The big calendar I prepared to map out the summer months goes a long way to getting J ready for school to be out. That last week is always a lulu if he doesn’t yet quite grasp that we’re in the last few days of “going on the yellow bus.” His first encounter with the calendar is always tricky, but once he realizes that summer school looms ahead like a promise, he’s fine.
The D.C. landmarks are something he hasn’t yet figured out, but tonight we’re having a family meeting to lay out our plan for this trip. I have learned all the necessary sign language (TRIP, HOTEL, VACATION, and so on) to help us along the way, and I think it will all be fine once we sit with the map and make sure J understands we’re not MOVING…we’re just TRAVELING.
This is one of our problems: we seldom take vacations, and we’ve only really traveled for total, utter leisure ONCE. Every other road trip we’ve undertaken has involved some sort of “event.” We move; we drive somewhere to see a university and then we move there; we drive somewhere for a job interview, and then we don’t move there. We’ve only just taken ONE totally leisurely trip in our entire life as a family. We went to San Francisco in 2002, and J LOVED it! J’s totally a “let’s walk around this town” sort of person, and when we returned (for a job interview/let’s pretend we’re just having fun) two years later, J was even more pumped about it. Since then, we’ve had moving trucks and many miles to cover, and the madness that ensues with relocation regardless of how carefully laid-out our plans are. So…there’s no blaming J for eyeing the calendar with wariness when he sees a picture of our car, and several days of a town that doesn’t look like this one.
There will be several more changes to the PECS board before we leave. We will be meeting my niece, nephew and his wife for dinner our first night there. I have not seen my niece since 1989, and I haven’t seen my nephew since, possibly, 1990. TGG has met them several times before, but Dada and I haven’t seen them for a very long time, and J has never met them. I am hoping this goes well…
The biggest change to our PECS board, though, is the appearance of J’s nephew. TGG has mended fences (there WAS some maternal interference and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’d been chomping at the bit to get in there) with his baby’s mother, and we now have a good relationship with our non-traditional extended family. Upon meeting his nephew (a sign we had to learn,) uncle J (another sign we had to learn) promptly kissed the top of his head and thus anointed him as a person he doesn’t mind having around.
The baby, of course, found his big, jolly, hat-wearing, Slinky-carrying uncle somewhat fascinating. I am sure that once he becomes acquainted with J’s TV room, uncle J will promptly become the coolest uncle on the face of the planet. J, on the other hand, will have to adjust to the fact that there is a smaller, younger person who will command our attention and require our help to get things done. At the age of one, June Bug is less capable than J at the age of 20…
TGG’s room now features things it didn’t have before: a small travel-crib, baby toys, baby clothes, diapers… His car has a baby seat. There are baby bottles, spoons and bowls in the kitchen cupboard. And there’s humility. The same guy who last year didn’t understand why being a father matters melted like butter in the hot sun of the desert when he first met his kid. We have taken like ducks to water to being grandparents.
So as you can see we are starting an entirely new stage in our family life. We now have relatives. We now get visits from little June Bug and everything seems to have changed. When we go shopping, we buy things for June Bug. When we think of future vacations, we think of June Bug. When we talk about family, we talk about Favorite Girl and June Bug. Favorite Girl…since she’s not a daughter in-law, she needs a title, and I flatly refuse to refer to her as Baby Mama. We’ve all agreed on kindness and respect, and we’ve all agreed that June Bug goes first always. J’s needs and special traits come into play, but I think we all understand that, too. I mean, there wasn’t really any balking at the “Happy Bitchday” he wrote on June Bug’s birthday card, and it doesn’t surprise me because these are really very kind people. We made more of a fuss when we noticed than they did.
In other news, the first batch of soaps J made was a success in some ways, and not-quite a success in others. He needs to add more moisturizer, that’s for sure, and he needs to really spray those bubbles on the surface away, but everyone was impressed with how beautiful and fragrant they are, and how nice the packaging is. It’s a learning process, and J is learning and tweaking and putting an effort in… We couldn’t possibly ask for more.
And so ‘summer’ is happening. The calendar tells us that we have to wait for the official date to call it that, but it’s happening. It’s here. J’s on vacation and accepting of this development. We are ready. We have suitcases to pack, addresses to plug into the car’s GPS, pictures to take, feet to abuse by walking more than we would under normal circumstances. Life is good. Maybe next year we’ll start ‘summer’ -and the rest of J’s non-student life- by taking a bigger, better, longer, more exotic trip, but for the time being this will do…a three hour drive, a nice hotel, and some sightseeing for the people who haven’t seen sights for fun in thirteen years…