The other day you turned a year and a half old. We celebrated by decompressing at home from our three-week road trip to Nebraska. You screamed with and without reason.
Holy hell, it’s the season of big feelings with lungs to match. The feelings have been there for a few months, but now you can and do communicate them on your loudest, shrillest setting. I’m trying to minimize the perceived (by you) effectiveness of this method of communication, but damn, child, I’m here to tell you: it gets my attention every time. Especially when we’re in the car.
That said, I’m happy to report that you’re a fantastic road trip companion. We drove a total of 3,823 miles to the DH2013 conference in Lincoln, Nebraska and back. We took a week to go each way, and stayed in Lincoln for another week. On the westward leg, we were joined by your cousin Tesher. It was a great vacation.
On the way west, we went to Reptiland, where you quite enjoyed the komodo dragons and animatronic dinosaurs. We drove up and down Pennsylvania along state routes, and eventually you figured out how to make your ears stop hurting from all the driving up and down mountains. We went to Indian Echo Caverns, which you liked ok but only as long as your cousin was carrying you. None of this mama nonsense. (Tesher held up well, but come on, man, that was bordering on cruelty to teenagers!) We also went to Fallingwater, which you mostly didn’t see because they don’t allow the under-six crowd on tours—but I’ll take you there again. That place is something special.
Somewhere in there I got strep throat. Surprise! Cousin T hung out with you while I went to get antibiotics. I was terrified that one of you would get it too, but you remained healthy and ate like small horses. Since an easy way to tell a toddler has strep is that they’re not eating or drinking because it hurts to do so, for once I felt my genetically informed impulse to feed you because you’re too thin was justified for health reasons.
We spent a day and a half in Chicago, where we swam in a huge clean lake and you got to try your first Italian ices—and your first carousel and Ferris wheel. You approached all of these with the usual basic-research mindset, and got so engrossed in the carousel motion that you didn’t notice the music stop. You usually notice whether there’s music (and, to my delight, love having it on).
Then we drove on to Omaha, where we exchanged Tesher for our friends Molly and Natalie at the airport. These two joined us for the Lincoln portion of the adventure, and hung out with you while I conferenced. It worked! You visited the Lincoln Children’s Museum, like, five times; I think you might’ve gone to the zoo; you swam in the pool. Several times a day you breathlessly looked out the glass back wall of the elevator and lightly bounced, chanting “up… dow… up… dow….” while most of the adults witnessing this cracked up. I assume those who didn’t, don’t have souls.
Meanwhile, I ran around like crazy from session to meeting to super important atrium chat every day of the conference, morning to early evening, and some later evenings too. This used to be my every day, and things have only picked up since I became an only-occasional digital humanist.
Someday, I’ll be delighted if you find work that thrills and inspires you like this stuff thrills and inspires me.
Then the conference was over, and on the way back it was just the two of us with no particular plans and a week to get back. You road warrior, you. Held up like a pro. Oh, sure, there was some screaming, but I could see the gears in your head whirring and clicking: you actually exercised patience when necessary. You’re a year and a half old; you aren’t supposed to have any patience yet. But you do.
We had rest area picnics. You ate an ungodly amount of fruit and watched ants do their thing. You insisted on playing the on-off-on-off game with light switches in about a dozen hotel and motel rooms. You discovered the power button on a CRT TV.
Swimming! You LOVE swimming. We did it in the Hudson River at the beginning of our trip, and you were beside yourself with joy. We did it again in Lake Michigan, and you squirmed like a happy little pollywog. We went to a hotel pool together, and you actually tried swimming on your belly like a big kid. I may have to get over my extreme dislike of chlorinated pools just to do swimming lessons with you, fish boy.
We visited your great-uncle and great-aunt in Saint Louis, and you saw your aunt and some other relatives too. Never having seen these people in your life, five minutes into the visit you were clearly at home, demanding that Aunt Liza play clapping games with you and turning lights on and off with Uncle Roman. It was a lovely visit, and I missed your grandfather so.
We visited our New York family again, too. And your babushka on the very last leg homeward. And then we were home.
Since we came back, you’ve become that toddler. You’ve leveled up in the scary direction, my friend. Every other word is a carefully considered no. Sometimes it’s “no no no no NO. no.” The screaming has subsided, though, so maybe we have some hope of productive negotiation. Yes? Let’s try for that. In the meantime, I’ll be over there with a glass of wine in my hand, reminding myself that at least now you have the attention span to sit through an entire movie, and that you bring me books to read, and that you invent games, and that all told life with you is full of laughter.
Love you madly,