Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Account of Our Trip to Maryland, the Land of Mary

Let me start off by staying that I am not personally happy about how long it takes a minivan to trek on over to Maryland, the land of my sister, Mary. It takes eight hours.

I am, however, generally happy that at least the ride is visually interesting. The majority of the drive is along route 15, which goes through the heart of Pennsylvania, land of gems such as the Little League Hall of Fame, Reptileland, the Taco Bell all you can eat buffet, and at least ten porn shops in trashy, dilapidated buildings. About a mile away from a Show World, I saw a life-sized cutout of Jesus with his thumb out. The sign said, “Going my way?”

The drive down and back went surprisingly without incident, if you disregard John’s complete indifference to my very cold feet. Things also would have gone better if he would just acknowledge the fact that I am The Very Best Driver in the Entire World and would stop telling me when to change lanes and when to “stop.” The Very Best Driver in the Entire World will stop whenever she feels like stopping, stop sign or no stop sign. It’s one of the perks of being The Very Best Driver in the Entire World.

We went to Lusby, Maryland to visit my sister and her brood, which includes my brother-in-law Nathan and their two children, Adam and Margot. (They are… Lusbians.) They live right by the Chesapeake Bay, about an hour from both Washington D.C. and Baltimore.

We did not take the twins. We are not masochists. We left them with my long-suffering mother for the majority of our stay. I missed them.

We stayed for three days, just the right amount of time, I think. As John says, visitors are like fish: keep them for more than three days, and they start to stink. We left just as we were starting to stink.

Margot and Caleb are only five months apart in age. Adam and Ben are less than a week apart. Margot and Caleb have a special bond. We arrived in Lusby right before Margot got off the school bus in the afternoon. Caleb walked to meet her at the bus stop and they literally ran into each other’s arms. It was like the final scene in “The Bodyguard.” We just needed a Whitney Houston soundtrack to evoke the sort of emotion that draws spectators to wipe their eyes.

On Saturday, we took the children into Washington D.C. We drove into the city, parked the minivan, and took the Metro to the mall, where we would walk to the Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum.
Waiting for the train.

The trip into D.C. was informative. We now know that our children are epic failures in an urban environment. Simple life-saving techniques that one needs to abide by to survive in the city were ultimately dismissed by our dingbat children.

Walking quickly across the crosswalk: FAIL
Walking in a straight line: FAIL
Keeping an appropriate distance from the Metro rails: FAIL
Basic escalator skills: FAIL
Basic water fountain skills: FAIL
Not touching the pigeons: FAIL

I’m not sure how many children a year are sucked into escalators, but I’m going to bet that the statistics are alarmingly high. It almost happened to Ben. He tripped and fell and was about to be sucked in when a large, brawny black man swooped in, picked up my puny, lily-white son like he weighed nothing, and placed him safely in my arms at the top of the escalator. The man then vanished into the late-afternoon air.

I think he was a superhero.

The day was perfect. It was sunny and just cool enough and the mall wasn’t as crowded as I expected it to be on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. We took the kids to visit the dinosaurs first. We saw ancient fossils, giant squid, a movie about plate tectonics, and lots of parents who were yelling the same thing we were yelling, which was basically, “You will stop complaining and you will ENJOY THIS or we will never do ANYTHING fun EVER EVER again.”

The Air and Space Museum was so cool. The space exhibits seemed to be the most popular among our four and everyone liked touring the spaceship and seeing interesting stuff like where astronauts ate their food, exercised, and of course, where they went to the potty.

Caleb is obsessed with black holes. He draws them incessantly, asks questions about them that I can’t possibly answer, and stares for long periods of time at pictures of them in his space book. There was a half hour movie about black holes playing at the Air and Space Museum. It was 8.75 a ticket. We did not go. Should we have gone? I repeat, it was 8.75 a ticket.

One of the great mysteries of the young child is how he or she can run in circles for hours around the house but is seemingly exhausted by but a half mile ramble outdoors or in a museum. Needless to say, the “worn out” children were quickly ready for their Metro ride home.

Nathan, like me, is a liar. He told the children to be sure and look out the windows of the train for the “cave people,” those primitive peoples who live within the subway tunnels and stare at the trains as they thunder by.

This is an excellent story. It accomplishes two things. 1) It keeps the imagination alive and 2) It keeps the children occupied while looking out the window and therefore, quiet. Silence, as we all know, is golden. Especially after spending several hours in museums.

On Sunday, we went to church where Nate and Mary lead the worship team. I don’t think I gushed enough about how awesome they were when we were there. They were so awesome. My sister has a voice that puts Celine Dion to shame. Really. And Nathan is exceptionally talented. It was the most professional sounding worship team I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.

After church, Mary and I took the kids to the park while Nathan and John went on a particular “shopping excursion” to purchase stuff to help John become even more “prepared” should he ever come face to face with “bad guys.”

We drove back early yesterday morning. We left a sobbing Margot, who actually really, really likes us, behind. It just about broke my heart.

In the car, Caleb annoyingly peppered us with all sorts of questions. Why are there mountains in Pennsylvania? Why does New York look the same as Pennsylvania? If you went in a black hole, would you be dead right away? Are mummies real?

“Yes there are really mummies,” I told him.

We had allowed the children to watch “Night at the Museum” after our excursion to D.C. I saw concern in Caleb’s eyes.

“But mummies don’t come to life like they did in that movie,” I added. He looked poised to ask another question. I beat him to the punch and continued, “Well, mostly they don’t.” He shut up for a little while and let that “fact” percolate in his brain for a bit.

On our way, we stopped at the massive Bass Pro Shop in Pennsylvania where John bought me the gift of pepper spray. Rapists beware! I am armed. Probably not ready, but armed.

I puked in the bathroom of the Bass Pro Shop because I was carsick. Below is a map that pinpoints all of the parts of the world I have puked in thus far. It’s good to keep records of things, I think.

We were reunited with the twins who seemed happy to see us. I smelled their heads because that’s what I do when I’ve been separated from my children for any length of time. Smelling their heads soothes me.

We are home for the long-run, now. I don’t see any more trips in our future for a while. Just weekends of Sabres games and Bills games and Holly going slowly maaaad. The usual late fall routine.

Additional pics from the trip:

Nate took this cool pic in the sculpture garden. In fact, most of the good pics in this post were taken by Nate.

We watched the movie on plate tectonics here. A woman came out, dressed in simple robes, and announced that several men had died to bring us the information presented. It was quite sad.


Woodswoman Extraordinaire: said...

Awesome post - I howled through most of it. My particular favorites are "visitors are like fish: keep them for more than three days, and they start to stink" and the "cave people" in the Metro!

Holly said...

About the cave people. My niece Margot reported she spotted six. Caleb was extremely disappointed because he did not see any. And therein lies the difference between my free-spirited niece and my literal-minded son!

EcoMeg said...

Holly, you are such a hoot! Loved this post.

The Editor said...

John's just full of pithy sayings, isn't he? I thought he was going to D.C. to join one of those "TEA Party" protests. I assume he was well-armed.