Never Again–In Which We Have Our First Family Outing

Dear Lily June,

Before I had kids, whenever we’d invite my sister, your Aunt Loren, somewhere, it was generally agreed amongst the family to just tell her the event started an hour earlier. If you told her to show up at one, inevitably she’d be there sometime around two-fifteen. It was a good system, and with a few eye rolls tossed in for good measure, I could accept that this was “just my sister.” I was so wrong, little Lily. It is the life of almost anybody with kids.

It was your dad’s mom’s (Granny Gramma Alison’s) fifty-ninth birthday this weekend, and we wanted to take the two hour drive to see her for the last year of her fifties. I imagined, with a good enough plan, we could hit the road by noon, stop off at Lake Loramie to feed you a quick bottle and get there, with time to spare, no later than three.

The idyllic place where we planned your first outdoor eating. But let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.

First off, your daddy accidentally woke me before I’d had my full amount of sleep. This is akin, little Lily, to sticking your hand inside of a lion’s mouth just to see if his tongue feels sticky. It’s a dangerous game to wake a horribly sleep-deprived mommy, and I was the perfect picture of your future: I acted like I had a mean case of the Terrible Two’s. I dragged my feet and threw under-caffeinated tantrums until there was coffee in me. After my coffee, I just threw tantrums that looked more jittery.

Once I finally hit my morning stride, making the sausage balls my mom, your Grandma Raelyn, taught me the recipe to (so easy and so bad for you: a tube of Jimmy Dean’s maple sausage, 2 cups cheese, and 2 cups Bisquick, combined, rolled into balls and cooked at 375 until brown) and was ready to hop in the shower, you, too, realized you didn’t have enough (read: “any”) coffee in you. That didn’t stop you, while I showered, from throwing an energized fit like I’d abandoned you on a street corner instead of sitting you on the bathroom floor in a bouncy seat. Your daddy got you so that we could proceed.

We hit the road around twelve-thirty (which was only 99% my fault for taking too long to get ready). When we went to pick up ice from the gas station (what should have been the last stop before the drive between Indiana and Ohio), we realized we left your Grandma’s gift at home. So we turned right back, your dad headed upstairs to get the frame we’d bought her, and we moved right along, an hour behind schedule.

You were a perfect doll in the car, sleeping like you never have at home. In fact, you drifted into slumberland so deeply, we couldn’t completely rouse you when we got to where you were supposed to take a bottle. You couldn’t have cared less how picturesque the scene. You were tired, it was hot, there were bugs, and you didn’t want to eat. This was after two less than fully full bottles in the morning, so your dad and me were paranoid. We passed you back and forth across a shaded picnic table, trying every trick we had to wake you–singing, shouting (lightly, if there is such a thing), bouncing, blowing raspberries. To no avail. Your zen outwitted our agitation.

And your dad’s cell phone kept ringing. It was three-thirty. We’d been trying to feed you for forty-five minutes already. We relented; you weren’t ready, and with each passing minute, I was stepping more firmly into the shoes of my sister. We got to your Granny’s by four, only to learn that everyone had been waiting on us (impatiently).Then you were awake. And then, and only then, were you hungry. More like hangry.

We gave you an ounce, which took another fifteen minutes, while a chaotic circus unfolded before us. In one tent were your cousins–Bryden, Elijah, and Cal, ages five years, three years, and nine months respectively–who were like Russian bears on unicycles, tearing through the living room at high speeds. Your Uncle Bryce and Aunt Jan would slip into and out of the tent to place a bear here or there back on his seat.

In the second tent, your Granny and her partner, Jeanie, and their two bichon frises, Lisa and Lady, were coordinated like an act of the trapeze. One would lift a puppy up like her hands were the rings, and the yippy dogs would go flying into the arms of a partner. They passed the cute canines back and forth across the air, telling story after story about how this one hurt his tail, or how that one can balance upside-down in a chair.

Your dad and I are pretty sure that the literal translation of the French “bichon frise” is just “curly bitch.”

In the side tent, your dad and I were jugglers, keeping a stream of objects in steady movement the whole time. First it was a bottle, then a diaper, add a wipe, then another wipe, then another wipe, then a changing mat, then a paci, then a blankie, here a burp cloth, there a car seat, until our arms piled up so precariously, we could have been tossing flaming torches and chainsaws through the air.

And finally it was time to drive from Grandma’s to the big top: your second-cousin Jeremy’s in the middle of a two-acre corn field for a cookout. I can’t describe what it was like to care for you, an almost three month old, in this crazy of a scene, with dozens of cousins and second cousins running around screaming, or depending on their ages, passing sage advice about lawn care around as often as they passed brewski’s.

Most gruesome for me was when a host of children, ages ten down to three, thronged to the trampoline. The sight of their cirque de soleil antics made me queasy until your second-cousin Amanda gave me the best advice of the day: When it comes to trampolines, “it’s best to just look away.” Temperatures ran around the eighties, and whenever your head would deposit a halo of sweat on my shirt, I would sweep you inside into the blessed haven of quiet and AC.

