Wednesday, August 12, 2009

enter stage east: the mile high city

Denver. Different than I expected.

Part One.
Part Two.
Part Three.

It's hard to imagine what it would be like, growing up with just
your dad as company. I had an older sister and an older brother and, by extension, their friends; and when the Little Brother came along I was never lacking for companionship. Our house was noisy. It was busy. It was full. Stacie laughs that it was her second home. I don't think my parents minded all the extra bodies around, especially because Winston grew up in a large family himself.

But Matt... it was just him and Buddy, Buddy and him. They tell me that they raised each other, that they are the best of friends. You can see that when you spend even the smallest amount of time with them. But because it was just the two of them, they have taken immense comfort in their extended family. Although Connie came from a small family and doesn't have many relatives left alive today, Buddy had two brothers and three sisters. They, in turn, each had a number
of children; children who have also had (and are having) children - pushing the family numbers up into the hundreds. They are close to each other. They visit each other. They share their burdens, their joys, their sadness. They also share a recurring family reunion every few years.

Enter the newly discovered Whimsy and her pixie girl-child and her hilarious (and good-looking) husband. Invitations were issued. The date was set for July. Somewhere up in the mountains outside of Denver.


Here's the thing: it felt like a Pilgrimage to understand some deeper part o
f me. I knew that I needed to do it, I needed to go. But that didn't change how terrified I was about the trip. I'm not good with change. I'm not good with different. I'm not good with "roughing it". I'm not good with going with the flow. I knew this trip would be all about that, especially as plans started to solidify and I realized just how little control I would have over my surroundings. Even in the best circumstances, surrounded by people I know and trust, I can get a little... shall we say high strung when things get hairy. The Whimsy is many things, many good things, I know that. But the Whimsy is not an easy-going traveler. You'll see what I mean.

Whimsy does NOT like to run through the airport.

As we started to work out the details of the Denver Pilgrimage, the
plan of flying into Denver, driving up to the reunion, and then heading home soon became more of an Epic (with a capital E) Journey (with a capital J). Buddy grew up on a farm in Fort Morgan, Colorado--- it's about two hours outside of Denver, and his brother Bill now owns that farm. Although the farmhouse and all the buildings on the property have changed, it's still the family homestead, of sorts, and if I was going to be anywhere near Colorado, Buddy really wanted us to visit that farm. On top of that, I've never been to Denver, and although I am a huge old Fussy Pants about stuff, I'm also not one to want to lose out on an opportunity to see somewhere new (if I can plan, plan, plan for it always and of course). So we added "see Denver" on to the To Do list.

When the dust finally settled and we were headed to Seatac Airport, our final itinerary was organized (in my mind) like this: Part One- See Denver for two days; Part Two- See the Family Farm; Part Three- **gulp**Family Reunion. It was already enough to put my Ultra Extreme Wigged Out Whimsy on alert. Chip handled it well.

Setting: Master bedroom; the night before the Whimsy Family leaves for Epic Journey; Chip and Whimsy are lying in bed.
Whimsy: Chip?
Chip: Yeah?
Whimsy: What time does our plane leave again?
Chip: 3:45pm.
Whimsy: So we should leave the house at 1pm, right?
Chip: Well, that's a little early. If we leave at 2pm we'll be fine.
Whimsy: (sits up and looks sternly at Chip) What? What about traffic? Acts of nature?! I don't want to be running through the airport! I HATE that.

Chip: There won't be any traffic. Trust me. And really, we could leave at 2:30 and we'd still be fine!
Whimsy: Do you want me to have a HEART ATTACK? I'm having anxiety even TALKING about leaving that late. What time did you tell your mom to be here to pick us up?

Chip: 1pm.
Whimsy: (STARES)
Chip: It's going to be just fine!
Whimsy: Can't we PLEASE just leave at 1pm, as soon as your mom gets here? PLEASE????
Chip: (STARES)
Whimsy: (STARES)
Chip: (sighs)

As it turns out, we had to move some cars around before we left the house, one of the car batteries was dead, and there was a General Overall Rushed Thing that happened with lots and lots of SIGHING from me. We left the house at 2pm.

And it was more than fine because naturally, our plane was late.

We boarded the full plane at 4:30pm. And then didn't take off for another thirty minutes because there had been some kind of "engine malfunction" (always promising) and they had to track down the mechanic who had fixed the part because they needed
his signature for the log book. Note to airlines: if there is something wrong with the plane and then you fix it, delaying the boarding process for forty-five minutes; and then once you finally have everyone on board all psyched up ready to take off, don't announce that you have to find someone for a signature --- a process which takes no less than ANOTHER HALF HOUR --- because you will look incompetent. And silly. And you will force Whimsy and Chip to imagine that the mechanic was taking a very long lunch at Burger King and was NOT answering the many, many pages over the loudspeaker.

Alice did not nap during any of this time.

She also did not nap on the plane.

