The act of getting my family out of the door is blog worthy in itself. Sean zooms around the house with an air of ‘oh I am so responsible for the security of this house’, closing a flap here, a door there. Ryan clutches on to his minuscule star war figure (please don’t ask me which one, because I am that kind of a human who confuses Star wars with Star Trek, causing fans to shudder) and lazes around with no sense of urgency, whatsoever. Sahana, dons her tattered boots and shoves her little journal and pen IN her boots, and settles down on the couch with a deep, thought provoking book like Inferno or Dr. Faustus. That kid is weird, and I like her. I purposefully walk into a room and promptly forget why I came in in the first place because mentally I am checking the mile long list of little things that can preempt any kind of disaster like sore throat or upset stomach or a 102 fever. Once we are ready to go, Sean runs in to do one more thing that needs to be done. When he comes out, I run in because I forgot my waterbottle. And when I come out, the kids run in, either to go the bathroom, or because the answer to ‘do you have your coat?’ was a subdued ‘nooooo!’ Yes, we are predictable! And if Jerome K. Jerome was alive, he would have written a wonderful short story about us.
That is exactly how it panned out before our car trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. Finally, the seatbelts were clicked, the ignition turned on, my shoes were off, feet on the dashboard and we were on our way. Right away, there was a major disagreement over the choice of music – Dixie Chicks or Veggie Tales, which I squelched with ‘You guys settle down….or else…’ threat. Peace prevailed for a couple of hours till:
‘I need to go to the bathroom, NOW!’ – Ryan’s plaintive voice.
At that moment, we were sitting in traffic on I 495 south with long serpentine line of cars ahead, moving at snail’s pace.
‘Daddyyyyyy, I need to go the BATHROOM!’
‘Ok, buddy! I will try to find one, as soon as I can!’
After some whimpering and crying and moaning and requesting his helpless parents, Ryan got angry and resentful. This is how he is going to take revenge on us for not helping him out in his present state of discomfort:
‘When I am older and you guys are too old to drive, I am going to drive you guys around and not stop at a bathroom when you guys need to go!’
Sean and I, looking desperately for a hole in traffic to get to an exit, exchanged glances, trying hard not to laugh out loud….fearing our fate in old age!
Long story short, we got off at the nearest exit after many more tears and oohs and ouches. We found a bathroom. Ryan emerged after doing his business with a huge toothless smile, the relief on his face was palpable. We got hopelessly lost and completed the 3 hour trip in 5 and a half hours.
There were some moments when I shook my head and wondered why we bothered. There were some fights, sibling rivalry, some shoves and pushes and temper tantrums. But those were few compared to the skipping, jumping, tinkling laughter, camaraderie and sibling love.
At Busch Gardens, I was dragged kicking and screaming to ride the Lochness monster so that we could tell posterity that we rode that horrendously scary ride as a family. I planned to be an observer of the jollity at the amusement park and use the excuse of my camera to get out of riding scary rides. The plan failed. A locker was found, our stuff was stuffed and I was, very unwillingly, dragged to the rides. I screamed myself hoarse – a happy scream. And felt very daring and brave afterwards as I stood there watching people go up high and get dashed to the ground…just about. I wondered who was having more fun going on the rides – Sean or Ryan. Sean tried to use the fearless Ryan as his pretext to get on each and every ride ‘A grown up must accompany Ry, so I have got to go, you see!’ When Ryan was barred from going on the scariest ride, the Griffon, due to his height, Sean’s ruse failed. He admitted, he would go on it by himself and would I care to join him….for love. I gave him a kiss and told him I loved him, but not enough to get on a ride that is described as such in Wikipedia:
205-foot 90° drop
146-foot (45 m) Immelmann
130-foot 87° drop
100-foot (30 m) Immelmann
360° Climbing carousel turn
It takes one up 205 feet, goes over the edge for a few seconds so one can look straight down 90 degree drop, before it plummets down, 70 miles an hour. And that is the beginning of several twists and turns.
He went alone. And came back exhilarated.
Sahana made it a point to mention to me every time I wanted to take a picture that “You guys are such tourists. I hate tourists!” My response to that was “Be quiet and go stand next to your brother!” She went with a slight grin on her face and reiterated that she hated such touristy behavior. We did the tour of James Town, lunched by the beautiful York River, strolled the historic lanes of Williamsburg, went on a guided tour of “Ghosts among us” and heard stories of vampires, cannibals and ghosts that supposedly frequented and still haunt the streets and mansions of Williamsburg. We played mini golf and ate ice cream. We laughed and teased and hugged each other.
As the children ran ahead of us, excited at things they saw, chattering happily, Sean and I looked at them and realized a few things. First, they are growing up way too fast. Life is going by us and we aren’t making much of an effort to stop time to enjoy the moment, we are too caught up in meeting deadlines, working, taking them to structured activities, paying bills, worrying about their future. We sometimes forget to enjoy the present because we are doggedly focused on their future. A little time outside the structured life we lead, gives us the chance to really see them, as the little humans that they are becoming.
The vacation wasn’t perfect. We are not a perfect family with well behaved kids and smiling, patient parents like they show on television. There were moments, as I said, when I wonderer if going away is really worth it. Sahana’s temper flared, Ryan whined and whined to buy a toy gun. Sean almost made Ryan go to bed without dinner for bad behavior, I yelled at them to stop fighting. But those moments have already been shut down in a tiny, little compartment in my head. The moments that I will air out and smile upon are the brilliant, happy smile of my thirteen year old Sahana, constantly scribbling quotations in her little journal, toothless laughter of young Ryan after riding the Lochness monster, the beaming face of my husband, who posseses the ability to have most fun in any vacation. I can cope with my regular, google calendar dictated life for a while. The happy moments will see me through. When dark clouds start gathering in the horizon, I will need to pack up my little family, and get away again, to regroup and rejuvenate, to bond and to be part of some meaningful experience – together.