The Daily Star
---- — Up until today, our family vacation has gone much better than expected. Today, however, was a high entropy day.
But first, the good: My husband’s sister has lived in Seattle for 15 years. This year was the first that the planets aligned enough for us to fly out West for a visit.
Don’t worry, it hasn’t been 15 years since we’ve seen her. She often comes East for the holidays. It’s just hard to have enough money and time for four people to travel so far.
The flights out were good, if long. On one leg, the Boy and I sat next to a deadheading pilot, who told us all about why planes make various noises, why our ears pop, and how the landing gear works. That’s the same leg where I realized that the Boy now talks continuously when he doesn’t have much else to do.
Near the end of the flight, the pilot next to us commented that the Boy seemed like a detail-oriented kid, which was, perhaps, the kindest description he could have pasted on the child who spent two hours asking questions.
Even before we left, one of his constant questions has been “What time is it?” He re-doubled the frequency of this one while we were in transit. The best purchase I might have made in Seattle is a $7 bright orange watch I picked up at Goodwill on our first full day here. He loves it so much that he’s been sleeping with it.
The time change has messed with us all but the Boy is fascinated by the idea that it can be 5 o’clock in one place and 8 o’clock in another. “What do you think the cats are doing now?” he’ll ask. “Sleeping,” I reply, because that’s always the right answer.
Sleep has been hard to come by during the last few days. We’ve sacrificed it in order to cram in as much Pacific Northwest as we can, because one never knows if the stars will re-align. We’ve gone to Pike’s Place Market to watch them throw fish. We’ve gone to the Pinball Museum, where we discovered that the Diva has a knack for the game. We’ve eaten exotic (and deeply satisfying) Chinese noodles in the International District. We’ve driven to Tacoma to visit the Museum of Glass, which is lovely but a shadow of what’s in Corning.
Still on the docket is a hike up and around Mount Ranier, whose presence has been a staple of the view. People here talk about the mountain like it’s a gopher. “Ranier’s out today,” they say. Or, “Ranier’s in.”
Given that we planned to be here during one of the few times during the year that there isn’t a perma-drizzle, Ranier has been out most of the time. The weather has been glorious, especially down by Puget Sound or Lake Washington, where my husband and I quickly squeezed in a vacation run, which is one of my favorite types of runs because the scenery is new.
We’ve been darn lucky with it all. And then today.
No one woke up bright-eyed or bushy-tailed. We almost missed our intended ferry to Bainbridge Island because of a forgotten phone (and the name of the forgetter will remain cloaked in mystery). The Boy wanted nothing to do with standing on deck out in the open and pitched a fit. A gloom settled in, despite the bright day.
The kids kept antagonizing each other; then bickering over who started it. We tromped around the Suquamish Museum and paid our respects at Chief Seattle’s grave. No one’s heart seemed in it. We took them to an awesome playground, where they just sat on a concrete whale’s tale and refused to romp.
But I was the one responsible for the penultimate straw. I opened my car door just as a lovely older man pulled into the space next to us. Our rental car was fine, more or less. His month-old hybrid wasn’t.
The insurance swap was perfectly civil. We chatted about where we live in New York; he told me about his kids. The pall had been cast, however.
The grown-ups were grouchy. Then the kids responded by kicking the bickering up to 11. Everyone survived the ferry ride back — but it was a near thing.
The kicker, however, was that the Boy’s watch stopped working halfway across the Sound.
I don’t hold Seattle responsible, however. It was totally our fault for trying leaving the house when all signs pointed to “stay in and drink coffee all day.”
Tomorrow, however, we’ll give it another try.
Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of “Sweater Quest.” Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/parentingimperfect.