We finally took off at 5pm and got into Denver at 8pm, local time. We w
ere very tired. Alice was very tired. I wanted nothing more than to quickly pick up our luggage (hilarious!) and to get to the hotel (even more hilarious!). Instead, we met up with Buddy, waited a very long time for our luggage, walked to Buddy's car (he had driven to Colorado from New Mexico), proceeded to wrestle with installing our ginormous car seat in Buddy's car, watched Chip sweat in the Denver heat, felt myself sweat through my t-shirt, tried to keep Alice happy and content (IMPOSSIBLE), struggled to get our luggage into Buddy's car along with the other car seat he'd brought for Matt and Ana's baby Emilie (who would be flying in to Denver in four days), then tried to get OURSELVES into the car with all the luggage on top of laps and between feet and finally finally we left for the hotel farewell and amen.

Going forward, I have officially declared the afternoon and evening hours to be OFF LIMITS for Whimsy and Alice flight times. We do not respond well. There was crankiness from the female contingent is what I'm trying to say. In fact, I think I kicked the back of Chip's chair about 437 times as if to WILL the car to get to the hotel faster. The menfolk, on the other hand, handled it just fine.

So fine, in fact, that Chip worked his SUPER DIAMOND ULTRA SLEEK UNOBTAINIUM LEVEL HILTON REWARDS status and got us upgraded to a suite. For no extra charge, which, because we were staying on his Hilton points anyway, translates to free. This is where I
apologize to Chip for my non-stop teasing and ribbing about his Hilton Rewards Level fixation. The dude's hard work paid off and I benefited. As did Alice and Buddy. We ate Doubletree chocolate chip cookies for two days in some kind of crazy executive boardroom suite thing with two bathrooms. The amenity toiletry freebies included a REAL SEWING KIT WITH TEENY TINY ACTUAL SCISSORS, PEOPLE. It was awesome.

Whimsy is NOT a geographer.

I don't know what I was thinking, exactly, but I had imagined Denver as a WESTERN town; as in, a West Coastie town. I was thinking Rocky Mountain town. A mountainous city. I was thinking Salt Lake City, with cowboy hats.

It's wild, you guys, and this is going to BLOW YOUR MINDS - but Denver? It's at the end of the Great Plains. It's flat. Crazy, right? Can you believe that stuff? IT'S TOTALLY FLAT. Can you believe that I DIDN'T KNOW THIS STUFF? Stuff I also didn't know: Denver is on the east side of the Rockies. I had NO IDEA. I was thinking it was somehow magically nestled on the west side of the Rockies.

In other words: I haven't looked at a map in a long while. Good thing that Chip wa
s unfazed by my total and complete lack of geography. The next morning, I kept marveling about how Denver was nothing like I had pictured. (Clearly it would be that way since I HAD THOUGHT THE CITY WAS IN AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT AREA OF THE COUNTRY.)

Whimsy does NOT do hot weather.

There's a reason I live in the northwest. It has nothing to do with the sports attractions. I love the temperate weather. I love that it rarely gets above 85-degrees in the summer. I don't mind the fact that we don't have an air conditioner, but boy oh boy it would be gladly welcomed for about a week every summer.

I believe that hotels and cars are equipped with air conditioning for a reason, and that reason is FOR US TO USE. So when I'm out, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm using the A/C. I try to aim for just-under-frigid.

Chip, on the other hand, HATES the A/C. In many cases, it gives him a sore throat. He would also tell you that it gives him typhoid, the plague, and small pox rolled in to one. Or, at least it did on this trip. See, I feel it's my moral duty to turn on the A/C. So that's what I did, in every room, each time we tumbled into the car - here's Whimsy putting on the A/C, or demanding that we turn on the A/C, or asking WHERE'S THE A/C?

By the morning of the second day, Chip's sore throat was in full swing and I was completely oblivious.

Whimsy does NOT negotiate the baby's nap.

But getting back to our first day... our plan for our first full day in Denver was to sight-see. My definition of "sight-see" has dwindled somewhat. It used to mean "the seeing of sights to start in the mo
rning and last the whole day through, complete with eating at local restaurants and walking until your feet want to fall off". With the addition of Baby, it now means "see some stuff... could be indigenous to the local area, but might not, must include local shopping mecca known as 'TARGET' to pick up random baby items that were forgotten at home as well as food stuffs to give the baby for duration of trip or until food stuffs run out and more needs to be procured-- the sight-seeing trip should try to fit in as much as possible before baby's nap or schedule should be arranged to allow baby to nap in car for good long while". Easy, right?

