My husband grew up outside of Baltimore and I grew up outside of Seattle, so every summer we haul our kids east and west. Recently returning home from two weeks in Maryland, we had a layover in Denver. Our kids were famished so we grabbed a late dinner at Jimmy’s. Their kiddie menu depicted a cartoon rabbit flying a plane. My husband spent the next 20 minutes attempting to convince our littlest daughter that actual bunnies were flying our aircrafts. But like her sister before her, our littlest is quick and by 4 ½ years she is completely onto her daddy’s full-of-malarkey ways. Unlike her sister before her, she will call daddy out on that malarkey at every opportunity. When we boarded our last plane home, she glanced into the cockpit and triumphantly shouted, “See, Daddy! There’s no bunnies! There’s real people pilots!” The unspoken punctuation being “DUH.”
This was not the same four year old monkey who began her travels two weeks earlier. That little girl barely made it through Tucson International Airport security without a meltdown. First they took her beloved suitcase at check-in, followed by 15 minutes of parental calming and explaining that it would be stowed safely in the belly of the plane; that she would get it back in Baltimore. Then they made her remove her Dora backpack AND her magic silver sparkle shoes. She inched her way through the metal detector, slouched over, clutching her stuffed cat, chanting, “It’s okay, Mr. Whiskers. It’s going to be all right, Mr. Whiskers.”
During that first voyage she was a darling on the plane. She was a mess during layover. But on the way back, heigh-ho, the pint-sized seasoned traveler! No hello from a flight attendant went unanswered, no adoration from a fellow passenger went without an eyelash-batting thank you from our thoroughly at-ease little air-ess.
Both our girls were so well behaved. Even so, when it was dad’s turn to sit with the children on the last flight home, he turned to them and said, “There’s an old James Brown song called ‘Pappa Don’t Take No Mess’. That’s in effect as of right now.”
Plentiful laughter plane-wide.
During our MD stay my dear friend Kathleen traveled from upstate New York to visit us. We took our eldest daughters on a monument tour of DC. It was 82 degrees and humid that day. I remember this because my 11 year old mentioned it, roughly, 4,000 times. The Washington Monument was wrapped in scaffolding, which was a photographic bummer, and by the time we left the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History it was 7:30 PM and no one felt like stopping by the White House. But we hoofed it to the Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, MLK and WWII monuments and enjoyed them all.
I’m not sure what the girls will remember most about that day, but they seemed deeply moved by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Kathleen’s 8 year old daughter stared at the wall and asked, “What was the war about?” Her mother then worked to explain, in the shadow of 58,000 dead men’s names, the inexplicable. Meanwhile, I’d lost my husband. I turned back and found him leaning one hand upon the wall. I snapped a photo, approached and quickly noticed tears. His Uncle Bob had fought in Vietnam and passed away last year. My husband had found the name of his Uncle’s buddy who’d passed long before, over there. Properly somber moment in an otherwise fun and touristy day.
We stayed with my mother-in-law in her designer magazine worthy condo while she showered us with love. We visited family and friends. I spent my 36th birthday among them. We took walks. We ate food. We ate so much goddamned food. I went on walks to combat all the food (the food won). Years ago I mapped out a picturesque walking route in my mom-in-law’s neighborhood and I inhaled every gorgeous step of it. I also tried to get my girls to partake in the greener side of mother nature, the one Arizona hides from them. The mister and I walked them through a wooded creek, pointing out places we would have built forts or trees we would have climbed as children. Our four year old openly despised it and our 11 year old was terribly bored.
The desert has ruined my children.
But they enjoyed walks in the grass, at least, and followed bunnies everyday – naming them all (Banana, Stripes, Coconut). They also spotted squirrels, foxes and gophers. All cute and fuzzy. All convincing me that Maryland is where Disney’s woodland creatures go to die – happily, of course.
I really love Maryland. And if I could buy a bottle of wine past 7 PM on a Sunday (without having to venture into a dubious liquor store for that single purchase; making me feel less like a wine aficionado and more like an official wino) I could totally live there.
Atlantic At Last
And then there was the Atlantic Ocean. I’d never seen it. Eight years of trips to the east coast and we never actually hit the coast itself. Incidentally, I’ve also never been to New York City. Upon learning this a friend said, “Wait. You’ve been to Seoul, but not NYC?” Yeah, I know. It’s on the list. But the ocean…that’s a must.
My grandparents owned a condominium on the beach in Ocean Shores, WA. I grew up in love with the sea. When I was 22 I moved to Oceanside, CA. A very different beach experience from the cold, grey Pacific in WA. I remember being a little horrified that the 1999 Californian shore looked a lot like a scene from Baywatch. But, in time, it grew on me. And my favorite moment of any Pacific Ocean day is watching the day end and the sun sink.
So we planned to visit Ocean City, MD with our friends Ben and Lauren and I was very excited. I’d only ever seen photos of northeastern beaches lined with boardwalks and sand dotted with rainbow colored umbrellas. And even though a tornado had passed through the day before, and hurricane winds caught up with us in the car in Salisbury, and even though I’d never before seen tree branches flung furiously through sideways rain, I was excited. And when we set out the morning after the storm it was chilly, drizzly and overcast – and I was maybe a little less excited.
All ladies and little girls in our party wore bathing suits and sundresses. We faithfully froze our asses off for several hours. I was no longer anywhere close to excited. But by 1 PM our faith was blessedly rewarded with sunshine. Halle-thawed-out-lujah.
The afternoon was warm and wonderful. My husband and eldest spent hours in the water. I was none too pleased to hear they’d been frolicking in waves so strong one had ripped the goggles from their heads – both pairs swept away and never to be seen again. The littlest monkey and I took our turn at gentler water play and broke sandy ground on castle construction. At some point I was lying on my towel, monkey atop me and nearly napping, sun soaking us, my head resting to the right, watching the other half of my family cavort in salt and seafoam, and I was sure I’d never felt more peaceful, more fulfilled.
After our friends left we toured shops and dined deliciously as the sun set. The mister and the miniature strolled the boardwalk back to our car while the eldest and I walked the beach. We held hands, free hands carrying flip-flops, and we occasionally glanced back to watch our footprints wash away. We talked. I told her what the ocean meant to me when I was her age, and that the only times I’ve ever felt like I can actually see “God” are when I look into the eyes of infants and when I gaze long and hard at the sea. She thought about that, and she said, “Today was best day of my life.”
And despite that lovely moment, something felt off. It wasn’t until later that I figured out what it was, and laughed.
The sun…..it wasn’t setting on the water.
And that’s just wrong.