Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The other two

It’s hard living a distance from your big kids and little kids.

My daughter and family live 300 miles away which involves a jump in the car, along with a small cooler and an iPod, and a six-hour jaunt north through four states and multiple highways. I’ve been doing this for a few years now and it’s become routine. I play mind games as I travel up the pikes … I have my favorite rest stops and landmark mile markers. I think I could put the car on auto-pilot and it would get me there while I just sat and munched my power bars and listened to my eclectic music collection on the iPod. Programming the iPod is a whole other matter (I’m digitally challenged), but I digress. Today’s topic is progeny.

My son and family live 3,000 miles away. The logistics change, a six-hour airplane ride or longer depending on non-stop or connecting flights. And then the fun really begins. A taxi ride into Seattle seaport and a ferry ride across the Puget Sound to shorten the kids’ pickup time from the other end. Once I get into their van, we still have at least another hour’s ride to go. I grew up on the east coast. Imagine my surprise, the first time out to Seattle, to discover that the west coast did not really end there but continued on for another several hours’ drive before reaching the Pacific Ocean. I was expecting Seattle to be the end of the line. I discovered that there’s an Olympic Peninsula which attaches itself to the state of Washington and bulges out like a cauliflower. And I found out that it’s one of the nation’s best-kept secrets: it is amazingly beautiful - a rugged, pristine beauty. I fell in love. I’ve been to see the kids about four times now and have yet to explore the many locales: rain forest, Olympic mountains, lavender and strawberry farms, and finally the Pacific coastline. Oh, I’ve also got the ferry ride to Victoria, capital of British Columbia, on my to-do list.

Joe became a doctor and chose the good old-fashioned profession of family practice. He wanted to do it all: babies to senior citizens. He also wanted to move to a location that was semi-rural and offered his own growing family a beautiful place to live and to enjoy the outdoors. Katie, my sweet DIL (daughter-in-law), is a social worker and wanted to continue to play a part in the community too. So they chose a small seaport town, with Victorian houses and crafty main-street shops, to set down their roots. Joe gets his wish, a diverse population to treat. His practice has continued to expand. Meanwhile, Katie has become a doula and has been offering childbirth education in the same hospital. Their kids are blooming. And so is Katie. Baby #3 is due next month. Before their third baby arrives, I want to talk about the other two.

I feel a bit guilty because, what with Jenn’s blog and all, I spend a lot of time making comments about Sophie and Hannah. This has been such fun for me as a proud grandmom. But, truth be told, I have a Benjamin and Olivia on the west coast who are just as dear to my heart - precious and rambunctious those two.

Benjamin, firstborn of our clan, made his debut the week of his Aunt Jenn’s wedding celebration in the Catskills. I can still remember sleeping in the farmhouse where the wedding was to be held and being awakened to be told that Katie was in labor. She and Joe were hundreds of miles away at the time. So, while I was getting ready to be mother-of-the-bride, I was also preparing to become first-time grandmother. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Benjamin is now five years old and all boy. He thrives on action-hero figures and Scooby Doo adventures. He’s always on the move. And then there was the serious phase of being Captain Underpants. “Mr. Naked Man” was the hero of the day and Ben just refused to keep his clothes on. He has striking blue eyes (like to think they come from my side of the family – good-looking Polish men) and is always ready for a good nighttime read or, better yet, a made-up story. I began spinning some tales about Captain Gruffy Face and his sidekick, Razatazz, which grew and grew. It was hard to remember when I’d fly back to visit just what my pirates had been up to, but Ben remembered and pleaded for more. He was so into it that I drew the pirates for him and sent them to him for his birthday. On one of my departures, Ben accompanied his dad and me on the long drive to the airport. As I reached in to kiss him goodbye and said “I love you”, he looked at me with those big blue eyes and shyly whispered, “I love you too.” Other spontaneous moments have included, “You’re the best, Babci!" (Polish for grandmom) and “Don’t go, I’ll miss you.” Maternal meltdown. I’ll be back! Ben is super inquisitive and questions come rapidly. We were taking a family hike in the nearby state park at Christmas when he casually asked his mom and dad “So why did you decide to have another baby?” That floored all of us. It means that he is no longer such a little boy and starting to figure out his place in the family circle and in the universe. As of this posting, he is the Crown Prince, the only male child, with a sister and two girl cousins.

