Afterwards, it was on to the Pumpkin Patch where one can find Real Pumpkins, unlike the god-forsaken wasteland where we live where nary a pumpkin was to be had. Halloween without a Jack-o-lantern? You’ve got to be kidding! Here, every size imaginable was there for the taking, and take we did, one so big Monkey-1 couldn’t lift it. Ah, feels like home!
Of course, all the excitement, and being drug along while Mama does serious damage to the Mastercard, does wear out a monkey.Un Que Baille even took us all to the church Halloween carnival! And took Monkey-1 through all the games, several times over, while Monkey-1’s mom braved the Haunted House. The HH was a killer, and I had the bruises to prove it. Note: Never tour the Haunted House with a group of pre-pubescent girls who scream high-pitched, high-decibel screams and take off with the flashlight unless you want to fall over and break something.
Ah, Chuck E. Cheese! What would life be without you. Alas, you’re a perfect place to let a monkey run wild while I chat with my ex-husband’s mother. Oh, yeah! We had a play date, along with two of the ex’s children—very nice, very cute children. I hadn’t seen the XMIL since The Split, but she’s always been like a mom to me, and it seems like our old friendship is still there. We hadn’t even made it out of the parking lot and we were both doubled over in hysterics. Monkey liked the place so much that any time we drove past a place with a red door he screamed bloody murder to go inside and play.No trip to the coast would be complete with a visit to the sandy seashore. Stupid me only set aside an hour and a half for this fun activity, and I literally had to drag my son kicking and screaming out of the waves, through the dunes (or what's left of them at least) and back to the car. This is the one activity that truly made me question whether or not I should be where I am, whether raising my children in a foreign country miles and miles from the ocean, white sand and roaring waves is the Right Thing. This, more than anything, even more than Walmart, is what makes me homesick, and what makes me most sad that I cannot share it daily with my babies. Next time, I swear, I'll not only take more time out for a stroll in the waves, but I'll share that stroll with the three pieces of my heart absent in the above photograph.
And voila! The ‘real’ reason (besides my sanity, of course) for this trip home—Halloween! Please do notice my nephew’s traditional puking pumpkin in the background. Trick-or-treating, as an activity, was rather anti-climatic. We only visited a dozen or so houses, but it was after another long day of shopping, visiting, and taking in everything under the sun. Monkey-1 can now say Spider Man correctly, not Speedah Mahn like the French or Peter Mal, as he called him before. In fact, his Maîtresse was telling me just this afternoon that he’s correcting the little Frenchies at school now as well. “Spider Man”, “Non, Speedah Mahn! Speedah, comme pipi.”, “Non! C’est Spider Man, t’es con!” Oops, looks like we’ll need to work on proper vocabulary a bit…
After getting quite a bit of American Consumerism out of my system, we did take time to just enjoy the good weather (and great company of AntiKissy) with a picnic in one of the lovely local parks. And what parks they have! Monkey-1 LOVED this place! And yes, another terrible time getting him back in the car, where promises of eating at The Great Mickey Dee’s and even of ice-cream did nothing to soothe him. I’m so terrible…
…but that’s not why we visited with the nice Sheriff. This, along with the fire trucks, was part of Monkey-1’s school vacation project, which we’ll be sharing with all the other little monkeys in the near future.
I flew into Washington-Dulles, not only because it was the cheapest ticket to the east coast I could find (outside of flying into NYC, which was the same price, but who in their right mind would want to fly into and then drive out of NYC? Seriously, is anyone out there that nuts?), but because it is central to a part of my family I never really got to see as much as I would have liked (at least in retrospect) when I lived way down south in the land of cotton and tobacco. By the time we’d retrieved our luggage, caught the shuttle to the rental car shack, and hoped into our new white car, Monkey and I hit rush hour on The Belt-way. Oh buddy! I used to really like Tom Clancy, and given as how I used to work in MI back in my army days (meaning I basically made and drank really strong coffee all day long) some of his books really rang true to me. That man must have friends in spooky places, really. But driving around Washington, like Jack Ryan (who was best played by Harrison Ford, don’t care whatcha think) does in so many of his books, I began to realize just what a fantasy Mr. Clancy had dreamed up for me. Nothing moves. Mr. Ryan, gorgeous as he was, would never have been stupid enough to take The Belt-way because NOTHING MOVES. Our entire world would have fallen apart in the time it takes to get from one exit to another, and Jesus, with a three-year-old in the back, not even Jack Ryan could have handled that.
