First of all, let me just promise you that I will never be so late to celebrate your birthday or Christmas as I have been in posting these monthly letters. You may want to remind me of this promise when I am sitting at the kitchen table making Christmas gifts at 3 a.m on Christmas Eve. I’m sorry about that ahead of time, because I will probably be a lunatic, complete with midnight trips to the craft store and last minute brilliant ideas that take way more time than I actually have, and you will probably inherit this practice of gift-making procrastination from me, and I am sorry. But I will never give you late presents, even if that means buying you a $400 miniature Escalade* or standing outside the toy store for 12 hours to buy the latest in a long line of vibrating Elmo dolls.
It’s been another exceptionally wonderful month in my world thanks to you. I expect I’ll be saying that for the rest of my life, but it’s hard to imagine life getting better. That Book About Childrearing says we are in the “golden age of babyhood,” and I can see why. You smile at everything, and I do mean everything. Sunday I held up a chocolate covered espresso bean I was about to eat (because that’s the only source of coffee in our house since my coffee pot is at work where it’s much more important for me to have caffeine) and you gazed at the shiny brown wonder and then grinned with absolute joy and amazement. Forks fascinate you. Water bottles. Store ciculars from the mailbox. You are quite easy to entertain, and it’s a good thing, because earlier this month you went on your first road trip, and while you are usually the long-suffering sort, you were in need of entertainment by the 300th mile.
On the Friday morning before Easter your grandpa picked us up and we drove to Georgia so you could meet your great-grandmother and the other half of our family. What should have been a 6 hour trip took most of the day, and I claim full responsibility–after all, we’d never traveled together, you and I, and I was ill-prepared. And also over-prepared, depending on your point of view. The volume of stuff was akin to the gear one might pack to go trekking in the Himalayas, but I wanted you to be comfortable, so I took everything you might need, just in case. My three small bags–one for clothes, one for toiletries, and one for books and snacks–seemed insignificant next to your stroller, Bumbo, portable swing, car seat, diaper bag, diapers, bottles, cooler, toys, portable bed, and clothes. The good news is that there was never an “Oops, I should have brought…” moment. In retrospect, we could have gotten by with one bag for clothes between the two of us, as you wore one outfit per day just like a regular person, but I just never know when you’re going to have a four-outfit day, and I figured it was easier to overpack than try to do laundry at your great-grandmother’s house.
While I was totally exhausted and tired of riding by the time we finally got home (read: jarred to the point of nausea thanks to the uneven driving surface–note to the NCDOT: are you EVER going to pave I-85 again?), and even though I had to go to work the next morning, I was glad we went for lots of reasons. I had recently begun to fear that you were going to be one of those babies who screams bloody murder when Mommy leaves the room. Truth be told, you may yet become one of those babies, but I’d like to think that thing you do when you refuse to take your eyes off of me now matter how far across the room I am or who is holding you is just a sign of our mutual admiration and not the beginning of unhealthy attachment. But I digress. As it turns out, you rather like people and enjoy seeing new ones these days. You smiled at every new person you met on our trip, including that annoying waitress at Cr@cker Barrel who couldn’t find to-go cups and thereby denied me a second cup of coffee for the road.
But I was most interested in your reactions to the family, and I am happy to report that your whole body smile was not reserved for Cr@cker Barrel waitresses. With the exception of a few minutes of lip-puckering and pitiful whimpering when you first met your Uncle Palley (too bad for him that he caught you when you were fighting a desperately needed nap), you seemed happy to see everyone. You even squealed and jabbered when you met your four little boy cousins, who were equally enamored of you.
But you seemed to be the most interested in your grandpa. You stared at him a lot, even when he was not looking at you, as if trying to telepathically get his attention. When he was looking at you, you were grinning back at him with an expression I can only describe as satisfied amusement. I believe you are genuinely fascinated with him, and even though it is unlikely that you comprehend the statement, “This summer I’ll put a sidecar on the 4-wheeler and take you for a ride,” or my subsequent terror-stricken face in response, you seemed into whatever he suggested. He explained to you upon seeing my reaction that “Mommy used to ride on the tractor with her grandpa and that’s kinda like a 4-wheeler.” The grandpa to which he is referring is the grandpa for whom you are named, Nonna’s dad and my Papa**, and he and I were very close. Your grandpa knows this and often talks about Papa–they spent a lot of time working on Papa’s farm together when Nonna and your grandpa were still married, and they thought a great deal of each other.
So after a weekend of playing airplane with, laughing at, and falling asleep numerous times on your grandpa, he asked me on the way home what you were going to call him. I told him it was his call; after all, Nonna got to choose her “grandma name.” He jokingly suggested Grumpaw and Grandpappy, and then said he didn’t want to be called Poppa since that’s what your little boy cousins call their grandpa. And then, with what I believe was a knowing look in my direction, he said he wanted you to call him Papa. I don’t know for sure if he meant for it to be so, but this is very symbolic to me because I had a Papa and there was nobody else like him in my life–on Earth. I have to believe your grandpa–your Papa–knows that, and all I have to say is that if your Papa is anything like mine, you are one lucky kid.
*Actually, that is a big lie. I will never buy you a mini Escalade, as the Escalade is a symbol of waste and extravagance, values I do not wish to instill in you. But I won’t be surprised if your Papa buys you a little Volkswagen Beetle or a miniature John Deere tractor.