Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Notes From A Trip, Part II

Oh, all right. Stop begging for more vacation stories; you're embarrassing me. Here you go, just what you never wanted: more minutiae about someone else's cruise.

Now THIS was a cruise evening. All of us dressed up in our finest. A wonderful dinner. A show in a gorgeous theater, with huge, leather, cushy seats. Then off to dance to a band for half an hour or so, where I got to watch my son basically charm a room full of people, and watch my daughter’s face light up with pure joy when her father got up and did the twist with her; plus, I got to slow dance with my husband. And then. Then. Then came the best part of the evening: Karaoke Idol. I sat back, prepared to laugh. What I wasn’t prepared for was my husband standing up and saying, “Should I give it a try?” What I wasn’t prepared for was for him to get up and belt out “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” sounding better than I’ve heard him sound in years. What I wasn’t prepared for was hearing the audience cheer, hearing some guy in the back yelling, “Go, Dean-o!” What I really wasn’t prepared for was him and Em to come back to the room at around midnight (I’d brought N back about half an hour before; 11:30 is definitely past his bedtime and he was starting to show it) to announce that Baroy made the finals on Saturday night.

Now THIS is fun. And there’s more to come

[And as an aside, may I just say, God bless sea bands. They’re not helping Em that much, but they’re making all the difference in the world to me.]

We had dropped Em and Baroy off for their snorkeling trip (word is that Em ate up the whole snorkeling thing as if she'd been doing it since she was an infant), and were sitting on the dock waiting for our Land’s End tour catamarran [how do you spell that, anyway?] to dock. There were a number of young men in miliary-type outfits, probably coast guard, but maybe not, with these four-foot long rifles strapped to their backs. N was entranced, and when one guy came within earshot, he yelled out to him, “Hey, you know how much I like guns, dontcha?” The guy refused to engage with N, but you could see his shoulders haking with laughter as he walked away.

Entering Mazatlan this moring, N looks out our stateroom window at some rocky hills we’re passing on the way to port. “Those are the more humungous rocks I ever saw in my whole life!” he exclaimed over and over.

It was an interesting day for kid-watching round these here parts. My sensitive girl was really disturbed by the views of poverty we saw as we traversed the countryside outside of Mazatlan. Her eyes were first opened when we passed through some of the shantytowns, or whatever they are called here. (Our tour guide spoke of the people living in these conditions as “homesteaders” at one point, which seemed unnecessarily quaint to me. But she mostly called them squatters. Truly, though, all I could think of was the favelas of Brazil. These 'homes' might not be made of cardboard, but they were no more luxurious.) What got her, of course, were the dogs: so scrawny, all just wandering the streets of the towns we were in. For me, it was the children begging at the adobe “brickyard” who about killed me. Or, rather, it was one little boy in particular, holding out a handful of bouganvillea flowers mutely, just hoping for some money in exchange. Not only was it that symbol of poverty, but its simultaneous statement about the stupidity and inanity of tourists, the idea that we will buy anything. (We will.) It made me sad and embarrassed to be passing him by, boarding an airconditioned bus on my way back to my Cruise de Decadence.

The long ride back was the occasion for a definite first: N was playing peek-a-boo and then some all-boy shooting game with two kids in the back of the bus. You could just see Em yearning to talk to someone other than a grownup. Finally, she went over to N, and was teasing him and talking to him, and eventually I heard her making comments to the boys. And then I realized what had just happened: N, my 'quirky' boy, my fresh-out-of-a-stint-of-socialization-classes child, was facilitating a social interaction for Em. I wouldn’t have believed it if I weren’t sitting right there.

I’ve been concerned about Em this trip. It’s so unlike her, or at least the her I’ve been parenting for the past eight years, to hold back the way she has around a ship full of kids in and around her age. So when I saw her talking somewhat shyly to a young girl at the pool this afternoon, I went over. I thought I recognized that girl as the kid who had performed some amazing backflips for no reason whatesoever before karaoke the other night, so I asked her if I was right about who she was (I was) and complimented her. Then I asked her a few things about her gymnastics and how long she’s been doing them, and asked her how old she is (9), mentioning how Em is a pretty good gymnast, but not yet able to do backflips, and how Em is almost 9 herself. Satisfied that I'd done my best to ensure they had something to talk about, I returned smugly to our beach chairs nearby.

The smugness only lasted about a minute or so, until Em came sauntering up, raised her eyebrows at me and said, “You know, I was conversing just fine over there without any help.” And turned right on her heels and walked away.

Busted. Totally busted. Now THAT is my Em.

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