Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One Happy Island

It was a simple solution to a simple problem: my parents had chores they needed done, and we had cheap labor.  So, as Jennifer and I sipped on sparkling chardonnay and watched Kyle shine our shoes, we thought, "Why not lend the little guy to his grandparents for a week and give ourselves a break?"

My parents were overjoyed to have Kyle visit them, and they certainly made use of his talents.  Our son did a fine job mowing their lawn as my dad sat poolside and worked on his tan.  My mom then used him to clean up her classroom at the school where she works.  I also hear he helped clear some brush and paint a side of the house.  Yet, there were some moments when our son showed that his talents still have some limits.  He was unable to wash their cars properly, and his cooking ability remains sub-par.

As for Jennifer and I, we needed something to do that week.  Last year, during a similar labor exchange with my parents (Kyle had yet to learn how to walk, but built them a tool shed nevertheless), Jennifer and I ran off to Chicago. We were the envy of all our friends and neighbors.  Chicago was the trip of a lifetime.  This year, we just settled on Aruba.

Unlike the paradise that is Chicago, Aruba is, in many ways, very similar to New York City.  It's an island with rocky shores, its weather is very hot during the summer, and it's crawling with all sorts of strange creatures.  There are tourists everywhere, and taxi cabs charge them way too much for a trip downtown.  The similarities continued to strike us on Wednesday, when we took a ride in a small submarine.  We didn't have much room in the cramped vessel, and it felt very much like riding on a crowded subway train under the East River, except the submarine has windows looking out into the water, and the water itself has more fish than bodies.  There was a big guy sitting next to me who apparently forgot to wear deodorant.  The place smelled like home.

Despite all this, there were some perks to going to Aruba, especially without a two-year-old.  The flight, believe it or not, was a lot more relaxing without a screaming kid ramming his head into my face.  I actually watched the in-flight movie and didn't need to share my snack.  Once we were in Aruba, we were able to sleep past 6:30 every morning, and when we did wake up, we did not have to do anything.  There was nobody demanding that we pick him up or read him a book.  We could be as groggy as we wanted to be.  And speaking of reading, I read a REAL book last week... for the first time since early 2008.  Cover to cover.  No pictures.  Sure, it was the final book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, but to me it was Pulitzer material.  I found it so fulfilling to be able to read something that didn't have anything to do with curious monkeys, cats wearing hats, or little blue trains with brains of steam.  And, on top of all this, I was able to finish a long conversation with Jennifer... in the middle of the day!  Who knew that was even possible anymore?  All these things made it a magical week. 

Oh, there was that whole surf and sun thing, too.  I suppose most people go to Aruba for that.  Yeah, it wasn't so bad, either.  By looking at Jennifer and me today, you wouldn't be able to tell that we spent nearly a week along the shores of the Caribbean, and that's a major feat.  We worked hard on our "pale."  There's no such thing as tanning with us; our skin sizzles like bacon under the hot sun.  So, we covered ourselves in sun block twice a day and spent much of our time resting beneath thatch umbrellas or hiding under rocks with the iguanas.  The sun still managed to severely burn our shoulders.  By the end of the week, we were majority owners of a small company that produces aloe gel.

Kyle was thrilled to see us when we returned home, and about five seconds after our reunion he began bossing us around again.  Truth be told, we're actually Kyle's cheap labor, and not the other way around.  Since Kyle was tired of barking orders at us, he orchestrated this vacation (see my previous blog entry) so that he could have an opportunity to boss my parents around instead.  My parents were happy to see us return, too.  They had a lot of fun with the little guy, but were awfully tired by the end of the week.  For every project they had him do, he made them do a dozen more.

So now we're back in rainy New York, readjusting to the old routine.  We're waking up to Kyle's noises, and I'm back to reading picture books (a new "Thomas The Train" magazine arrived this week!  Oh boy!  Oh boy! I'm so excited!).  It feels right, though.  Our vacation was a blast, and it was very much needed.  Yet there's always something comforting about being back in our apartment, together as a family, even when the little guy's throwing food and screeching at decibels that could make my ears bleed.  It's home, and I love it here.

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