Thursday, September 6, 2012

Grandma's House

Not actually Grandma's House. Just the playhouse.

I got home from the BlogHer conference in New York on a Monday at 4:30 a.m., after the third-worst domestic air-travel debacle I've ever experienced.  On Tuesday I got a facial and a haircut.  On Wednesday the whole family went to LA for the day (about which more later) and returned in time to dump the kids into bed.   On Thursday I replaced a bunch of windows in my friends' house.  Then on Friday, we headed back up to LA to catch our flight to my parents' home in Central Oregon.  (It's much cheaper to get there from LA than from San Diego.)

Since I was still suffering PTSD from my recent travel nightmare, it didn't surprise me much when we were told at the United gate that our flight had been delayed indefinitely.  I had begun to regard airports and planes as Kafkaesque mindfucks and medieval torture chambers, respectively.  So of course we would have to wander around from terminal to terminal, being shunted from one agent to another, as our children tried to ride our luggage and screech louder than the din of discontent that filled LAX.

While standing in a 100-person-deep line for customer service, my wife and I spoke to three different agents on our cell phones.  One suggested that I call the airport in San Francisco, where we were supposed to make our connection, and ask if they would hold the plane for us, which I did, and to which the agent in San Francisco responded by asking if I had lost my mind.  The Indian fellow my wife was speaking to recommended taking a taxi from LA to San Francisco, to which she responded by asking him if he had lost his mind (I try to be open-minded about outsourced customer service, but this clearly demonstrated the shortcomings of the enterprise).  It didn't look like we would make it to Oregon that night.

But the third guy, a Texan, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, managed to re-route us through Denver, on a flight that was boarding immediately.

I felt like a SWAT team leader getting instructions through an earpiece as the agent fed me intel over the phone: "GATE B8...GATE B8...NO, IT JUST CHANGED...B16! DO YOU COPY?  BOARDING PASSES WILL BE WAITING FOR YOU!  MOVE MOVE MOVE!!!"


Turns out both the girls had just dropped deuces in their diapers.  I know.  I need to work on the potty training.


We got to Oregon, landing about three hours later than we had planned, without our luggage, and that seemed...not so bad to me.  Could've been much worse.  Thank Little Baby Jebus, the kids love airports and airplanes.  We had packed some distractions for them--new books, new games for the iPad, toys--but we didn't even need them.  They were fine sprinting on the airports' moving sidewalks and thumbing through the SkyMall catalogs on the planes.

Once my dad picked us up at the airport, everything about our vacation was exactly what I had hoped it would be.  (Except that the kids didn't take to their sleeping arrangements very well, and required the presence of their mom or dad before they would even consider going to sleep.  Aside from that, it was perfect.)

The occasion for this visit, other than the fact that we haven't been to my parents' house since the kids were born, was a family reunion for my mom's side of the family, and a tribute to its beloved matriarch, my mom's mom, known as "Granny Goose," who passed away almost twenty years ago.

So we we spent some time with my cousins and their many, many children (my dad referred to that branch of the family as "profligate" in a toast), which was a blast.  I was once again impressed with how civilized we all are, in that, even though there are clear Red State/Blue State divisions between branches of our family (which have nothing to do with geography),  our mutual affection allows us to actually talk about politics and religion at dinner without anyone storming out.

For an entire week, we did little else but hang out with family and play in the local woods.   There aren't many big trees in San Diego, and no rivers that you would care to stick your feet in; so the Deschutes National Forest was like another planet to our kids.  A super-fun planet full of tall grass, cold, clear water, and doting grandparents.

And that was the very best part.  For the first time, the girls got to spend quite a bit of quality time alone with my parents.

Since my wife and I had to spend two days of our week-long vacation clearing out the junk we had been storing in my folks' garage for the last eight years, my parents got to entertain the twins.
On one day while my wife and I sifted through boxes of medical text books, winter hats, insulated coveralls, and other things we would never use again, the girls and their grandparents had an elaborate tea party in the miniature log cabin that the original owner of my parents' house had built for his kids.  They mixed up pink lemonade in a blue tupperware pitcher that I remember drinking orange juice (from frozen concentrate) out of when I was not much older than my kids are now, arranged biscotti on paper plates, and sat on miniature benches in the "sweet little house" for hours, reading Curious George books and playing with dolls.  My wife and I dropped in every once in a while for a snack.  Under my parents' tutelage, the girls had become consummate hostesses, pouring drinks and offering baked goods, of both the real and imaginary varieties.

Sweet Little House

I don't really remember what my dad was like when I was a tiny kid.  My most vivid memories start around the time that I was six or so and I would ambush Dad, like Cato in The Pink Panther, when he came home from work.  I don't think we had many tea parties together.  I also don't remember playing make-believe with my grandparents--certainly not with the only grandfather I ever knew.  I just remember watching him with awe and a little fear.

But the way my mom played with the girls was very familiar.  She read books to them that were intended for much older kids, and she explained the difficult parts in a teacherly way, gently, but with no condescension or baby talk.  She joked around and encouraged the ridiculous storylines the kids' pursued with their make-believe play, but she didn't act silly herself.  I had seen Mom interact with my nephews this way when they were little, and I assume that's how she talked to me when I was a toddler.  But I wondered also if that was how my grandma, her mom, with whom we lived when my dad was in Vietnam, had played with me when I was little.  I don't have memories so much as impressions of that time, but I can imagine my Granny Goose explaining Beatrix Potter books to me just as my mom did to my kids.


A bit of housekeeping/self-promoting.  The little buttons you click on to share these posts on facebook (you have been sharing, right?) aren't keeping count of the shares as they're supposed to.  It's probably easy to fix, and I'll probably figure out how to do it one day.  But don't be discouraged from clicking just because it seems like no one else has.

Also, in case you're interested in my political punditry, I published a piece on the CNN Headline News website about the RNC's outreach efforts to moms (not dads).  I guess somebody liked it, because it was featured on the homepage of, for a while anyway.  In addition, it inspired a bunch of crazy comments!


  1. I love the video of you, the girls, and your folks. Such a great time to remember! I'm just surprised you didn't get to talking about all the great beer in OR and how you were lounging on the banks of the river with a 12er in hand, but maybe that's just my single mindedness.

    1. They have beer in Oregon? Why didn't somebody tell me?!

  2. "Over 100 Truly Astonishing Sex Tips" book in that pic... does it offer creepy uses for the wooden spoons and ladle?

    1. There's a reason they were in the same box.


Don't hold back.


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