Note: Never take The Belt-way again. Nevah!
By the time we made it to Baltimore, considering the flight, the lack of sleep the night before, and the fun Fun FUN! of re-learning how to drive an automatic in rush hour in Washington, I was exhausted. So the darling ladies with whom we were staying the night fed me yummy crab and scallops and scrimps and fishies and sent us off to bed.
The next morning we continued north a bit to my godparents’ home where we visited, and ate—more crab! I likes me some crab, yumm. After lunch, when Monkey-1 was starting to look a bit tired, I whisked him back in the car and we started the Long Drive South. A yawning baby promises a smooth trip, right?
Dude, I’ve never been so wrong in my entire life.
We stopped every half hour to 45 minutes. Monkey-1 had to pee. Not only did he have to pee, he had the worst case of the liquid poops he’s ever had. So we kind of had to. Stop. At every Rest Stop. And this is the US, where rest stops are plentiful. PLENTIFUL. And with automatic toilets that flush all by themselves. Magic Toilets, if you will. Which didn’t help matters. Because now, not only did he want to poo all the time, he’d also crowned himself Official Magic Toilet Inspector. By the time we’d reached Richmond, I’d had it. ENOUGH of the toilets already! So I put a pull-up on him and commanded him to sleep, to dream of Magic Toilets if he wanted, but to sleep. And so he did.
Ah, peace. From the Virginia/North Cacalaki line the only sounds coming from the back seat were beautiful baby snores. It was lovely, and we started making decent time—good, considering The Belt-way, not to mention the inspection of the Fuckin’ Magic Toilets, had put us about three hours behind. I found a half-way decent rock station on the radio, settled in with a group of truckers going a wee bit over the limit, and just rode with traffic. I love me some I-85 in the evening.
“…zzzzzzzz…urp…zzzzzzzz”, from the back.
“Did you say something, sweetness?”
Yep, Monkey-1 spewed, all over the back seat, down the back of the passenger seat, all over the door, all over his body, his car seat, the floor, everywhere in fact. And he slept through it. Which was the scariest bit of it all, because, my God, has he just choked to death or what and Jesus, where’s the exit?
So we lost another hour. And the rest of the Long Drive South was spent with the window opened enough to let in enough air to allow me to breathe something other than stomach acid fumes, yet closed enough to keep out the cold which I was totally not expecting. Gah!
But we made it. Finally. A trip that should have taken us just over 7 hours took closer to 11 ½. My brother’s house has never looked so welcoming.
And then, after my Bro pushed me out of the way to get to his nephew and God-son, and settled him comfortably into a comfy bed, and everyone got at least five minutes of sleep, the Real Fun began.
No trip ‘home’ would be complete without a visit to the parents. Sadly I no longer have either of mine. My mother died more than a decade ago. Her wish was to be cremated and returned to the crabs she loved so much, refueling the eco-system as it were (although what any crab could find to nibble on after the furnace got done with her I’ll never know). I wasn’t there the day my father and brother returned her to the elements, something that both bothers me and relieves me in many different ways, but I know the spot well. Still, there’s no plaque, no symbol of her presence on this earth, and that at times gets rough. All that’s left of her are memories and a few photographs.
My father passed 7 years ago this last August. He is buried, as was his wish, in a veterans’ cemetery along with all the old soldiers he loved so much, and, all too sadly, an increasing number of too-young ones. This is where I go to visit my dad when I go home.
The last time I was home, in 2004, I was pregnant with the monkey, and Marc and I made the pilgrimage together. That wasn’t an easy trip. One of the very last conversations I’d had with my father was about when I’d be making him a grandfather because he was getting up there in age and wanted to be around to see all his grandkids graduate high school. Of course, he died the very next morning, and missed not only my kids’ graduations, but all his grandkids’ graduations. The man was nothing if not fair.
