March 11, 2012

To Tulsa and back again

A note to would-be travelers: If you travel to a different time zone on the weekend Daylight Savings Time begins, you can expect your body to be doubly-confused when you return home and instead of being 8:30, it's now actually 10:30.

Just...for future reference.  

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Zoe and I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma this weekend to visit my brother, Jonathan, and his kids, Josh and Kira.  We hadn't been in over a year and a half, and we'd never traveled that far by ourselves, so it was an adventure, to say the least.  Too much to write about in a single blog post, but since I doubt many people would read me rambling on about our travels over multiple posts, I thought I'd record some memories I hope not to forget. I think it'll give you a taste of where we've been while I've been mostly radio-silent.

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Something about air travel causes my typically-shy Zoe to break completely out of her shell and befriend anyone in her path.  If you happened to travel by Delta through Atlanta this weekend, you may have seen her, talking to strangers, telling them her name, basking in their admiration of her pigtails, telling them over and over again that she is three and a half, showing off her new purple sneakers and her race cars. 

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An image: walking through a grocery store parking lot in the freezing rain, chatting with Jonathan.  In front of us went 12-year-old Kira and Zoe, holding hands and giggling. They had not seen each other since Zoe was two.  They are both tall and thin for their ages, with long, straight brown hair. From behind they, look like a matched set. 

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We took an afternoon walk through a nature reserve.  Now there were more of us (Jon's girlfriend and her daughter joined us).  The three girls, ages twelve, eight and three-and-a-half, ran up ahead, giggling and playing.  We took pictures of all three of them, standing on rocks, sitting on benches.  For a while, they were a team.

Later that afternoon, they sat together on the floor of the living room, making birthday cards for a party to which we were headed.  When Zoe couldn't figure out how to make a "J" for the name Jamie, the girls wrote it out for her so she could trace it.  Zoe was so proud to hang out with the big girls, she wrote the name again, just to prove she could.

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The birthday party started after Zoe's normal bedtime, and was at a place Jonathan referred to as "Chuck-E-Cheese on crack."  He wasn't exaggerating.

I was overwhelmed at first, and through dinner, but later Zoe and I cut loose in the game room.  She rode a merry-go-round.  We whacked aliens and alligators in the arcade. Took funny pictures in a photo booth.  Bowled. We ran around and giggled and played, schedules and routines be damned. 

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Then, later that night, in the middle of the night, I awoke to find Zoe thrashing about in the bed. I reached out to hold her hands to soothe her, and drew back from the heat emanating from them.  She was burning up with fever, miserable, unable to sleep.  

I rummaged through Jonathan's medicine cabinet looking for something, anything I could give her, but since his children are no longer small, I found only adult medicine.  

If I could bottle the feeling of lying in the bed beside my child, stroking her hot little nose soothingly while she tossed about and grew ever hotter, I would. I don't want to feel that way again, but I don't want to forget it either. It's a sad feeling, but also one flooded with love.

Finally I awoke my brother, who went out at two a.m. for medicine and a thermometer, and helped make everything ok again. 

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The following day, post-doctor-visit, fever well in-hand, Jonathan, Zoe and I hung out at his house, killing some time before heading to a soccer game. It was just the three of us.

My brother is very musical; in his dining room, there are drums, a piano, and several guitars.  

"Let's make a band," Zoe said, and we did. She banged carefully on the drums while I plucked "Baa Baa Black Sheep" on the piano, and Jon played along on his guitar.

We were terrible, but I loved it.

Later, he played and we sang "Margaritaville" in its entirety. I am tone-deaf, but Jon and I have always sung together, and we laughed as we muddled through a song about boozing it up at the beach. Zoe watched in silent, befuddled amusement.

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When we left in the morning, my nephew Joshua was still asleep in bed. He's sixteen, busy with his own life and his own friends, but he made a point of being around for much of the weekend to hang out with his baby cousin.  

I knocked on his door to say goodbye, Zoe by my side.  

"Bye, buddy," I said into the dark room.  "We love you."

"Bye," he said.

"I love you, Josh," Zoe called from behind my legs.

"I love you, Zoe," he replied.

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