Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hand Slip

My daughter just left. She’s left for a week to visit my in-laws, her Grandpa and Grandma. I packed her suitcase, made sure she had two coats in case it gets cold; I packed an extra pair of shoes, her toothbrush and special toothpaste, her hair brush—something she actually needs now that her hair is long enough to get tangled after the bath. I packed some toys, some books, a doll. I took a diaper bag and filled it full of size 4s, and then added three packs of wipes, even though she’s been asking lately—with a point towards the bathroom and a word that sounds like “potty”—to go to the potty. I grabbed her musical elephant so she can sleep at night, and sleep at nap time. I gathered three stuffed dogs, her most precious treasures, and put them in their own special bag for the trip. I packed her bottles and some formula, and with those, stuck in the page of notes I’d made for Grandma detailing her granddaughter’s daily routine. The note said maybe she’ll need this much formula, but it’s OK if you try to give her more milk instead.

This visit was planned in August. I knew it was coming, I agreed it was a good idea, but I never dwelt on it. Why should I have? My mother-in-law asked to take her for a week, and helpfully pointed out that she had taken my son for a week when he was only 16 months old. At 19 months old, my daughter was long overdue. But we’ve only ever been separated for 21 hours before. This time I’m not going on vacation; the higher purpose (for me) of my daughter’s absence is so I can toilet train her brother (he’s 3 ¾ years old) intensively. Really focus, pull him out of preschool, get the job done.

So, in theory I’m OK. I believe in grandchildren bonding with their grandparents even over an extended period. I got to do it with my grandparents, and I won’t deny my children that. But part of me wonders, when so many of my friends wouldn’t even consider letting their children go for that long, am I a good mother?

In Grandma and Grandpa’s car, I strapped my daughter into her car seat. I tucked her pink blanket around her, positioned Dougal (her favourite dog) under her arm. I brushed her bangs across her forehead. I kissed her.

When her hand slipped out of mine, by this I mean the car drove around the corner and out of sight, I went into the house and cried. I can’t quite bear the thought that she’s gone for the week, and I can’t quite bear the sight of the car driving away with my baby. But my tears reassured me, that though I’m willing to let her go, it breaks my heart, and that means I’m not giving her up glibly, or without a sense of what I’m losing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We Got Home at Last, Which Was Forever Ago (Whatever)

Pretty Tallin

Day 16: July 27

Off to Tallin, Estonia. This was a great day. We took the ferry from Helsinki, across the Gulf of Finland, to Tallin, the capital of Estonia. It’s a good thing the ferry is so fun, since it was a large part of the day (i.e. three hours total spent on the ferry, four minus customs in Estonia). On the ferry you can eat, shop, watch people, chase your kids around, and go up and down stairs repeatedly with them.

Tallin is so much different from what I remember; but then again, I was here last shortly after the iron curtain fell. Given the time, the grayness has given way to colour, and capitalism. In any case, the hours we were there were not nearly long enough. We ate lunch in the old town, and then shopped in the square. Geister and his dad climbed in the old medieval wall, and then it was time to walk/run back to the ferry. Unfortunately on the way back to the ferry we had an incident—M. was pushing Geister in the big stroller over a curb and the stroller collapsed, pinching Geister’s legs and knees. From what I could tell, it was more hurt pride and shock than anything else that made him (Geister) cry, but he did cry. I had to carry him back to the boat with many reassurances that Daddy didn't mean to do it, while M. pushed and kicked the broken stroller along.

[Sidebar: For anyone who is concerned about the welfare of Geister and the stroller, the update is that Geister turned out to be absolutely fine and now has a story to tell about the time he was in the stroller and his daddy broke it with him in it, and it hurt his legs, in Stonia. The stroller on the other hand, did not survive the incident. After Temo broke it some more after attempting to fix it, we ditched it at a garbage bin.]

Once we got back to Helsinki, Temo picked us up and we went back to their house. We had just enough time to turn around to go out again—M. and I were taking the family out to eat, while Geister and Boo stayed home with Grandma and Grandpa. Really, a win-win for me.

We let our hosts pick the restaurant (something cool on the esplanade, I hoped) and they picked, with us in mind, a typical Finnish restaurant. Now, since we’d all been eating authentic Finnish food since the beginning of the trip (did I mention the elk, the white fish, and the blueberries yet? Oh, and the reindeer?) this was a second choice for me. But whatever. Our hosts were very excited—a chance for the Canadians to experience real Finnish food like it used to be served back in the day. To start with, Temo ordered himself and M. an aperitif called The Drunken Log. Very Finnish. Then he ordered beer and wine. Also very Finnish. M. ordered the bear (not a typo) which is less typically Finnish since you can’t get it all year round.

I perused the menu, slightly terrified of the choices—hmm, bear no. Seafood, no. Reindeer, no. Lamb, not so much. That left only one dish for me, the steak. The very rare steak. At least it came with potatoes, also very Finnish.

After dinner wrapped up (with the conclusion that reindeer is superior to bear), we climbed in the car and headed, because we insisted, to the Arctic Ice Bar. It’s a very small room in downtown Helsinki that is entirely ice. You have to pay a hefty cover to get in, but with the fee you get to wear ice bar-issued parkas, and you get one vodka drink of your choice. Tell me this wasn’t worth it:

Ice ice, baby

Drinks and parkas, all part of the fun

Day 17: July 28

Shopping today. Nothing but shopping. Fun, fun, fun. The boys went to a hardware store, had drinks, and then did a few more sights in the city.

Day 18: July 29

Time to leave. So glad to be going home, because the trip has been such a success I feel completely satisfied. The only time I hesitated was when the family dropped us off and Temo said to me, “Well, MLD. . .” and then hugged me, with a voice and a gesture towards me that was very “Gus, quite a party.” So then I was sad but no time to dwell on that when you have two children to check in and manage, and then you get yourself in a bit of a situation because you accidentally walk out of the airport and can’t get back in without the boarding pass that you left with all your stuff (ahem), until it's time to board the flight.