We had a lovely vacation – our first in five years. We went north to visit family and friends and had just a wonderful time. The weather was actually cold while we were up there (cold as in we had to wear long sleeves, pants, and socks) which added to the comfort and charm of the trip.
My Son Might As Well Be Yotsuba*
We were in a hotel, getting ready to use their pool, when my son Juss came rocketing out of the men’s room. As I bent down to help him put his floaty-device on, he declared:
”I just used the coolest, most awesome potty ever!”
“It flushed by itself!”
Now, I had no intention of fooling my son, I thought he would know I was kidding, but as I was helping him into the feet holes, I said casually,
“Do you think it was fairies?”
“Oh! I think!” he replied with pure, Yotsuba level of intensity. I’ve never heard him use that particular affirmation before. I thought it was adorable. Then, he adds, “But not all potties have fairies.”
There is a moment of silence as we finish getting him dressed. Then, as I’m gathering up the towels and he’s wondering near the Men’s room door, he adds:
“Or maybe it was God!”
*If you don’t know who Yotsuba is, run full speed out to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of the Yotsuba manga. It is the cutest thing on this earth (well, only do this if you like children.) Yotsuba is a little girl who is tremendously intense in a most charming way about the many things that she doesn’t know.
Or, just Google her.
The Funniest Moment of Our Vacation
My In-Law’s air-conditioning was not working, which made the upstairs of their house quite hot. Not knowing that there was going to be a cold snap, they very kindly reserved hotel rooms for us at a nearby hotel that had access to a pool and a nice restaurant overlooking garden’s and the Susquehanna river.
We arrived at the hotel to discover two rooms connected by doors. One had a huge king-sized bed, the other had two queen beds. We put the three boys together into the large bed (rather than have one of them have to stay on a second bed by themselves in a strange place) and pulled out their stuffed animals and familiar pillows covered with cheery pictures of Thomas and Diego to help them settle in.
The first night we were there, we let the boys watch TV in bed. Something they’ve never done, as our TV is two floors beneath their room. The second night, John read to the boys from Road To Oz. At Juss’s request, I lay down between him and Ro to keep them company while Daddy read.
Part way through the story about braying donkeys and a little musical man, John said sternly:
“Juss, take your hands out of your pants.”
Followed, a minute or two later, by:
“Juss, take your hands out of your pants. You do that kind of thing in the bathroom.”
“Juss, take your hands out of your pants.”
“Juss! Take your hands out of your pants!”
At which point, Juss removed his hands and pulled out…Pikachu!
I kid you not! Somehow, he had fit his plushy, squeaking Pikachu doll entirely inside his night-time pull ups. Looking at the little yellow electric rat with its quizzical tail – about six or eight inches high – I could not tell how he had managed to fit it in there…who can decipher the ways of children?
I was still laughing about this long into the night.
Why The Magic Goes Away
It’s not as common now, but when I was young nearly all children stories ended with the magic going away. The magic doll becomes a normal doll. The fairies don’t return. The child grows up and the stuffed bear stops talking.
This always bothered me (especially after a friend complained about the elves going away at the end of Tolkien: “If I’d been the elves, I would have used our magic and kicked the human’s butts!”) I always thought it was sad, and why couldn’t the magic stay.
Now, I understand better than I did before.
Some weeks ago, the Cherubim* woke me up in the morning to bring me downstairs and show me an add that had Thomas trains on it. He had never done anything like this before. In fact, until recently, he did not seem to notice that the trains were different or had individual personalities. He sat me down and showed me first one of the trains and then, on the other side of the page, George the Steamroller. Over and over again, he brought my hand to the picture of George.
A few days later, at the bookstore, the Cherubim appeared holding a toy George the Steamroller. I obediently brought it to the café and bought it for him (along with frappachinos for his parents.)
As we were leaving for vacation, I packed up the toys that Orville and Juss take to bed: a mouse in pajamas made by Grandma, a handsome mere cat (Orville’s gift the time he kept his brother’s together at the museum when Mommy lost all three of them,) a small snowy owl we bought him on Harry Potter night at the bookstore, Pikachu (not sure how he ended up in there, really. He’s not a normal bed-time toy) and Juss’s brown and white puppy. (Juss sleeps with a plushy triceratops, too, but I didn’t bring it.) Then, I was stumped. What should I bring for the Cherubim?
Well, I packed his Thomas pillow and his Rudolph bearista – but he hadn’t played with that in years. Then, as we were preparing to leave, it came to me to go downstairs and get George. And so I did.
The first night at the hotel, the Cherubim did not really pay attention as I pulled out the toys…until I got to George. A big happy smile crossed his face and he immediately grabbed George and started driving him across the bedspread going “Chugga, chugga, chugga, chugga, chugga, choo-choo!”
Well, the Cherubim carried George everywhere. Each morning, he would pick him up and carry him everywhere we went. The only time he put George down was to climb or otherwise use his hands, and then he would either put it in his pocket, or give George to one of us to go in our pocket, retrieving him again as soon as his hands were free. At night, he set George carefully beside the place where he slept, on an end table or such, so that George stood on his rollers, watching over him.
For seven days, George was the Cherubim’s constant companion. He went everywhere, and the Cherubim never put him down or forgot him.
We arrived home in the dark. The Cherubim rushed into the house before me. By the time, I’d turned off the alarm, he was already coming up the stairs from the play room. We bundled the boys upstairs and, as they got ready for bed, I noticed that George was nowhere to be seen. I asked John, who thought that maybe he’d been left in the car…but an alternate suspicion was already growing in my mind.
