Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Letter to Hedgehog: Months Five and Six
The last two months have been so busy for the whole family that I didn't ever get around to writing a month five letter. But I'll update you on the whole thing now. This letter with therefore be longer and harder to follow than the others. Sorry about that--but your English teacher dad has earned a few writing mulligans, and I'll cash some of those in now.
I have heard parents say that they simply stop traveling once they have kids because it's too much of a hassle. But your mom and I like traveling so much that we don't want to make that kind of sacrifice. I was certainly brought up that way by my parents...I went on my first hike (forget the destination) at the age of two weeks. Your mom and I are not terribly outdoorsy people, as you've probably discovered, but we do like to go out to the ballpark, and that's a place you've been often already.
Back before you were born, your Grandma RefPoet's family decided that they wanted the summer of 2009 to be a summer we all got together on the shores of Lake Michigan up in the pinkie of Michigan. We've been there fairly often before--I remember three separate times I made the trip to hang out with my aunts and uncles--and even before you were around, we knew we'd want to be there. A chance to play Pass The Baby with all my siblings, all of your cousins, a bunch of grandparents and second cousins...there were 20 of us there in all. We couldn't pass that up. So even after the economy went into the toilet and some of us considered being frugal and cancelling the trip, we all decided to spend the money and go anyway. As I said to my dad, "There are costs to going, but I think there are greater costs to NOT having this experience."
Your mom and I got a really good deal on a plane ticket...to Milwaukee, which is 8 hours from the condo we were staying at. So we decided to make a big trip out of it, heading into Milwaukee, doing a baseball game in Appleton, enjoying a fairly leisurely drive across the U.P., and then resting in Glen Arbor for a week before taking the trip back to Milwaukee...this time via your second cousins in Chicago.
Ambitious? Yes. Foolhardy? We didn't know.
So we decided to test it out before doing it for real.
We determined what a similar drive was from our house in Vancouver and took it as a test.
So it came to be that you had your first real baseball road trip at the age of 4 and a half months. Our seventh annual 4th Of July Minor League Baseball Road Trip was your FIRST annual baseball road trip. We took a 3 hour drive to the Tri-Cities, a 6-hour drive to Missoula, and another 6-hour drive back to Yakima, before doing one-last 3-hour drive home.
(By the way, as a baby, you've already been on Diamondvision screens four times. The cameras seek you out--you're a charmer.)
As we went on the trip, we discovered some rules to go by.
1. If you're asleep, we don't stop. No matter how enticing some side of the road thing is, we pass it up. And until hunger or bathroom needs are horribly oppressive, we'll keep you sleeping and get some miles behind us.
2. When you're awake, we'll stop pretty often to let you squiggle. Rest areas are best. And, indeed, I made a pre-trip list of TONS of state parks we could stop at along the route just in case you needed squiggle time. While you were cranky in the car occasionally, you were always pretty thrilled to be stopped and checking out the trees in some new place.
3. Every stop--even if me and your mom were just getting a candy bar and a bathroom break--featured boob time for you.
4. Sit-down meals are vastly preferable for all of us.
5. Dad is better at entertaining--but mom is better in the back seat because she's better at calming.
6. On the plane, at Alison's suggestion, we brought a bag of earplugs. Before we took off, we offered them to people in the rows around us. On all four legs of the trip, only one person took us up on our offer, although many others said they'd let us know if things got bad. But you never got bad. You chilled through the entire trip--only minor fusses. Our seatmates--who we'd won over as allies with our offer of earplugs--without fail talked about how awesome you were. They were right.
Hedgehog, you were so very good on that first trip! Sure, you got fussy. But I don't think it was the driving, to be honest. I think it was the boredom. Your seat still faces backwards, and when I lean over to figure out what you can see...well, you can't see a blasted thing from back there--just seat and sky.
Once we developed our rules--and perhaps once you had some experience with long trips--you were an absolute SUPERSTAR on the trip around Lake Michigan. And while I won't delude myself into thinking you'll have memories from this age, I can't help but wonder whether you'll come away with a sense of adventure from all of this.
(Incidentally, early returns indicate that you like sand, can live with or without water, and, like the Pacific Northwest native that you are, you're not a fan of sunshine.)
We're taking a quick plane trip to Las Vegas for our Fantasy Football draft next month. You're too young to gamble, but we'll sit by the condo pool a bit and see if we can't bring you to Circus Circus. Even at six months, you deserve as much of the Vegas experience as is possible. (Perhaps you'd enjoy topless shows. The experience for you would be much like the experience at the buffet table for me.)
After Vegas, we don't know when we'll travel next, but I'm confident you'll be ready for action whenever and wherever we go.
I have to tell you how immensely you've impacted my mindset on some things. I attended a student funeral last month...not one of my students, but a great kid who debated for a rival high school. I wanted to be there to pay tribute to her, but more to support her coach, who's a valued friend. I've been to student funerals before, and they've obviously been difficult. But going to this funeral--one for a kid I didn't know nearly as well--was harder than all of the previous funerals put together, and that's simply because of the fact of your existence. They had a slide show, and when I looked at this girl's baby pictures...well, it was just devastating--immeasurably more than before.
I hate it when people say this, but it's true--everything's so wildly different now that I can't imagine what life was like before.
And it's all very fun. My perfectionism frustrates me sometime because I so want everything to go beautifully for you, but it's still fun. These six months have felt like far more than that...time has actually slowed down for me. Summer vacation hanging out with you has helped that, actually...daily morning walks with you in the Beco provided loads of quality time. But I do think I'm succeeding in savoring our time together. In fact, I think that savoring has slowed time a bit--and since I'm given a finite amount of time on this planet, I'm grateful to you for that gift.
Incidentally, you're still good-looking. People coo you everywhere. One woman at the coffee shop even said "Wow, there's a real Gerber baby."
In any event, I appreciate you a heck of a lot. The world is better with you in it. And as you gain more skills (you're right on the edge of sitting, you've started eating (asparagus and bananas are early favorites), I'm enjoying the ride. I just hope you continue to be as happy as you seem.