Here's the thing, and I'm quite serious about it. When Chip first discussed his new all-travel-all-the-time job a year ago, we talked about the possibility, the hope, that Alice and I would travel with him. I agreed to do it on one condition: to give Alice as much
consistency as possible. Alice is not a by-the-book kid. Where I'm fussy pants and picky, she's easy going. Where I'm uptight and freaked out, she's just fine doing her thing. Where I'm worried about how things are going to work, when they're going to work, and HOW MUCH they're going to work, Alice is all LA LA LA I'M PERFECTLY HAPPY THANKYOUVERYMUCH. I do think a lot of this has to do with her nature. She has a lot of Chip in her - and he's an easy-going guy. But. But but but, I also think that Alice is okay with lots of upheaval because I've declared her sleeping routine to be SACRED. She can sleep in the bathroom, in closets, in the back corners of hotel rooms and laundry rooms - she can eat breakfast in one town and lunch in another and hardly bat an eyelash. She rolls with the punches because she knows deep down that she can always count on us for consistency in her routine. We can change the place, but she knows that she'll get a bath around 7pm. We can change the state, but she knows she's going to get jammies and a story. We can change everything about where and under what conditions we're putting her to bed - but we do these things the same, every night. I know that some people close to me (not Chip) have rolled their eyes at my insistence to do it this way, but in this one thing I know, Chip and I know, we've done it right. We made a promise to Alice and we've kept it, to the best of our ability.

Going in to it, I knew this whole Denver Pilgrimage thing was going to be hard to keep some of Alice's routines. I first tried to divest myself from some of my Routine Expectations - hoping to tone down the fussy pants just a wee bit (ha ha HA). Then I did my level best to keep my promise to Alice, all the while making things CHALLENGING AT BEST for our dear Chip.

Poor Chip. The dude absorbed every one of my sighs, every one of my eye rolls, every one of my ARE YOU REALLY SURE WE NEED TO DO THIS THING RIGHT NOW questions. I sh
ould just say this and be done with it: Chip, thank you for loving me. I'm a freak. So this time? That we spent in Denver? Was mostly about us racing around town to find a Target to pick up some stuff we'd accidentally left at home. Buddy and I had a nice time perusing the diaper aisle while Chip was on the phone with a client.

I freaked out a lot about getting Alice some good sleep.

Alice did this:

Yes, that would be my daughter ASLEEP WITH A PRETZEL STICKING OUT OF HER MOUTH. We called an early day and headed back to the hotel. We never saw downtown Denver. We never ate anywhere local (unless you count A&W Burger, and I don't think it's possible to count it). But you know what? I wasn't disappointed. I was happy to head back to our fantastic hotel room.

Whimsy does NOT miss The Best that Denver Has to Offer.

But I did capture this dude on film:

That's him posing for me. We were stopped at a light and he was doing roadwork. At first he was doing this flexy muscle thing. But when I finally got the camera ready, he did this muscle pose instead. His wife is a lucky woman.

Whimsy does NOT do abbreviated.

Though I'm going to try, because I'm ending part one of Denver Pilgrimage here. Besides the fact that it's late and I'm tired - I'm also recovering from some sort of stomach flu fly-by that took both me and Alice into a brief black hole.

What I didn't tell you about: watching Alice tumble around the hotel room as she visited with Buddy and did her level best to charm him; a very sweet conversation Buddy and I had about Connie as we sat together in the hotel room, the Denver sun streaming through the windows; and a thrillingly terrible few moments at breakfast on Friday morning when, as a joke, Buddy TOOK OUT HIS FALSE TEETH and dearest Whimsy freaked out so much she had to excuse herself to go stand in a women's bathroom stall for nearly ten minutes (he still feels bad about it, but I wish he wouldn't - it makes for a GREAT story).

When we pick up the story tomorrow you're going to hear about some more things that Whimsy does NOT do. Farm things. Hunter-y things. Nurse-maid things. Also, Whimsy meets some extended family and tells them stories about how her husband is a germ fanatic who is terrified of spiders in order to make them laugh.


donna said...

I am the same way about my daughter's sleep. At least I was until recently. Now that she's a bit older she can handle going to bed a bit later if something special is going on, but for the most part, bath is at 7 and bed is by 8.

It drives some people crazy but I think it's why we have a good sleeper.

M said...

Dude, I think you're awesome. And that's our job, as mothers. We protect what can be protected--sleep, routine, nutrition, patterns. We can't keep them from all harm, but we can protect them from that much disruption.

Oh, please oh please tell me about the conversation with Buddy about Connie. But only if you want to...I'm brimming with curiosity and missing you horribly.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

I think you and I could travel together JUST FINE. (Uh, not that you were lying awake at night wondering that or anything...)

Oh and don't abbreviate on our accounts. The details, and how you unfurl them, make for great reading!

Eleanor Q. said...

Come 1pm Fussbot is napping come hell or highwater. I don't do airport racing either. Makes you all sweaty what with the luggage and carseat and oh, BABY.

I'm loving this series. Don't shorten the story on our behalf.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Donna - we've always tried to be really consistent with naptime/bathtime/bedtime no matter what and I credit that with why she's been a good sleeper.

We also end up having to visit Target no matter where we travel. Sigh.

I've been thru Ft. Morgan! My grandfather is a rancher in Eastern CO/nearly Nebraska in a wee tiny town called Peetz. We're practically kin now, you and me!!

Amanda said...

I am also very fussy and nervous about travel. It is not enjoyable to me AT ALL (unless I am alone).