So we are officially back from the first of our Fraulein family 2008 summer outings. Our journey to the Los Angeles area to visit Mr. Fraulein's family went really well. We were a bit nervous about how the Peanut would do on the plane, but fortunately for all concerned she handled it like a champ. The fact that she seems to have really gotten the hang of using the potty now was a huge help. In fact she handled the flight better than we did.
You've gotta love how the airline industry has reinvented itself of late. Seems like every time you fly, in coach at least, you somehow have less room. (I'm trying not to consider the possibility that I'm just getting fatter.) One thing I know for sure is at the ripe age of 39 I am not getting taller, and yet somehow my knees seem to get closer to the seat in front of me with each airplane trip. To say I'm not a tall person is an understatement. I'm 5'3. If you are much above 5'9 or so, and, God forbid, weigh more than about 150 pounds, you are in for a world of hurt on a coach flight these days. I think the people who run the airlines have a running competition to see just how little space they can cram the coach passengers in to. "I know--let's make it so you have to be only 5 feet tall and weigh less than 95 pounds to fit in our seats! Let's see how the passengers like THAT! Hahahahaha!!"
Also, the fact that you are traveling from one coast to the other does not entitle you to more than two servings of drinks. Or even to the opportunity to purchase an overpriced, stale sandwich at any point during the flight. Two tiny cups of water and no lunch or snack service, even if you are willing to pay for it. That was it. Good times. If you want to eat on the plane these days, you have to buy something ahead and take it with you, which always makes me feel vaguely like an immigrant clutching a sack of potatoes, heading for Ellis Island. And they wonder why nobody wants to fly anymore...
But aside from all that it was lovely to be in southern California and to enjoy the mystifyingly good weather. Normally at this time of year it starts to get broiling hot, but we arrived in Burbank to partly cloudy skies and 65 degree temperatures. Felt just like home. After a couple of days the sun came out but it never got much above 80, so we were able to get outside a lot with the Peanut, who thoroughly enjoyed the local playgrounds and the L.A. Zoo, where we got close-up views of koala bears and giraffes. We watched, fascinated, as a large male giraffe extended his huge neck high into the trees and curled his long black tongue around the leaves, pulling them into his mouth.
And the Peanut got to spend a lot of quality time with the Chinese side of the family, getting to know her only cousins. When she was born it made a matched set of three granddaughters and three grandsons for Mr. Fraulein's parents, but the age spread is considerable: the next youngest cousin is 11. We had a couple of big, raucous family get-togethers where she got to play hide and seek and red light, green light with the cousins, even the biggest ones, who are in college, so that was great fun for her. And of course California Nana and Pop-Pop, as they are known, were thrilled to have another "baby" to fuss over after all these years.
But by far the best part was getting to spend long, lazy days together, all three of us, with no agenda aside from soaking up every moment of the Peanut's three-and-a-half-ness. She's getting over the whiny stage she entered when she turned 3 and becoming more independent. She makes little jokes. She has strong opinions about her outfits and hairstyles. ("No, today I want LOW ponytails, Mommy!") She's largely outgrown her stroller but on long walks she travels by Daddy. (Time for a piggy-back ride!)
One night when we put her to sleep on her grandparents' guest room day-bed, after going through our usual routine of stories and songs, she sat up and looked at me. "I have a question," she said. It was a question she'd asked before.
"Why do you have to go to work?" she said.
It's always like dying a little death, hearing that question, because of course if we were independently wealthy and could devote every day to trips to the playground with her, we'd do it. But obviously there are bills to pay. So I gave her my standard answer, about how mommy and daddy love her more than anything in the world, but we have to go to work to earn money to pay for our house and our food and our clothes and our toys. And anyway, this way she gets to go to school and learn her letters and numbers and hang out with her cute little friends. She nods solemnly, considering this.
And as I look at her in the waning sunlight filtering through the blinds, I realize that I would give almost anything to capture this moment in amber, to keep her this tiny for as long as I possibly could.
I know her growing up will be amazing. It certainly has been so far. But how lovely, how like a shimmering, dazzling work of art, lit from within, she is at this moment.