Monday, September 27, 2010

Sweet on the Suite

The kids and I are headed to Colorado by van.  We saved cash by driving so I splurged on a suite that met my specifications at a mid-budget hotel for our one night on the road.  This is what I've learned so far:

A half wall and a mini fridge does not a suite make.  And the two-way fireplace you feature in your hotel pictures does not positively influence my reservation decision.  I need a room without a view, one with definite boundaries between the place where the children are stashed and the place where I pretend I don't have any children, at least until the cruel light of morning creeps in like a sorceress to condemn me to another 10 hours in a non padded minivan with Dee, T and BabyNar (who turns out to be the worst of the bunch).

Nar Nar doesn't yet understand that crying is futile.  I will not flinch.  I WILL keep driving and simply move my ear closer to the car speaker to hear the remainder of the "This American Life" NPR episode that's playing.  Not to worry, road trip police.  Baby's got a dry diaper (at least since the last reasonably timed stop), a sippy cup with more handles than cup (that doubles as a toy), and a mountain of discarded (and usually forbidden) snacks that her siblings would kill for if they weren't prisoners to the five point harness system that makes sane travel with children possible for me.  Never mind the safety benefits of such devices.  They're like a door on a one bedroom suite, only more effective for the waking hours.

Anyhoo, we finally did make it to the hotel and the kids' patience and leg atrophy paid off.  It was near normal bedtime when we arrived, but we still had a day of activity to jam into our sweet suite and the hotel attached to it.  The condensed schedule involved complimentary cookies, fries and burgers in the "living room," swimming, bath, stories at 10 p.m. (!), and night-night in the yummy king size bed (behind door #1) that really should be mine.

Never mind that Dee and T piddled around for another hour.  I'm confident all that car seat padding will make day dreaming easier, especially when the only sugar coming from Mom arrives in the form of a fruit gummy snack pack.  Heads up!

Monday, September 20, 2010

True Companions

I see them every once in a while at the same coffee shop.  Often, they are already sitting at a two top directly facing the entrance to the shop.  A bookcase is at their back and I've seen the baristas greet them with familiar hellos.  I've not yet deciphered what they drink; whether it's steaming Earl Gray tea for one, or a short, powerful espresso for the other.  They sit talking or reading newspapers, but still find enough interest in me and my brood to look up and smile.

They look strangely the same and might be sisters, except for one is much taller.  Both wear skirts that fall below the calf.  The skirt on the little one is high enough to reveal her short, shabby boots with holes and frayed edges at the toes.  She doesn't wear socks.  Instead, a long wool dress coat, dirty and thin, appears to keep her warm both winter and summer.  The little one has stringy long hair that streams out from a wool stocking cap.  Her companion wears the same uniform, except a light nylon scarf is wrapped around her head and her boots aren't nearly as worn.  Everything about them is muted grays, olive green, plum and brown.  It would seem as if they had emerged from the woods, if modern life for seniors really made way for good witches and fairy godmothers.

But I learned today while pulling out of the adjoining grocery store parking lot that their world also includes a royal blue in the form of a sensible Ford sedan, likely manufactured in the late eighties.  The tall one is the driver.  Today, she focused on starting the car while the little one waived and waited for me to back my hulk of a minivan out of the parking space next to theirs.  I waived back in thank you, noticed their current plates and then continued to think about the pair the rest of the day.  The Little One and the Driver.

Shortly after meeting my husband, a/k/a Chris, I settled into the cozy and joyous notion that he was my true companion.  The muscles he'd developed on his upper thighs biking across town to attend the prerequisite classes for medical school helped A LOT.  Also, his openness to people and why-not-today-adventuresome spirit perfectly counterbalances my judgmental character and perpetually practical personality.

Some people are hard to like.  I keep my nose to the grindstone and seek reasonable fun within boundaries.  I don't like to ask directions and I've got to plan for days (okay, weeks) for people to drop by for dinner.  Chris organizes elaborate events on a whim. He skiis like the Asian Jonny Mosely that he is and has served as a National Park naturalist by day and and river raft guide on weekends.  Hot stuff.  Then he went to medical school and that tamed his adventures a bit.  Protecting lives can do that to a guy.  

I knew Chris was the man for me and my future kids when I watched him with his beloved dog, a yellow lab/shepard mix and lover of all throwable things, named Dakota.  Chris guided Dakota with a firm but gentle, for-keeps touch.  Dakota responded in kind.  And I got to bask in it, like a preview before purchasing.  I was hooked then and I still am.

Today, my true companions tend to be the three little souls Chris and I brought into this world.  We bumble around like a little band of merry women and one man.  Off to adventures like two grocery stores in one day where everyone focuses on holding the cart, I SAID, HOLD THE CART!!!, while Nar strains to gum the handle and break free of the belt that's holding her back.  We talk of spills on the sidewalk, treats that might await us at the bakery, mylar balloons in the shapes of space heroes, crunches (sharks) and princesses with loads of hair and dark pink gowns.  Dee discusses her plans of living with the real princesses when she grows up and letting T be a king.  T is mesmerized by a cardboard display of a movie "bad guy" and tells us he is going to "bam it!" 

Throughout the day, the kids make these kinds of suggestions and I respond.  It is a comfortable, welcomed part of life.  In those early, not quite focused moments of the day when I first realize where we are in the week and the plans ahead, I am happy to wake up.  Mostly because it is our day and that I won't be alone.  I have an important purpose here, surrounded by these kids, smothered by these kids - kissed and hugged and ignored sometimes - but always with them.  At least until first grade beckons and these hours that are all mine dwindle because their interests and development require a different focus and, sadly, different companions.

And then of course, I'll turn to other seeds I've sown.  Hub, older kid family stuff and professional goals.  Grandchildren and the golden years of retirement.  But beyond that, I have hope that someday, in a land far away and hard to imagine, there will be a Driver for me (short as I am, and shrinking, I'll likely be the Little One).  A woman, friend and survivor, who has traveled a road with different turns and dips, but similar still to mine.  A fairy godmother of sorts that can offer me all that I really yearn for - companionship - and the occasional ride to the coffee shop when the weather makes the walk difficult.