Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Between two worlds

Some of our trips get named. There was the Hot Chocolate Tour of the Hapsburg Empire during an extremely cold December. The Spaghetti Bolognese Tour of Vietnam when Darcy and Lucas seemed to eat nothing but. And the infamous Storms and Stomach Flu Driving Tour to southern Turkey when we sensibly decided to call it quits early and just come home. As Kenny Rogers said, “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.”

We haven’t named our most recent sojourn. We aren’t even officially back yet (at least we weren't when I wrote this. Now we are back) so am I tempting fate by writing this now? For 3 ½ weeks the kids and I have been traipsing up and down the east coast. This trip was ordinary in a good way, the predictable events happening as one would expect and the surprises mostly positive. There was the flat tire on the rental but all in all, considering I was traveling alone with two children under 10, not bad. We ate too much (mmm bacon), I sometimes drank too much, tried to see everyone and do everything, and seemingly gave a year’s support to the struggling US economy in less than a month.

If there’s been any definable trait to this trip, it seems to me that we are all on the brink at the moment, one foot set in one side and another crossing over. Each of us on our own journey, each stuck in the middle.

For Lucas, the biggest trial was traveling without his dad along and having to use public restrooms. At 6 ½ he is repulsed and embarrassed at the thought of going into a women’s bathroom. I cannot express in words the strength of his conviction. This isn’t such a big deal in some spots – a restaurant, a minor league ball game. But the Newark train station? Or the airport in Rome? If you happen to read on another blog about a not-small American woman standing strangely close to the door of a men’s room, arms on her hips, a worried frown on her face and staring seriously at the door as if she could see through it, that would be me.

There were a few times where I had to insist, such as the Newark train station and the airport in Rome, and no amount of whining, angry, defiant protestations could sway me. I did my best to hustle him in without any other females seeing him. I’m not entirely sure if he was more embarrassed about them seeing him or him seeing them, but nonetheless it was hard. He’s a self-proclaimed “little big boy”. Not ready for a scary movie but ready for the sometimes scarier men’s room.

Darcy is teetering on her own edge as well. With her 11 and 13 year old cousins she was all about shopping at Claire’s for earrings and buying a cute purse, what to wear and ponytailing and reponytailing her hair every 7 ½ minutes. With her younger friend Tess she was playing house with stuffed animals. At a visit to the pediatrician, she confirmed that she is literally on the edge (discrection Jenn!), sitting in the rollercoaster as it is about ¾ of the way up the hill, starting to slow in anticipation of the huge stomach-churning drop that’s about to happen. Are we all sufficiently strapped in yet?

And me, I spent two weeks at my mom’s house watching my kids growing up on one side and my mom slowing down on the other. We cleaned out the basement, saying goodbye to stuff that needed to go. Luckily, she’s in good health, with some of the hiccups that accompany the 70s, but considering what could be, not bad. Watching other older relatives age and decline. Balancing the knowledge that time is passing while still trying not to dwell.

And the best part? I joined the legions of over-40s who benefit from progressive vision glasses. For the uninitiated, those would be bifocals. Free from the tell-tale lines that used to announce one’s declining vision from afar, bifocals have been rebranded. A marketing triumph. Progressive vision – the hip new trend. Hide them inside flashy frames and no one will be the wiser. Only you will know that you are no longer the hip chick gazing back at yourself from the photos of that kick-ass party 10 (ok, make that 20) years ago.

The crevice underneath our feet is getting wider and wider and soon we all have to make the jump.