When something big is on the horizon, my anxious, counting-backwards self starts keeping track of "last things" before the change. When I was late in my pregnancy with Sylvia, it was always "Is this the last movie we'll see without a babysitter?" "Is this the last uninterrupted dinner?" Since the new baby is still months off, I hadn't been doing the "last thing" thing yet--until we were about to leave for our annual spring trip to Florida. And then it hit me: This was the last time we'd take a vacation, just the three of us. And wait a minute--it was also the first.
Aron and I tend to be expansively social--inviting more people to dinner than we have silverware for, mixing and matching groups of friends and relatives at every opportunity. So in the past, we've always made this trip to Aron's family's condo with others, with various people sleeping on blow-up mattresses on the porch, that sort of thing. This time, it felt like such a gift--such a simple, surprising gift--to decide to go by ourselves. It meant not sharing a room with Sylvia, not coordinating mealtimes or beach-going-times with another group's set of priorities. Just... us. And then the surprising thought: It won't be this easy next time, with an infant--an infant!--along for the ride.
Because traveling these days is just so easy
Is it just me, or is traveling with a child akin to that episode of Little House on the Prairie, where Pa needs some extra cash, so he agrees to shepherd a wagon cart full of dynamite from one rocky place to another--one man walking in front of the horses, clearing rocks from the treacherous path, and one man riding in the wagon with the explosives? I would rate Sylvia as a relatively mild traveler, pretty easily pacified. But there's always the chance that if I'm walking in front, I'll miss a jagged rock poking up through the trail. You never know what will set her off.
To prevent this from happening, I have become the weighed-down donkey in seat 11B: five PBJ sandwiches, string cheese, our entire DVD collection, ten books (including some never-before-seen), those magical invisible ink markers, apples, a smuggled-in juice-box or two of rice milk. I can barely recall what it's like to stow a bag in the overhead compartment--when don't you need everything within three feet of your seated position?
We made the mistake on our trip down--the one that was on the first, windy day of the Nor'easter, in which our first flight sat on the runway for an extra hour, and our second flight was delayed for three--of checking the freaking car seat. We thought we were so cool, checking that car seat. "Look at her!" we said to each other with hubris. "She's a big girl. She'll sit still." Forgetting the cardinal rule of toddlerhood: A restrained child is a happy child. With too much freedom, the girl goes bonkers. And then we lose our patience (okay, mostly I lose my patience--Aron's pretty cool). And then she's no longer a happy child. That about sums up our supposed-to-be-five-but-really-more-like nine hour trip to Florida.
The one time we flew without Sylvia since her birth, I felt naked--just a People magazine and a candy bar. I couldn't believe the freedom. I wanted to shake the people across the aisle in my elation. "Look at us! We're just sitting here! I can order a Coke and no one will ever know! I can go to the bathroom! I can lean against my husband's arm! I can sleep! I can look out the window!"
When people said that parenthood makes you appreciate the simple things in life, I always assumed they meant laughing with your child, the first snow of the year, a first lick of ice cream. Not the simple pleasures of freedom that, say, a just-released inmate of a high security prison might experience. "We're at a movie! We're sleeping until 8:30! We're reading the newspaper!" Except I'm pretty sure they get to read the newspaper in prison.
Back to sunny Florida
Somehow I've gotten off track. The good news--the great news--is that we got there. And then we had four full days of Longboat Key, avoiding the dreadful weather back home and enduring only one day that wasn't sunny and 85 degrees. We all made new friends on the beach; we ate really well; we slept only so-so but not the worst, either. We swam, Aron got to play tennis outside, and no one got sunburned. We didn't watch any TV, I started reading an amazing new novel (Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky), Aron and I spent a lot of time talking about The Future in the best sort of vacation-y way, and it only took a day and a tiny bit of peer pressure from her new pal for Sylvia to shed her fear of the waves and go for it. And while you can't really tell from this picture,
my belly is growing--I'm in that kind of funny stage when people wonder if I've put on some awkward weight. But I love it.
And the whole time, I was aware of Limonata's presence, but not in a threatening, oh-lord-how-are-we-going-to-do-this-next-year way, the way I expected. Instead, I found myself thinking, "The new baby is going to love this place."
Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy.
Next week: Finding the line between embracing her body's changes, and giving into them entirely.