The thing about blogging is that when you miss a week or two it’s hard to figure out how to ease your way back in. We’ve been gone for 16 days, arrived home late Sunday night.
(We weren’t supposed to arrive home “late” Sunday night, but that’s what happens when circumstances that are all largely within your control collude so that you miss your first scheduled flight and end up on the 8:10 PM version thereof, oddly grateful that the stern woman behind the desk at the airline finally agreed to waive the $600 change fee when you whined and complained and begged and cajoled the way you might if you were, say, eight years old and your parents had just taken away all your screen time for the day for making some poor behavioural choices. That’s what happens — and thank God for the near-to-the-airport friends on whom we descended after a volley of desperate texting to hang out for our newly unscheduled afternoon, and who fed us dinner and plied us with chocolate and tea and Manhattans, and set up our kids in front of their television. All in all an entirely pleasant way to spend an afternoon, other circumstances aside.)
But. We arrived home late Sunday night after 16 days away, in Toronto and in Florida, and it feels somehow disingenuous to jump right in to the present moment and gloss over those days, as though I am supposed to provide a “what I did on my winter vacation” summary for you all. At the same time, the idea of providing such a summary — not that anyone has asked me to — seems as tedious and unappealing as I imagine it must be for the many schoolchildren being asked to perform that precise task right now.
Memory is a funny thing — what did we do and did we have a good time? We did so many things: played tourist in Toronto with visits to the CN Tower, Casa Loma, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Science Centre. We saw movies, visited with friends and family, had Christmas dinner with my cousin and her family at Lee Garden on Spadina (“Was it worth the wait?” I later asked my kids about the trade-off of standing in line for an hour versus the food — oh god the food — and the camaraderie. “Yes,” said Rowan, unequivocally. Isaac, who nearly fell asleep in Rachel’s lap after copious bowls of wonton soup, was less sure: “I like the restaurant where you get your food right away,” he said, in reference to the buffet his grandparents took them to in Florida, where there were hotdogs and matzah ball soup and shrimp and ice cream for the taking, no lineup required.) (Also: “Were we this terrible?” I asked my cousin, as our collective five children shoved and pinched and bickered and kicked at each other on the sidewalk as we waited. “We were worse,” she assured me. And I think she might’ve been right.)
(Also: Of course, my children, like countless generations of children before them and countless generations of children to come, laughed and laughed at the name “Spadina.” “Like vagina, Mom,” Isaac told me, “like, on a girl’s body!” Just, you know, in case I might not have known where to look.)
In Florida, we played by the pool and mini-golfed and built sand castles. My dad took Rowan to the driving range and both kids picked up tennis racquets for the first time. We saw different sets of cousins, met new babies and new boyfriends, saw old friends and new movies. We ate ice cream and went to the zoo and played solitaire and Pokémon (some things you don’t get a break from) and took advantage of grandparental babysitting and generally managed quite well, even in the absence of the notable breaks provided by school and day care.
This list is not exhaustive.
Memory is such a funny thing: What did we do and we have a good time? We sat around the swimming pool late one afternoon in Florida, after some glorious outing or other that had been bracketed by children who resisted going and then resisted leaving (this is an ongoing theme, apparently…). And we were feeling, perhaps, tired. Put upon. The kids were being loud, making fart jokes and living on the razor’s edge between torment and pleasure in each other’s company. We were trying to let them be kids take to the extent that we could, always cognizant of the few other people around the pool with us — in this case, a man and a woman who must’ve been in their 70s, give or take.
Having anyone watch you as you parent can be stressful, but having people my parents’ age watch me parent is its own kind of stressful. You know? You know. But these people were fine, were lovely. The man in particular watched my kids and their antics with a grin on his face.
“You’re lucky,” he said to me and Rachel in passing.
And we both paused for a moment, and then, just like that, we were. Lucky.
The man went back to his condo after a while, and his wife packed up her towel shortly afterwards. And I debated with myself for half a second before getting up to speak with her before she disappeared.
“I just wanted to ask you to thank your husband for what he said to us,” I told her. “You know when you have those days or moments when maybe you’re not feeling so lucky? And then you realize you are?”
She smiled at me, quite seriously. “I’ll tell him,” she told me.
And then she asked The Question: “So, whose is whose?”
And I said, “Oh, they’re both ours. We’re partners, and they’re our kids.”
“Oh!” The smile that broke across her face was dazzling, wiping away any trace of seriousness. “That’s wonderful!”
And, in that moment, it was.