We just completed a three-week long tour of the south, stopping with family and friends in four states. Along the way, I was reminded: Early childhood needs are universal and easily acquired. Goldfish. A low bed or blankets on the floor. Diapers, size 3.
My kids just want routine. I remember a trip a couple years ago, just before my pregnancy with Zibby, where J had a conference in Atlanta and we rented a place in a walkable scrap of town. Each morning the kids and I would bid J goodbye, then walk through Cabbagetown to a pastry shop, then a playground, then home for lunch and naps and reading Ramona aloud. After our rest time we’d do another playground and…that was about it. And I’m pretty sure that’s their ideal vacation.
They’re more resilient than I believe. I try to get them enough sleep and recharge time, to not push them beyond their caloric limits, especially when we are around extended family, but generally they surprise me with their adaptability.
In total, I think we stayed in about seven different places on this trip. I learned: Beauty products are an insight into a person’s insecurities. (Mine: fine hair, tooth whitening.) There is no logical and predictable place for toilet paper storage. And greatest of all: Opening up ones home is one of the most intimate things you can do, especially when you’re not home to guide your guests.
Throughout all this delicious upheaval there is a pleasure in the continuity of domestic life. This rental has a dryer that melts the insert of my diaper wet bag, this friend’s laundry room has enviable countertops for folding and sorting, but by and large, laundry is laundry and the laundry for three small people must be done every evening, in whatever exotic locale we might come to roost in.
I make macaroni and cheese from scratch with the mismatched utensils of a vacation rental, gather up my absent friend’s pans for bacon and eggs just as she surely must on sleepy Saturday mornings. I microwave leftovers on my childhood plates and paper plates and chipped dishes. I perform the alchemy of finding food my picky children will eat in a medley of pantries. I pluck familiar products and new items from grocery shelves, ripe strawberries from a Deep South farmers market.
We leave in our wake shrunken spilled Cheerios and thank you postcards. We take away inadvertently purloined toys, bellies full of cake (and beer), memories we will keep alive in our own, familiar home.