The other day we were chatting after finishing part of the multi-faceted drive we've undertaken for this year's Presidents' Day/February vacation: from New Haven to Chapel Hill to reunite with wonderful friends we hadn't seen in forever, then onto Charlotte for our annual Presidents' Day tradition with the crew - and learning that James K. Polk actually did some important stuff, you guys - then onto Charleston, SC, where me and the kids met my mom. J had to fly back to work this week but the kids are on break and while being in the house with them all week sounds interesting, we decided to prolong our absence from the northeast.
We're here in this glorious city til the weekend, when we'll make the drive home, dropping my mom off in MD along the way. That drive will be FINE and probably FUN (positive mantras are important!)
I mean, car rides our tough. Take, for instance, the extreme, very negative reaction my children displayed upon being a little bit uncomfortable while getting into the overheated minivan following a lunch break near Columbia in such gorgeous, mild 75-degree weather that we got to sit outside. My children are far too used to being freezing by this point in the season and, it's ok - say it - also insane.
Anyway, we were talking about the phrase, "worth it" when we got to our hotel in Charleston and I was deciding between valet and self-parking. I was telling the kids that the valet parking wasn't "worth it" when the garage was right there, and parking the car myself was no problem.
Gabriel asked what "worth it" meant, and I explained that it means when having, or doing, something might be a little bit of a struggle, or cost some money, but it's really good and you don't regret it. And that not worth it was the opposite.
So we parked our car easily in the garage and made our way down to the hotel where we - in rapid-fire fashion - found some snacks, went for a quick swim and then met my mom before heading out to dinner.
I've only visited Charleston once when I was much younger and it's a fantastic city. It's one of those places that makes me a little stressed, to tell you the truth, because there are so many things I want to be doing every second of the day (fine, mainly food things) but when you're vacationing with young children you kind of have to go with the flow. Especially when there's a pool at your hotel that has an adjoining, sunny patio and kids mainly want to do that, and when you explain to them that it's time to get ready and go to another restaurant, they make faces like you've killed their souls. Despite the fact that what you actually have done is brought them on a lovely vacation.
Yesterday we went exploring in the car, which is something I'd been really excited to do. I like laid back beach towns and wanted to check out some of the nearby islands. Sometimes I think I would have been happy living barefoot on an island somewhere listening exclusively to reggae music, although to be honest, I probably I would have gotten super annoyed with a lot of things about that lifestyle eventually. Or. Sooner then eventually. Like, immediately.
We had lunch in Folly Beach, then headed over the impressive Ravenel Bridge to Sullivan's Island, where we got gelato then drove around to look at all the pretty houses. We went down a side street and discovered an artist's home studio filled with eccentric teapots and garden ornaments with cheerful little faces. Then we found a wooden bridge leading over the dunes and through all that gorgeous South Carolina foliage ("Mommy! Is this the forest?" Aidy asked) to the wide, pristine beach studded with people and lots of dogs. And then my kids RAN. They ran like they'd never seen the ocean before, splashing and digging in the sand and getting their clothes totally wet, while my mom looked for shells and I screamed after them not to run too far away and none of them listened.
When we got back into town, we decided to forgo real dinner plans and have snacks and drinks at our hotel, which is exactly the kind of thing that can save the evening on a trip like this, when everyone is staying up past their bedtime on a regular basis and the most relaxing thing is remaining as physically close as possible to where the beds are.
When I woke up the next morning I realized my children were sleeping in and that if I was stealthy could make myself a cup of coffee, watch the news in bed, and catch some coverage of the utterly inspiring high school kids in Parkland and the nation's reaction to them, giving me more hope than I've felt in a long time. I tiptoed to the Keurig that was unfortunately closer to their beds than mine, quietly poured in the water, pressed the correct buttons and then silently cursed the fact that goddamn Keurigs make A LOT OF NOISE. I was hightailing it back, hot cup in my hand, when I noticed Gabe, always our earliest riser, lying awake and wide-eyed in his bed. With intense hand gestures and mouthed instructions I told him to come join me in my room, where we made an impromptu "art studio" for him on the floor next to the open curtain, letting the morning light flood in on his notebook and pencils.
I turned the news on and settled in, and suddenly remembered a conversation J and I had with someone a long time ago, who told us that hotel coffee pots are infamously germy. J has brought it up every time we're in a hotel that has one. I don't worry much about germs; it's not one of my chosen anxieties (which believe me, I have) but I thought about it as I looked down at my frothy cup of French roast, perfect mostly because it was available to me before my family was mobile that morning. Then I took a sip and sank into the moment, Gabriel - so often complaining - was lost in his project on the floor and the girls quiet. I wondered about what you could get, really, from exposure? Legionnaires' Disease? Avian flu?
"Worth it," I thought, as my son and I enjoyed a memorable few minutes of calm while he drew, the newscasters proclaimed change was coming and the sun steamed in our window and on the streets of the awaiting city below.