But over Labor Day weekend, the stars aligned. My dad's sister came into D.C. from the Pacific Northwest for a work conference. My aunt and uncle, who live an hour out of the city, decided to drive in to see her. Not wanting to feel excluded, their sister, who lives in the Midwest, decided to drive down. Then we all drove down to the beach, where my parents and extended family live, as one big wagon train of folks and fun. So much of my family--mom's side and dad's--all in one place. It was heaven.
The visit was perfectly timed. Not only because the weather was perfect, or that we could all say goodbye to summer together, or that there were no hurricanes or earthquakes, but because, selfishly, I wanted to show off my child at her best. And Lulu is just a peach at this stage of her development. She's little enough still to be squishy and cuddly, a perfect helpless smoosh of baby who just wants to be held and cuddled. But she's old enough now to be fun. She smiles and coos and jabbers and leans over toward people when she likes someone and wants them to hold her up, the first compliment she's ever been able to give. She laughs at everybody's jokes. She's obliging that way. I loved being able to see my family interact with her. And I loved seeing her interact with them.
She was very popular, as you can see.
There were so many wonder moments for me in this weekend visit. Seeing Lulu with her cousin, Kay, who's eleven and the most awesome kid. That was one. They already love each other so much. Kay is an only child, and after the difficult pregnancy I had, there's a very real chance that Lulu might be, too. I worry about that, about her possibly lacking the kind of bond that I have with my own sister. But Kay calls Lulu "Sissy," the way my sister does with me. "She's my sister," is how Kay introduces Lulu to people. "My sister of the heart," she says.
A quick kiss isn't just a kiss, then, you see. It's a sweet little moment between sisters. It's the start of a lifelong friendship.
Seeing Lulu with my Aunt Judy, who is young and cool and who I always have looked up to--I like to think that I was the Lulu to her Kay. She has two great, creative, funny, passionate, super-smart kids, a wicked sense of humor, an adventurous spirit and is pretty much my role model for all things parenting, if not all things in general. I don't get to see her often, and when I do, I want to get her opinion on everything, to talk things over, to study her and learn about how to do the things she's done. During this visit, I found myself watching her with Lulu, watching so intently, to see how to do it, to make sure that I do things the right way.
There was one picture I took, of Lulu and her Mammaw, my mom, that reminded me so much of a picture of me and my own Mammaw, one that is creased and a little worn from being carried to every law school final, so that I could have her smile there with me for support, urging me on.
I love the thought that one day she'll take this picture with her to her first surgery or when she plays for the first time at Carnegie Hall or to clown college for her make-it-or-break-it juggling final. We're setting the bar high for her, obviously.) I know Lulu's not really laying down memories yet, but until she can, I'll keep them for her.
On our last day in town, we caught up with some old friends--both mine and Lulu's. Mike is my oldest friend in the world--I met him the first day of kindergarten, twenty-six years ago this month. We went all through school together, elementary and middle and high school, where we met Sarah, and Erin, who became Mike's wife. Almost a year ago exactly we all found out that we were having babies, and that we were due exactly one week after another, like stairsteps. Of course life is full of ups and downs, and we ended up, thanks to prematurity and going over due, missing our due dates by a mile. But our kids are still like stairsteps: Lulu was born in March, Erin and Mike's little boy in April, and Sarah's in May, a week or two later than expected. Whenever J.D. and I are in town, we like to catch up with our friends and favorite little fledgling families.
As you can see from the photo, the kids don't seem to take too much notice of each other right now. But I know that they'll be fast friends someday. And I love it so hard, the symmetry of it: my oldest friend's kid being my kid's oldest friend. I love that Lulu has friends, already, even if she doesn't have, you know, fine motor skills and control of her bladder. Friends are far more important than those things, anyway. Right?
By the time we left, Monday evening, I was fighting allergies and sunburn, nursing an ear infection, worrying about work. I was also about ready to kill all of these people I love so dearly, as my sleep-deprived child wailed for the third day straight for her nap and was denied it by all of the people who wanted to play with her and love on her. I just wanted to go home and go to sleep, but we had a four-hour drive ahead of us, made even longer by the myriad stops I knew we would have to take to soothe our screaming infant. My mother and I started World War III as we packed the car over whether or not the baby would succumb to overheating and fry like an egg if I made her wear SOCKS on the long ride home.
"Why the shit do I put up with them?" I asked J.D., as we drove northward, homeward. It was finally quiet--except for Lulu grizzling and the ringing that had started up in my sinus-goop-logged ear. "They're so crazy. They're all insane."
"Yeah," he said. "They are. But they're worth it."
And I didn't say so--it would only encourage him!--but he's right, you know.