phone at 7:30 in the morning, causing us to leap straight out of our nightshirts, because Amy and Bridget would not be there.

We cautioned that they should not worry about tapping on the family room window after dark to display their lightning bugs, because it would only cause us to choke on our peanuts and spill beer in our laps, and besides, Amy and Bridget would not be there.

And, of course, they were relieved temporarily of the obligation to bang loudly on the front door at any hour, effective until Monday. These are bright children; not only did they comprehend completely, they restrained themselves admirably.

We then said goodbye to our friends, explaining that they must regard us as transported to the hinterlands, even when the car was in the driveway, and in exchange, we would not ask them to feed the cat. Sensitive people, our friends. They all agreed.

friday afternoon: Instead of packing, I put fresh sheets on the bed and clean the bath, but restrain myself from taping a ribbon across the sanitary john seat. I hang up the good towels.

We deliver the children, buy a box of chocolates, a steak, and a bottle of St. Emilion. When we arrive at our weekend lodgings, we find them far more spacious and well-appointed than the usual motel. Not only is there a queen-sized bed and a private bath (with very nice towels), there is a private sitting room, a private TV room, and kitchen facilities. Not only is the ice free, but so are the soft drinks. There is no Muzak. In fact, it is profoundly quiet.

One charming touch, we thought, was the presence of an affectionate spaniel who greeted us as we came through the door and then sprawled picturesquely on the hearth. We put the steak on the grill and settle down with a drink and Julian Bream on the stereo. Ahhh.

saturday: Still profoundly quiet. We get up late. While eating honeydew melon, we discover that we have carried on no less than three unmistakable conversations. We feed the cat, scratch the dog, and set off for the Catoctin Mountains. The driving is leisurely and the scenery pretty around Frederick and Thurmont, and we find ourselves discussing my second cousin once-removed, whose recent marriage to a foreigner has caused Aunt Hilda to ask us never to speak of the event to her daughters-in-law, who, being faint of heart and proud of blood, will presumably be overcome by the news.

We detour into a state park, hike for a bit, and stop for lunch, then look for local history and antique shops. Finally, late-afternoon thunderheads send us back toward Washington. Back at our spiffy hotel, the affectionate dog is glad to see us again, especially when we come forth with the burgerbits. d

After a glass of Campari and the paper, we settle on a favorite ethnic place for dinner: We have wonderful humous, couscous , a decent Beaujolais and baklava while playing Turkish music on the jukebox. The conversation gets headier: developments in the Middle East. We arrive at our lodgings to find the lights knocked out by a storm, and so to bed.

sunday : Breakfast out and then the East Wing of the National Gallery. We wander through the collection of small French Impressionist pieces, linger over the Rothkos and Picassos, drink coffee by the waterfall in the Buffet.

Later, there is time for a twilight movie and an inexpensive Italian dinner. My husband begins to tell me about Peter Matthiessen's "Snow Leopard," which he has just begun to read in the decadence of having time for such things.

monday: Feeling spoiled enough by our free time to begin feeling guilty, we commence to worry secretly that we are losing the seemliness of our parental pose. Before we lose all control and start planning forays into the countryside requiring vast expenditures of time, before we leap out of our wits entirely and race to the library for armloads of books (instead of the one at a time we can conceivably read), before we scandalously begin to count on a little regular romance in our lives, we must plan to get the kids home.

But not before one last little turn. We decide to drive to grandmother's house in Virginia by way of Georgetown, to eat quiche and ratatouille in memory of the last time we saw Paris. We window shop and stroll through Dumbarton Oaks, resolving to get the kids here in a Saturday even if we have to bribe them with French pastry.

We arrive at the home of the kindly grandparents, invigorated by our weekend away. The kindly grandparents look like they could use one. The kids want to stay longer. Everyone says they have had a great time.

The three-day weekend. Ahhhh.