Thursday, April 7, 2011

Trade Winds

I keep thinking I'm going to sit down and write. In fact, I *did* sit for a few brief moments somewhere in the vicinity of the 18th/19th of last month and started my annual birthday handwringing post, but my birthday (42, if you're keeping score) was a maelstrom of packing for a week's vacation beginning the next day. For the record, I got a potholder, two paperbacks, and a sandwich. No, I mean a sandwich. Clearly a banner year, 42.

Then I thought eh, I'll just type a quick birthday/post vacation summary when I get home. And then Ale-puke got a stomach bug on the second to last day of vacation, which found yours truly violently ill the last night of vacation. And let me tell you, there's nothing worse than a Norowhathaveyou bug making it's way through a family --- than if that family is sharing a v. small room. Wait, it could be worse: Small family-shared room plus the fact that departure was on the hottest day of the week in a tiny tin shed that passes for a Caribbean airport full of oversold planeloads of humanity. I decided not to eat to spare myself getting ill on the plane, which left me feeling close to passing out, holding a limpid baby who had ingested nothing other than pedialyte for the past 36 hours in an unairconditioned terminal. We made a nice looking family. Especially to the security guard who espied us half on the floor and herded us out of line and right to the front. Mr. ABF got a mild version, Bella kindly waited until Tuesday at 4 a.m., safely in our own home.

I'm sure with some distance I'll fondly remember the much-needed warmth, and the bright tropical colors, and the clear blue ocean.

The trip was actually timed extremely well; arriving guests would spot one of the kid's Philly's Jerseys or Mr. ABF's Flyer's cap and notify us -- usually while we were in the middle of re-applying sunscreen and deciding whose turn it was to run and get a bunch of frozen fruity drinks -- that they just left that morning and there were snow flurries. Our depressed bones warmed. There was snorkeling, there was someone else preparing food and cleaning it up, there was an extremely friendly stray cat, there were kid's activities, and there was even a space of nothing to do while the baby napped. Imagine! Reading or (gasp) napping while the baby naps. Children were good on the plane (Bella was nothing short of a dream traveller even during airport hell -- she was duly rewarded), Ale even kept his nap schedule and slept decently at night. Until the plague hit.

I may never leave the house again. I may even check into grocery delivery.


The place where we stayed had photographers who would run around and follow you and your kids and then invite you to go purchase their pictures for some absurd price. But they also scheduled times to take pictures of families. And after being asked if we wanted this, and glimpsing a family decked out to the nines trudging off to the beach one evening with a photographer in tow, the idea took hold and I couldn't shake it. I'm not sure if it was a need to celebrate my family, or more of a need to cling to it -- to grab hold of this moment so in the future I can look back and remind myself that I wasn't crazy, we were all there, we were all (modestly, mostly) happy. In the middle of this photo shoot I realized we hadn't taken "family" photos since Bella was 9 months old. We skipped a few years of photographing altogether, and only recently slowly have gotten back in the habit of trying to keep the camera battery charged. There are only pictures of kids though -- it's as if the parents disappeared, like in a fantasy novel where the six year old must now charter the waters, un-gently tending to her infant brother, through a sea of picnics and zoo trips and Christmas mornings, sometimes with an anonymous adult hand or arm. We are slowly awakening to being parents again, not just older responsible humans along for the ride. We lost our jobs, and were rehired, and we're older now, and the cobwebs are thick and the job has changed a bit.

It's a bit funky, this family. But there we are.


Did I mention I'm 42? My whole life, since my hair changed from blonde to dishwater brown around age four, the hair around my face goes blonde, especially in the summer. I've been charged with having faux highlights (one hairdresser was rather adamant that I give up my secret, not believing there was none to be had), and they're a saving grace on an otherwise tiresome flat and uninspiring head of hair. I noticed on vacation they no longer go blonde, they go bright silver. There are few but brilliant sharp silver ribbons running through the brown framing my face. There will be a decision this year whether to vainly reach for a bottle and have things as they once were, or let it go. People with infants should'nt have gray hairs, I've decided. A mindset that is obviously pointing me in a certain direction to try grimly to hang onto a former life. Good luck with that.


The baby, he's eleven months. Bella's first year was an eternity it seemed, a endlessly stretching horizon of sleeplessness and unrequited love. (I really don't like that about babies. At least puppies lick you and wag their tails. I mean sure, he smiles at me and says mama, but he smiles when he poops, and smiles when Bella makes fart noises, and smiles when he sees his sister has jammed her barbie headfirst into his car garage.) This year has tracked very similarly to Bella's when it comes to sleep -- there was none, and there was a lot, and then it slowly whittled away and devolved until it was hell, and then boom, there was sleep again and now we're fine (except that he naps too where she didn't, which is such a bonus).

So it would seem that I would feel similarly at the end of this year (e.g., awakening from a coma) . . . except I don't. I feel pretty great. I feel, well, um, how to say this, happy. More or less content. Sure I could be getting more sleep (for some reason we were up at 4:00, then 5:00, and finally settled on 6:00 this morning), my midsection could be tightening up a bit more, I could have more hours for yard work, my floors could be mopped. But I'm ok. I feel rather lucky, which is a strange thing to feel anymore.


I hope you are well.