This time wasn’t much easier. A lot had changed since that last visit almost four years ago. Here I was bringing that little unborn child back to meet Grandpa, only now he’s walking and talking and a big brother with two little sisters. (Dad would be more than pleased about that—he always wanted 10 grandkids, and now he’s got them). There was more than enough to tell the old man that he’d have been very happy to hear, yet it’s all very bittersweet because he’s not there to share his wisdom and wit anymore. That is something that still aches deep down, and I guess probably always will.
It was a nice day, if a bit windy (a lovely hurricane sat just off the NC coast, and was making its distant presence known). There was another burial scheduled at the time we arrived so Monkey-1 and I tried to make ourselves as quiet as possible. I must say the child can really be an angel at times, and this was one of them. So we sat and visited with my dad while folks gathered to say good-bye to Dad’s new neighbor and while I got to explain how and why this is my dad. Explaining death to a child is not easy. I was brought up with all my questions about such matters answered directly and matter-of-factly. Marc was, too. And I think we both feel this is probably the best way, at least for us, to deal with these things with our own monkeys. So that’s what I did—brushed off Dad’s marker and explained yet another Big Thing to my son. And cried. But I know my dad would have been proud.
Explaining death to a child is not easy. I was brought up with all my questions about such matters answered directly and matter-of-factly. Marc was, too. And I think we both feel this is probably the best way, at least for us, to deal with these things with our own monkeys. So that’s what I did—brushed off Dad’s marker and explained yet another Big Thing to my son.
But I know my dad would have been proud.
…seems to get harder the older I get. Not only older, maybe, but I now have three (holy shit) hangers on that I didn’t have last time I crossed The Pond. Marc was kind enough to let me have Tuesday and yesterday to sort of sleep it off, but today Monkey-1 headed back to school, Monkeys-2 & -3 back to the crèche and Papa Monkey is off to whatever meeting he has scheduled for today, so I had no choice other than to try to swing back into ON mode. And I took NyQuil last night, so my ass is draggin’—and no that’s not another fat joke (although it could be).
I’ve been gone just shy of two weeks, not really a long time, right? Monkey-3 is completely changed. I hardly recognized her, and she scared the crap out of me Tuesday evening as she practically leapt backwards from my arms. She’s never done that before. Two weeks in the life of a five month old, though, means I’ve missed a lot. Time stands still for no mom.
Monkey-2 hasn’t slowed down in her development either. Little Miss Full Sentences And Don’t Even Think You Can Outsmart Me seems to forget she’s still months shy of her second birthday. She makes us forget, too, because not only does she not act her age, she doesn’t look it. We’re in for a world of shit later on—and no NyQuil induced night-coma will help me prepare for that. Craaaap!
You’re all probably curious as to the wonders Monkey-1 witnessed and participated in during his travels of the Great East Coast, and I shall get around to that. If I were to write a narrative of the entire trip it’d read like stereo instructions. It’s just not in me. So I’ll probably just put up snippets here and there—and hopefully you’ll all forgive me my prolonged absence.
Those of you in the know know this has been a mental health trip for me, and hopefully one for Marc as well (don’t go feeling sorry for the man—he took a short break in the Alps while we were gone). So far we both seem a bit more healed on the inside. I’ve been trying to get my shit back together, and things seem to be working. During my absence, Marc hired someone to help on the farm and that’s been a BIG RELIEF. He’s finally realized he cannot do it all, and MY GOD, I’ve actually seen more of my husband since I’ve been home than I have in the two months leading up to my escape!!
There’s still a big transition to go through. The household, which had been subject to My Way Of Doing Things has flipped over to Marc’s Way Of Doing Things and now that we’re all happily together again, and with time to spend together, we’re going to have to work out the Happy Way Of Doing Things TOGETHER. This is probably going to be a big challenge-because both Marc and I are right—all the time.
So it’s going to be interesting, or at least it promises to be. Or maybe Marc will make good on his promise and it will be dull as hell. Who knows.
See, it’s 4-something in the morning, and while you’re probably working your way through coffee many hours after I post this, I’m still working through jet lag, flying-related sinus issues, and all the amazement I have at how much Monkey-3 has changed.
But, as Christine so eloquently showed us on the way home from the crèche last night, where she sighed her brother’s name in the car and held his hand all the way back to the still-too-small abode, it’s very comfy here, all together, all safe, and all alive. And that’s really all I need.