Tuesday, June 19, 2007

First Family Vacation: Wednesday

We just went to Columbus, Ohio, our first trip with Jarrah since returning from China over a year ago. Why Columbus, you ask? My friend Marlene got married. We hadn't seen each other in several years. Before marriages and kids, we made an effort to meet up somewhere almost every year, and it always felt like no time had passed at all. Which is kind of weird, because I met Marlene twelve years ago at the Wyoming English Conference in Laramie, and we have never even lived in the same state. Praise the age of e-mail! At the same conference in 1995, I met her friend Teresa, who lives in a different state from both of us, and we have also been friends ever since. Teresa was at the wedding, too, and I was so psyched to see both of them.

Because I've been rather wordy, I'll post one day of the trip report each day on the blog. That way, if you have a mind to read the whole thing, you won't be overwhelmed by the length.


I have been packing for months. The image of myself trying to stifle the screams of a two-year-old at 35,000 feet weighs heavily on my mind. In addition to various snacks of delectable and non-nutritive value, I have amassed several toys and wrapped them in newspaper, the better to present them, magician-like, only in a crisis. Because Jarrah does not know we sleep (we put her to bed at night, and get her in the morning, so it's of little interest to her what we do in between) I've researched and purchased a system involving a clothesline, wooden pins, duct tape and a high thread-count sheet for rigging a Wall of Jericho (allusion to It Happened One Night) in our hotel room. I believe I am ready, but I'm still terrified.

The trip to the airport goes amazingly well, considering we are laden with 150 lbs of baggage and a device called the "Gogo Kidz" that attaches to our car seat and turns it into a stroller for airport sprints. Indeed, the flights are on time, we are allowed to pre-board, and there is relatively little need to threaten Jarrah for kicking the seat in front of her. She goes through a lot of the snacks and two movies on her brand-new portable DVD player, and though she will not nap, I'll call it a success.

In Columbus, however, we lose the time we made with our early-arriving flight by standing in line at Dollar Rent-a-Car for the better part of an hour, and then crawling along during rush hour ("Why is there traffic in Ohio?" I ask David) on the 25 mile trip from Columbus to Newark, where our hotel is. I feel strangely elated, however. We've survived two flights relatively unscathed, we'll be seeing friends very soon, the weather is glorious (whither the lashing rain and crushing humidity promised by Weather.com? We never saw it--each day but one was sunny and mild) and Jarrah makes a friend in a five-year-old boy who is also waiting with his parents at the Dollar office.

Seeing the two of them giggling and chasing each other around the gumball machines makes me understand the wonder of childhood for perhaps the first time. Here we are enduring, as we've endured so many times before, the crushing tedium and annoyance of spending the first hour of one's vacation in a dank office in a non-moving line, and Jarrah is as happy as she might be at the beach, maybe even more so. The point is, she doesn't wait for an occasion to have a good time--she seizes any opportunity, and defines it for herself without prejudice. There is something so touching and beautiful about this that I am overcome with the thrill of enlightenment myself. It lasts for at least a couple of hours. ;)

We reach Cherry Valley Lodge a little after seven, having just missed the first event on our wedding schedule, but in enough time to meet Teresa and Gina for dinner. Cherry Valley is wonderful, huge but somehow cozy, and our room overlooks a pond with ducks. I almost cry with relief when I see that the room is L-shaped, so we can push Jarrah's Pack n' Play against an interior wall and she will be unable to see us doing that mysterious thing we do when we close our eyes for long periods of time, and thus unable to stand at attention shouting "Wake-a up, Mommy Daddy!" at regular intervals. Best of all, we are made to feel so welcome by Marlene, the Bride with the Mostest, who has left us the Pack n' Play, a stroller, and a massive gift basket with snacks, toys, spa goodies and a card informing us that a) she's arranged a babysitter for two nights of our stay and b) I have a pedicure and facial scheduled for the Girls Spa Morning. Newark, Ohio is looking more and more like the best-kept secret that Travel and Leisure ever neglected to cover.

Turns out Teresa and Gina are only one exit away on Route 16 and right next to a very promising-sounding place called the Texas Roadhouse, so after a quick reunion catch-up (and their first Jarrah sighting) we head out for steak and baked potatoes amidst thousands of peanut shells on the floor. Jarrah gets the hang of that right away.

I wish I could say that we slept like precious angels and woke refreshed, but despite replicating her bedtime ritual from home, Jarrah is cranky and unsettled that first night. She wakes what seems like every fifteen minutes, crying in confusion. We are all kind of wrecked in the morning, but we don't dally because a lot of people who are already on Eastern Standard Time are waiting on us.


Anonymous said...

Sounds fabulous, especially the Texas Roadhouse... :) Sorry to hear the sleeping didn't work out too well. Looking forward to the next installment! lix

Anonymous said...

You have terrific friends!

Hopefully, Jarrah will really sleep the next night!

Best, Gail

Mary and Paul said...

I am finally catching up on your trip! I love the daily post idea!