This is going to be one of those long posts with lots of pictures. I’ll try to keep the words to a minimum, but apologies in advance if I am insufficiently successful.
First, Dad came to visit. He arrived to great fanfare from the child set.
After all, he is far better company on the way to school.
And he is far more likely to take you to Dunkin Donuts for no particular reason.
While being just as likely to catch you as you leap from low walls.
The photo above and the next stretch of images are all from part one of our great cross-country trek. Dad, who is from Kansas City, flew to Baltimore to keep us company as we drove West back to Kansas City. I think this makes him officially a good guy.
We picked Alden up from her last day of school a week ago Friday and promptly left town. We spent the first night of our travels in Charleston, WV, where an enormous gathering of people on motorcycles made it extremely difficult to get to our hotel. Eventually, we managed it.
If you have children, I ask you this: are your children as wildly enthusiastic about their suitcases as are ours?
And are they, by any chance, equally giddy when it comes to the prospect of riding elevators?
The trifecta of delight for my three is when they take suitcases into an elevator-equipped hotel that also has a pool.
The above excitement was, apparently, exhausting. We all slept soundly, but eventually awoke.
Some of us less gracefully than others.
We drove west, west, and west some more. Through West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.
And finally to Missouri, where we stopped briefly only to be chased by a bear.
And do a little coloring.
Even Grandpa John, who, having retired a few years back, is finally able to color between the lines.
Post-Denny’s, we instructed the children to dance out their remaining energy in the little strip of lawn between the parking lot and the Interstate. They were surprisingly receptive to the plan.
50 miles west of St. Louis, we ran into a storm. For the next two hours we drove in blinding rain.
But all storms must end, in time.
Finally arrived in Kansas City, August made the dangerous discovery that kids sometimes get to sleep on surfaces other than the tiny dog bed to which he has been so far in life relegated.
And Kato discovered that they made pretty cool toys back in the early 80s.
The playgrounds of Lee’s Summit, Missouri are truly magnificent.
And, apparently, inspiring. August took his first bike ride on Kato’s “Chico Red Bullet”.
That afternoon, we went to a birthday party for the daughter of my high school friend Victor, shown here without his daughter. Confusing, I realize.
This is also not Victor’s daughter. This is Bobbledy Club member Norah, who happened to be at the party, and who according to her mom, had just that morning finished reading the latest Bobbledy book I Woke Up This Morning And to herself. Way to go, Norah!
This is also not Victor’s daughter. I am embarrassed to admit I attended her party and failed to take a single photo of her. This is Victor, however. And this is me. And we are still friends after 20 some years.
Other reasons taking my kids to visit Grandpa John is dangerous: his bathtub is a lot better than ours.
Also, his yard has a fountain that facilitates the process of water painting. Also, he has a yard, period.
Occasionally, we used modern technologies to talk to Robbi, who was left behind to forget to eat, forget to sleep, and draw pictures until her eyeballs bled.
Occasionally, we ate bananas.
The kids did lots of art, and upon creating it, shared it with in-house art critic Grandma Judy, whose interpretations were as insightful as they were generally encouraging.
We were lucky to overlap for a few days with my step-sister Gina and her husband King, who are headed to Spain for a while. And their son Whalen, whose taste in t-shirts is almost as inspiring as his hair.
One day I went to lunch with my dad and his friends and shattered my raw food diet in extraordinary fashion.
Another day, Alden bit into a banana and lost another tooth.
Taking a huge risk in assuming that the Tooth Fairy has a Midwest presence, she left her tooth and a note beneath her pillow.
And what do you know, but the Fairy came through.
Because Grandpa John and Grandma Judy actually have television, the kids were able to tap into their previously undiscovered love of soccer, cheering lustily as Team USA took on Nigeria in the World Cup.
I happened to be reminded of my previous life as a stained glass window maker. This sucker a gift to Dad and Judy long ago, still hangs in the entryway.
The week included plenty of visits with old friends. Here, finally, is Victor’s daughter Vivien (far left), joined by the various kids of my friends Ali and Alice. We have been productive and prolific in the 22 years since all of us went to school together every day.
Also, big update: August has learned to make coffee.
We spent some time with my old friend Tim, who has also added to the human population.
There’s something so striking about spending time with old friends. Tim told me stories of bygone adventures I had completely forgotten.
We caught up over lunch with ice cream after.
I might ask the hot day to share some of the blame, but the decision to get August a cone was all me.
As was, later that day, the failure to cut his spaghetti into friendly, bite-sized pieces.
The last night we were in town, we headed to the ballpark to see the hometown Royals.
The Kansas City stadium is gorgeous.
But the kids had made it clear in advance they were there for one reason only.
I reject thee, cotton candy, for your fundamental sweetness, fluffiness, and predisposition to stickiness.
And yet you make my children so happy.
So thoroughly distracted.
So quiet and contained.
For approximately 2 of the 180+ minutes it takes to make it through a major league baseball game.
It was so good to be there in the stands. The Royals are having an amazing year, and people were out in droves to cheer. Alas, it was a loss for the home team that night.
But that did not diminish the amazing week we had with dad and Judy.
On Saturday morning, early, we headed East, stopping briefly to behold the tallest structure in the state of Missouri, and the largest monument west of the Mississippi.
If you have never visited the Gateway Arch, find a way to do it at some point.
It is simply magnificent. And the closer you get, the more remarkable its scale and its contours become.
Thank you, person who thought to make it.
Thank you, people who devoted all those hours to making that dream into reality.
Thank you, people who decided to fund it.
Thank you, Kato, for agreeing to pose in this “for the sake of comparison” photo.
Thank you, August, for unintentionally making this photo just slightly more interesting by refusing to smile.
Thank you, sun, for being out that day.
We drove 800 miles that day, to Wheeling, WV. The next morning was Father’s Day. And this is what I woke to discover in the bed.
Alden was dismayed to learn the first half of Father’s Day would be spent back in the car.
But drive we did, with occasional stops for leg stretching and general weirdness.
I was tired and ready to be home. At one point, I stopped and ordered a disgusting hot dog, thinking it would lift my spirits.
All it did was make me want a smoothie.
Which I had, the moment we got home. Which was yesterday, at this point. August vomited gloriously and copiously mere miles from the barn, so our homecoming was less about hugs and more about baths and antiseptics.
But Robbi was there, which is all that matters, because home is really wherever she is at any given time.