This past weekend, Ruth and I left Greg at home to get some real work done on his thesis and drove with his parents to Cincinnati to visit his two nun aunts, Aunt Raine and Aunt Hud. We were hoping for some real spring weather five hours south, but the temperature and feel were all too familiar. The only thing novel was that the Magnolias and Forsythias were in bloom.
We stay at the Motherhouse, which is a kind of indoor, self-contained nun city on a big hill near the river. It even has its own post office. It used to be some sort of school and the rooms that we stay in were once dormitories for the students. We arrived just in time to catch dinner, where a stir crazy and very mom-centric Ruthie freaked out on some nuns and demonstrated her ear-piercing shriek that she saves for public appearances. Not that she is one to ever shy away from “getting loud”.
Before we left, I made the comment to Tom, my father-in-law, that I would have to be on alert because if I turned my back on Ruth, the Aunts might just quickly try and baptize her in a sink. They pointed out all of the saints statues that we passed to Ruth, who greeted each one with a cordial “hi”. One nun tried to make the sign of the cross on her head but she balked and the nun, taking this as an unholy sign, scampered quickly away.
Between naps, playing, and diaper changes, we managed to fit in a few activities. We walked across a bridge into Kentucky and visited a Barnes and Noble there, where my biggest purchase was a monster coffee, which I sucked down ravenously. (The coffee at the Motherhouse isn’t what you would call satisfying). I was pleasantly surprised to bump into a lesbian mother of an eighteen-month-old, which inspired me to give the south another chance. Maybe they are more progressive than I thought. We also visited Hobby Lobby at my Mother-in-laws request, although Ruth and I could have skipped this. Especially since we were still planning to try and take Ruthie out to dinner afterwards. I could tell we were in for an unpleasant meal when she was holding her cheek and making tired noises on the way there. True to form, Ruth was a tyrant from the time we plunked her into the high chair at the restaurant. The other nuns didn’t quite know how to receive this behavior, and one suggested I try shushing Ruth. It didn’t help that there was a one-year-old one table away eating puffs like a champ and drinking her juice box serenely.
I felt as though most of the energy during the trip went into planning and preparing for Ruth’s meals. I used to see parents feeding their babies, all taught and angsty and I used to wonder what their deal was. Why didn’t they just calm down. And now I know. There is so much going through your mind all the time, but especially at meal time. Trying to feed a baby, who doesn’t like to eat, while simultaneously trying to keep her happy and from grabbing things off the table and eat a lunch yourself is like keeping a dozen plates spinning. Add into the mix that people are trying to talk to you and give you pointers on what the baby might like or need, and you are lucky to make it through a meal with your sanity in place. After every meal, I found myself heaving a great sigh of relief and consciously releasing the tension that had accumulated in my back right between my shoulder blades.
We worked to time our departure to coincide with Ruth’s nap mid day and managed to repack everything into the Escape while still leaving room for ourselves. The ride back always seems twice as long as the ride there and by the time we pulled up into the driveway, we all exploded from the car. Ruth spent the rest of the day bouncing around the living room and crawling around like a mad woman. Greg had, in typical Greg fashion, neglected much of his thesis work to trim the shrubbery in front of the house and catch up on his sleep.
What I took away from the trip is a much greater respect and awe for single parents and wonder at how we are going to make our summer camping trip way up in the U.P., a ten hour drive, work.