- It is possible to drive eight hours alone in a car with a toddler. No, I did not die, nor did I kill the boy. In fact, the most successful trip was the first day, which was also the longest. The plan -- for everyone else out there -- was to have none. We jeeped him up all morning long before his nap (having him literally run around, walk all over the place, sing and yell, etc.) until he was so tired, he could barely move. At that point, we threw him into the already-packed rental car and got going. He was asleep before we hit Silver Spring -- and didn't wake up again until we got to Pennsylvania... when it was time to stop for lunch! We stopped, ran around a bit, got back on the road.
About and hour and a half later, he got antsy. This took more creative methods -- but luckily (the only time I have ever thought this was a good thing) I was on a toll road. I got off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and asked the tollbooth operator if there was a park nearby. It turns out that, indeed, a very nice park was closeby. Xan had a ball playing all over this place.
Back on the road, he got antsy again in another two hours -- just in time for dinner! After another hour eating and running around a rest stop, charming absolutely everyone (and my, but those rest stops on the Ohio Turnpike are nice!), back on the road again. Here's where the "plan" went a little wrong, because I then expected him to go to sleep. He didn't, staying awake the whole rest of the way until we got to Michigan. At 11:00 PM. Yikes. Nevertheless, he did so quietly, without complaint. And it only took him a day to get back onto schedule. Success!
- This method may not be feasible for shorter trips. By the time we got to the Cape, Angela and I decided for a family trip to Provincetown -- and quickly discovered that (a) the method described doesn't work with Xan when there will be traffic, because he wake up when the car stops, and (b) there is no need to expose him to cute tchochkes, quaint cobblestone streets, nice beaches, and so many shirtless, buff men that I felt I was both overdressed and not doing justice to my sexuality by wearing a t-shirt... at least until he's old enough to appreciate all of this. Maybe at 5.
- Nature is fun to appreciate. The first week, Xan and I spent some time at my parents' apartment, which they recently moved into. They are on the ground floor with a great view of a duck pond. Like many of the residents of this senior community, they spend a considerable amount of effort making sure there is bread handily available for feeding the ducks. Fresh off learning the word "duck," Xan took to this really well. Although he never quite grasped the concept of feeding the ducks since, after helping Oma rip up the pieces of bread, he would feed himself instead of the ducks. This only led my mother to laugh harder.
- Nature is really fun to appreciate. After arriving on Cape Cod, Xan and I discovered that this summer there were very few mosquitos out and about -- which meant we were out as much as possible. In Xan's case, this meant cavorting all around their rather expansive backyard. This also meant that he has acquired a whole assortment of cuts, scrapes and bruises all over his body, confirming the fact that, yes, he is a boy.
- Nature is sometimes too fun to appreciate. While in Ann Arbor, my old friends Bonnie and Brian (and their firecracker daughter Kyleigh) invited us to go to a quiet lake about a half hour out of town. We were having a wonderful time -- Xan has taken to water quite well... to the extent that he will run into water pell mell without regard to whether it is too deep or not -- and at one point I stayed a little ways back while Xan went exploring up a narrow path leading to the parking area. Brian had gone up in that direction earlier and only now mentioned, "You know what I saw earlier? It seemed to be a rattlesnake -- a little small, but with a definite rattl..."
And at that moment, no joke: I heard an unmistakable sound. And I looked up and saw my son bending over with his usual curiosity about two feet away from a rattlesnake. Which was reared back, shaking his little tail off.
Putting aside for the moment the notion of "what the hell is a rattler of any size doing anywhere outside the Southwest" (a notion I later found was just incorrect), I leaped closeby, plucking Xan away. This annoyed him. Only a few minutes later did I think, "Damn. That could have ended badly for both of us."
- Ice cream is a great way of meeting new people. As usual, we perused the several neighborhood ice cream shops around Angela's parents' place on several occasions. The tip jar at the Whistle Stop Ice Cream shop in Pocasset mentioned that it was to support college funds for some of the summer workers. We've seen this before. This year, the three schools listed said "Fairleigh Dickinson - Boston College - American." Lo and behold, I left a note for the soon-to-arrive freshman, who emailed me a lovely note.
Ah, summer. We hardly knew ye.