We were all together at Jenn’s last Labor Day. Joe and Katie flew in and I drove up. What a rare joy to have all your treasures under one roof. That week was so special. The little cousins had a surprisingly good time getting acquainted. The defining moment, though, was my walking into the living room and seeing Sophie, Hannah, Olivia and Ben all sitting on the floor watching a favorite DVD. Ben looked up at me, rolled his eyes and lamented: “Too many girls!” I hope he can handle another sister on the way.

What can I say about Olivia Jane? This little cherub, sunny and blonde, has an infectious smile and a mischievous twinkle in her eye. She’s also sturdy enough to withstand the many assaults of big brother. She can hold her own. This is good in a woman. She loves her baby dolls and is such a snuggle bunny herself, likes to climb up on your lap. But when she gets upset, she lets you have it. Another funny memory: we were sightseeing when Olivia was a baby and she was startled awake. The screams, the fury! She was inconsolable and we all wished we had earplugs. I think this kid is gonna sing opera one day. The storms blow over though and then she’s back to being her sunny self. This past Christmas, she was right there on the floor with me and Ben as we played Scooby Doo and drove in our imaginary ghost-catcher van. I can still hear her giggles.

Lots of excitement and anticipation as these two get ready for a new baby in the house. Benjamin, no doubt, may be disappointed at first with another bundle of pink. But he will be six years old in the fall and moving on to new friends and experiences in school. I think it will be Olivia who will be more interested in the newcomer who will eventually be sharing her sister’s room. Olivia, rocking and soothing her baby dolls, will have a little sister to transfer all that little-girl affection to … after she accepts the fact that the new kid is here to stay. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.


geogirl said...

Sounds like you have a great bunch there. Not surprising with the gene pool they had to pull from!

I remember the first time I became an Aunt. Watching my brother (who had tormented me so as a child) turn into a father was both funny and amazing.

Tell the DIL to try for one more. Everyone knows the fourth child is the best. ;-)

Simon said...

"She can hold her own. This is good in a woman."

Damn straight. I have two boys (obvious to you), but the fact that they have as strong a female role model as they do in their mother makes me all sorts of happy at the prospects of their having a well-rounded and healthy upbringing.

All of my own family is 3,000 miles away, across the other side of Canada, and we don't get to see them but once every few years. Our trip east last May for 10 days was a hint of that familial unity you described so well in this post.

karina said...

All of your grandchildren are adorable, of course! :-)

So when are you going to publish the Captain Gruffyface and Razatazz books? Children around the world are waiting!

Contrary said...

Awwww. My fondest wish is for all of our kids to settle somewhere close to us so that we can watch their families grow. You're a lucky woman, Mater. And they're all lucky to have you.

By the way, thanks for stopping in to visit me and leave comments. I was, of course, mortified that the the first thing you read was full of cuss words. I hope you won't let that stop you from coming back, because Pottymouths need love too!

The Mater said...

LOL, this is the only shot of Ben and Olivia that would upload from my photo file! It was taken a while back - Olivia is now three. But it's kinda cute. No, the pig is not theirs :>)

And the blog should be a two-parter - much too long to read. Sorry, guys! I had to dress and run to work at a distant campus.

Karina, I love the idea of a children's book, along with the unfinished joint effort of me and Jenn (from when she was ten years old) called "The Kingdom of Ugly". Maybe this is where our fortune lies, eh?

Simon, you have a beautiful family and just saw the photo of Amy - I can see why you fell in love. Nice to know that she's a strong woman too :>) Isn't distance the pits?

Geo, lovely thoughts and insights, as you so often have, regarding family dynamics.

And Contrary, yes, I have now managed to find some of you WWUSLs (Women Who Use Strong Language) and read your blogs. Oh my, just like Jenn's play - I have to go with the flow! Have enjoyed many of your blogs - Deb, Debby you're included :>)

Thanks for all your support here!

velocibadgergirl said...

Definitely not too long to read! It's another beautiful entry :) (beautiful kids, too)

Odd Mix said...

My eldest is a boy and the younger three are all girls. Calb is 9 and Annelise, the youngest, is three. Annelise is the toughest of the lot and determined that she is as big as anybody.

The funny thing is that Caleb is most attached to Elisabeth, number three. And Gabriella, number two, is most attached to Annelise. They alternate.

The Mater said...

Thanks, vbg, but I have to remember that "less is more" may be the optimal blogger's slogan. I'm glad to know though that some of you really do read through my longer posts :>)

om, beautiful family - configured like my grandkids: the firstborn boy and then three girls! Love the names and the little loyalties among your munchkins. You are a rich man :>)

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