Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Arkansas: The Final Chapter

Friday morning I awoke to the baby's little voice saying, "Mama! Mama! Mama!" from the crib in her bedroom. I got up from the air mattress in the living room, knocked on my sister's door to let her know the baby was awake, and went in to scoop her up. There's really nothing better than seeing her first thing in the morning, happy as a lark, babbling and smiling, reaching out her arms to me. I cleaned up her wet butt and decided to put her in the bath. We were planning to hit Chuck E Cheese for a half-birthday party, since we were all in town at once.

As I was sitting in the bathroom watching her color on the tub with her new bath crayons, I got a text from my mom. She basically said she'd been puking since 10:30 the night before and that there was no way she'd make the birthday party. We were all a little relieved (the robots can't get me if I don't invade their turf) and called everyone to let them know the plans had changed.
We spent the rest of the morning laying around, video taping the baby as she played with her Noah's Ark toys and walked around the house in her mother's giant shoes. We made plans with Sis to meet up at 3:30 and follow her and the hubs to his parents house for dinner that night. Then Gray and I headed off to deliver Gatorade to my ailing mother.
I am afraid of the stomach bug. Just being in the same house with that thing makes my skin crawl. But it was our last day in town and we had no choice but to return to the Mother Land. So we went, and Gray napped in a chair while my mother, brother and I played Apples to Apples. My brother, just about ten years old now, didn't quite understand the concept of keeping his cards a secret. It didn't help that he needed us to explain what several concepts mean and who some people are. By the end of the game, we knew each and every card in his hand, which helped to throw the game so he could finally win one.
We left to meet Sis, baby and hubs. They were late (no shocker there), so we toodled around in a flea market while we waited. Flea markets are awesome. Gray is awesome for being a good sport about my love of flea markets. Which, surprisingly, never sell fleas. What's with that?
Dinner with the hubs family was so much fun. We ate like kings: venison and stuffed potatoes, bacon-wrapped asparagus and rolls. I got to visit with a girlfriend of mine from Junior High and catch up on all the gossip about the people from my past. It's so odd to see someone you knew as a teen in the Mother Role. She's got two kids now, and she's a totally different person in a lot of ways. Having a child at 17 tends to do that to a person, or so I hear.
When we left that night, we had to say goodbye to the baby, my dear heart, my sweet little angel butt. I cried and had the leave before things got really rough.
The next morning? Gray was sicker than a dog. Clearly he was making out with my mother at some point, because there is no other explanation for his contracting the illness and not me. Of course, I got a flu shot and he didn't. He was going on about 10 hours of sleep in the last 4 days, and was run down. We had eaten and then eaten again, rich, buttery food to which we are not accustomed. But clearly, for him to get sick, he either made it with my mother or licked the toilet. I prefer to think he's into humans.
So he was sick - really sick - for the entire 650 mile drive back to Minnesota that day. Poor thing, he slept most of the way and we stopped pretty often for him to use the facilities. Of course, none of the bathrooms he entered had soap or paper towels, so he kept having to ask the gas station attendants where he could wash his poopy hands. Somewhere in Iowa he decided he wanted to drive for a while. As he drove, I watched him slump further and further into his seat, and saw the color in his cheeks change from pink to white to a little bit green. I made him stop so I could get us the rest of the way home.
The trip? Was awesome. We had such a good time and everyone got along. There was no drama, no name-calling, no tense silence. My brother was his charming, nerdy self. The baby, though she didn't really remember us, (I was there for her birth and she lived with us until July this year when they moved back to AR) she did seem to recognize our faces and warmed up to us almost immediately. We played, we ate, we sang, we talked. It was so much fun. Thank god.
A few last observations about the differences I noticed while I was down there:
All the stoplights in Arkansas are on timers. LONG timers. There were numerous times when we pulled up to a light and waited for it to change. And waited. Waited some more. No cars coming in any direction. We listed to an ENTIRE song while we waited for one light to change. It drove me freaking crazy. Up here, most of the lights are on sensors so that if you pull up and no one is coming the other direction, the light will actually RESPOND to your vehicle. The ones that are on timers are much shorter, so that sometimes only 2 cars can make it through before it turns yellow. I have to say, I prefer waiting for a light that I know will eventually turn green.
People there wear their shoes in the house. I felt really odd walking around in shoes, but when in Rome... I actually felt odd for removing my shoes and walking in stocking feet. I got strange glances on Thanksgiving for doing so. I guess people up north are just kind of trained to always remove your shoes upon entering someone's home. It's respectful. It's also completely necessary during the winter. There's no way you can wear shoes in your house that are covered with snow, ice and salt. So people up here remove their shoes year-round out of habit and respect. People down there? Not so much.
People say "ma'am" and "sir" there. To everybody. To them, it's respectful. I was in Sam's Club with my mom and overheard a worker talking to a supervisor. After getting some kind of instruction, the worker replied, "Yes Sir, right away". Children are required to address all elders in this manner. Teachers, parents, other adults. It's "ma'am" this and "sir" that about everything. I remember doing it myself for most of my life. But when I moved up here, I realized that people didn't really use those terms. In fact, I quickly learned to NOT say "ma'am" and "sir" after someone made it really clear that I was perceived as a "smart ass" when I did so. I guess it's true that people in Minnesota are nice (passive aggressive), and calling someone "ma'am" makes you sound like a sarcastic little brat.
The last thing I'd like to share is an idea for a Transformer toy that my brother described to us in great detail over breakfast one morning. He told us that he wanted to invent a "scented oil diffuser" transformer. Apparently this would be the ULTIMATE in camouflage technology. It would sit innocently on a shelf, scent-infused sticks in the air, until it was time to transform, at which time a head would pop up and the legs and arms would come out of...somewhere. I questioned him as to how exactly this would work. Where were the arms stored? How did the legs extend? Where did the scented oil go when it was in action figure mode? He brushed those questions off with a wave of his hand, as clearly they were just nonsense and unimportant issues, and he had no time to trouble himself with them. "It just works, Catherine," he told me. I mustn't think about those details too much, I was missing the big picture.
So watch for that next Christmas season people. The Scented Oil Diffuser Transformer, coming to a store near you. And, if my little brother has his way, I'm sure the options will be "fart scented" and "poop scented".