We had a relatively smooth trip today from Toronto to Detroit to LAX, and it was the last of my travel for this Odyssey Across America. I started in Atlanta last Wednesday, for meetings. Then I flew into Philadelphia on Friday, and promptly camped out at a hotel for the day so I could get somewhat caught up on work. Then I picked up Paul and Ben on Saturday morning – neither of whom were in great shape after a red-eye flight which included an extended layover in Detroit – so we could actually start our vacation.
Vacation, by the way, now consists almost exclusively of Visiting Family. This trip, we were scheduled to be in Philadelphia for Easter with Paul’s extended family. Paul and his family are from Pittsburgh, but a branch of his mother’s large Irish-American clan lives in suburban Philadelphia, and hosts the Easter gathering. So Saturday, we went out to join them all. This meant a few days with my in-laws, Ben’s grandparents. And it also meant extended time with Ben’s second cousins.
Ben has gone to visit his cousin Oliver in Savannah, and had a fine time, but there is only ONE of Oliver. One of Paul’s cousins has FOUR children – girls ages nine, seven and five, and a boy, Declan, who is almost exactly one year older than Ben. The eldest girl immediately adopted Ben, who tried to crawl after her like a little puppy for the rest of the weekend, and Declan and Ben had a few moments of making baby noises at each other. Ben had a GREAT time. I came in on Sunday afternoon, midway through the Easter egg hunt (I had been in a local Starbucks, using their wi-fi to work) and immediately found Paul carrying a very nattily dressed Ben through the house, at the tail end of a gang of egg-hunting kids. Ben, wearing his formal sweater vest and shirt combo, was laughing and squealing and leaning out of Paul’s arms to join in. It was freaking adorable.
After Philadelphia, we flew to Toronto to visit Ben’s Aunt Monica and Uncle Jonathan. This was the TRIP FROM HELL, where our Air Canada flight was arbitrarily cancelled (apparently, AC are afraid of drizzle) and we ended up being re-routed through Newark…onto ANOTHER Air Canada flight that was FOUR HOURS LATE. The 90 minute flight turned into an 11 hour ordeal. But all this was quickly forgotten after we finally got to Toronto, and my sister, upon picking us up, exclaimed that Ben was SO MUCH BIGGER and so much more like a little person! She hadn’t seen him in five months, and yes, he is much more like a little boy now.
We then spent the rest of the week in my sister’s Toronto apartment. Monica and Jonathan have a top-floor apartment with windows on all sides, giving the impression of almost floating over the High Park neighborhood. And we were able to show up, crash in a bedroom set up just for us, and spend the next few days enjoying my sister’s excellent hospitality. Most importantly, Ben re-bonded with another set of close relatives. I seriously cannot wait for my sister to have kids so they can all grow up together.
I actually liked Toronto a lot – possibly because I got to see it from my sister’s perspective, and she and I have shared ideas of what we require to exist in a city. So we spent the first day as a family walking around High Park, the second visiting the St Lawrence Market and getting a driving tour of the eastern neighborhoods, and the third going to the Toronto Zoo. Everything was great fun for Ben, who notices more of the world around him every day. But I still think the high point for him, aside from his adoring aunt and uncle, was Sadie, their border collie. Ben LOVES dogs, and even when Sadie insisted on herding him, he adored it. He grabbed her nose and chortled, and she licked his face, and they were totally BFF.
And now, we’re home in Los Angeles! I was very sad to leave – I was enjoying the time with my sister and her husband. Paul and Jon get along quite well, probably because they share similar traits in their patience with their respective wives. (My father remarked that they were brave men, marrying his daughters.) And my sister and I have more in common the older we get. We’re both at similar points in our lives now, and that five year age gap, as well as our differences, are being outweighed by our similarities. And I was really enjoying visiting my sister’s city, seeing all the places she loved in Toronto. But I’m also ridiculously glad to be home, in my own apartment, in my own bed, where Ben has his own BenLand to play in and his own crib to hopefully sleep through the night in. And, most of all, I’m glad I’m done travelling for this month*. Only four more weeks to Pittsburgh!**
* I think I’m done travelling. I may turn up in San Francisco next week for AD:Tech
** We are going to Pittsburgh for Mother’s Day / Paul’s mom’s birthday. We caught an airfare sale and figured, why not? I can’t even THINK about travelling with Ben again right now without wanting to take a nap.