The next morning, I went downstairs, and – sure enough – there lay George, discarded among the other trains on the train table. Not set down carefully upon his rollers, just laying on his side.
Nor has George been picked up since.
I cannot explain the feeling of supernatural awe I felt when I saw this…it was a mix of the strength of the feeling that I’d had to bring George to begin with, the ubiquitousness of George in our life during our week away, and the speed and – oddly – properness with which he had been discarded upon returning home.
The magic had gone away.
It had gone away, because it wasn’t needed any more. We were home and all was right with the world again.
The whole thing was slightly eerier to me because George happens to be the name of my dearly-departed father. While in real life, George was just a small, wooden, security steamroller, had it been a children’s story, my dad would have been watching over his grandson during the events of the week.
*For those who are new here, yes, I realize that Cherub is the singular, but the implication is different. While calling my son a Cherub might not be entirely misplaced, it does not have the sense of supernatural awe implied in the more angelic Cherubim.
Musicals Spark Questions
Because we had been having some car trouble, we decided to rent a car for our trip. AAA gave us a nice price on a vehicle for a week, and we set off happily in a clean car that did not burp or gurgle as it drove. The rental car had a CD player, so on the way out the door, John grabbed a handful of CDs, including Barnum, which he knew Orville loved, and My Fair Lady, which happens to be my favorite musical. Little did he know at this time what a wise choice this would prove to be.
The musicals were enjoyed by all. While they were not the only thing we played, we ended up playing them the majority of the four long car rides we took (about 18 plus hours of driving in all, broken up over four days.) The boys enjoyed these, at first just listening to them, but as the trip went on, Orville started to ask questions.
You would be amazed at the number of subjects a musical – especially My Fair Lady – can touch upon.
First, Orville wanted to know about the songs: what was going on in this scene? Who was singing? Who were they singing to? Then, he wanted to know about what was going on in the songs. Why should a woman be more like a man? Why should the English teach their children to speak? How come he says ‘why in America, they haven’t used it in years?” Why does she want to dance all night? Who is she angry at? Why did she go away? Why does he need to get to the church on time?
If you ever want to explain the intricacies of human relationships to an eight-year-old in one week, start with My Fair Lady.
But that was only the beginning! Because My Fair Lady includes the song With a Little Big O’ Luck. (You can check it out here if you don’t know it. ) In which Eliza’s father discusses practically every vice known to man.
Why would he not help his neighbor? Why would his children go out and support him? What is liquor and what does temptation mean?
The whole trip was peppered with fascinated questions, some of which we enjoyed answering and some of which baffled us. But these musicals both entertained us and provided us with excellent conversation – the best on the drive except perhaps for the period of a couple of hours during which Juss and Orville grilled John about the origin stories of superheroes and supervillains.
I’m just glad he didn’t ask me what philandering meant!
It was really a wonderful trip. Many decisions we made the day we left: what toys to bring, what music to bring, what clothes to bring, turned out to have been very wise choices, making our trip harmonious and joyful.
And everyone we visited was so hospitable and gracious! Our In-Laws fed us wonderful meals and took us about, first to a lovely park, then to some dramatic and gorgeous waterfalls that we got to hike by a bit (we could even have gone swimming in them, but it was too cold,) and finally to the Discovery Center in Binghamton. (If you are ever in Binghamton, NY with children, definitely visit the Discovery Center, it is a children’s wonderland with all sorts of activities for them! Orville got to dress up as an anchor man and see himself on TV while Juss ‘flew’ a jet and the Cherubim ran through tunnels decorated with trolls from Jan Brett stories.
Then, after a lovely drive beside one of the Finger Lakes, we visited my cousin Ariel, whom I had not really visited with in over twenty years. She and her husband had taken a run-down Victorian house and turned it into something astonishing and marvelous. It was like visiting Edgewood from Little, Big, or like visiting my grandmothers – what a wonderful moment to be sitting on a little screened porch watching the rain, with my cousin who remembered the same screened porch that belonged to our grandmother that I remembered! (In fact, it has been the inspiration for the one we sat in.)
The house looked like we had stepped back into the Victorian age, and outside was a wonderland of benches and tree houses set amidst wisteria and other decorative bushes. There was even a little statue of a pewter girl reading (a memorial to my cousin’s mother) and a wigwam! What a magical place!
The house was charming, and Ariel and her husband made delicious steaks and chicken on the grill for us, but the best part – in the boys mind at least – was Second Cousin Harlan. A boy about Orville and the Cherubim’s age, who played with Orville and Juss. Both boys loved him. Juss keeps asking to go back.
The Cherubim, meanwhile, George clutched tightly in his hand, kept leading me upstairs to help him climb into the top bunk in Harlan’s room, where he would curl up for a time, chuckling, before coming downstairs to do it again. He also loved the back yard, even in the rain. (The one thing we don’t have at our house that I had originally wanted is an enclosed back yard. Even if we did, though, it wouldn’t look like this one!)
Finally, we visited my childhood friend Gina and her baby Anja. Orville and Juss both adore babies and they went gaga over Anja, playing with her and asking about her, and just adoring her. After a yummy dinner and a nice stay with them, I took the kids to Ward Pound Ridge Reservation to visit the museum where I volunteered as a child. The place had changed, and yet was still the same – a happy and nostalgic end to our fantastic vacation!
Can’t wait to go again!