And it became clear quickly that you were the main attraction with aunts and female cousins coming to me with tickets they’d bought from the barker called Motherhood and pleading to hold you. And I would pass you off, trying not to appear as nervous as a high-dive jumper about to leap from the board a hundred feet into a tiny glass of water.

And you did something so awesome for me: You put me on the other side of every party I’ve attended like this in the past. Too scared to ask to the be the first to hold another’s new baby, I would shyly wait until I was the last to be passed the child, only after he or she had reached their limit and was about to erupt into Mount Grumpy. Babies who’d seemed calm a second before would squinch their faces purple and wail when handed to me, and I would wonder, If babies detest me this much, could I ever be a mother?

But bless your heart, you knew your mommy. When the circus–with all of its clowns and bearded ladies–got to be too much and your sweet little lips would purse into a pout big enough for an elephant to sit on, the aunts would hand you back to me, and you would quiet almost instantly. At one point, a cousin ran into where you were almost asleep on the couch at full steam, smacking your tiny soft skull, and the crowd dropped their peanuts to the floor and the claps gave way to audible gasps.

This is the beginning of a patented Lily June pout.

And you screamed, an emcee to a parade of emotions including fear and pain and confusion, until I picked you up and rocked you on a hip and you were fine and you, my darling dear, were wholeheartedly mine. It was my first big chance to soothe your hurt as your mother, and I kissed where it ached and handed you the umbrella and we walked across that tightrope together. And we made it to the other side.

There were plenty of times throughout the day that didn’t go nearly so smoothly–more times when you were hungry but too excited to eat, times when you were too tired to sleep, times where your spit-up beautifully streaked highlights into my hair. Your daddy ripped his pants in the seat; your mother’s shirt got pulled down with you on top of me enough to give Janet Jackson, with all of her wardrobe malfunction fame, a run for her money. We had thought beforehand we could pull it all off without a hitch, but in words most often attributed to circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum,

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Your dad and I agreed on the drive home around eleven in the evening, like two teenagers hungover the day after a bender, on the two-word promise parents have been making for centuries: Never again. It was a fine circus, and you were an adorable master of ceremonies, but we may not endure an outing like that again until you’re thirty. Or, more realistically, at least until you’re old enough to make some memories.

Until then, I’ll say this now and believe it forever: Your Aunt Loren, my sister who has five kids and who has been to more of these kinds of events than I can count, has all the bravery of a lion-tamer. She’s more talented than a spinner of plates and more graceful than a stilt-walker. I will never again roll my eyes when she shows up late for dinner. I will ask her, if she’s only an hour from the time we initially told her, how she worked such a magic trick.

Picture Credits:

12 thoughts on “Never Again–In Which We Have Our First Family Outing

  1. psv411 says:

    I sincerely hope you are planning to make these into a book. I would be the first to purchase for my daughters. I will be waiting to see how long you will actually stick to “never again”. I hope you don’t stick to it because I so enjoy the stories and Lily June will too. It could be worse…my daughter and her husband got custody of his 13 year old daughter which was wonderful news. Then she got pregnant with twins which was wonderful news. Then when the twins were 10 months old, she was surprised to be pregnant again. She fell apart at this point thinking she couldn’t handle it all. She got over it and sweet Amelia was born when the twins were 18 months old. Ashley handles it all beautifully. She was very demanding and bossy growing up and I can see that it has served her well. She keeps everyone on a schedule, everyone. She says that is the only way it works.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dearlilyjune says:

      I envy your daughter: She must really have it all together! I have a hard enough time keeping after Lily, but I feel incredibly lucky for every minute I get with her.

      Thank you for your kind words about trying to get a book together. I love writing these letters, so maybe–in the Great Someday–I will try to do something with them. Until then, thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. psv411 says:

        Do not envy her! She is a control freak, but a loveable one. That’s why I told you that she drove us crazy growing up and actually still does. We are incredibly proud of her though and all that she has accomplished. She is my step-daughter who I raised from the age of 12, now she is raising her step-daughter from the age of 12. I tell her “what goes around, comes around”.😏

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ellie P. says:

    Oh geez, I love love love this!!! See how much? You merit *3* exclamation points! It really took me back. To the point where I almost got a sympathy headache from the circus noise and waves of nausea from the trampoline! I have to tell u: It gets better! Yes! Well, once they start to talk. And then…when they’re toilet-trained. (Ask me to tell u one day about taking a daughter in midst of toilet training into an airplane bathroom – with her little potty.) The point being, though, it *does* get better. In any case, I can see that you know how to savour the good moments, like when she quieted down on your hip? Nice. And I know u have oodles more like that. And good thing we have those positive times, otherwise every kid on the planet would be an only child. Heh.

    BTW – loved the “hangry” bit – I hadn’t seen that before. This perfectly describes how I felt in my post, “Kitchen Karma.” Which u haven’t got to yet. 😉 xox

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ellie P. says:

    The airplane tt story must wait… it’s actually one very small chapter of a *much* larger story I call “Our Greek Tragedy.” Which I will one day write. It’ll put my ex in a bad light, though. Mind you, if the shoe fits…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. originaltitle says:

    I’m surprised you guys were brave enough to do such a long trip!! Every time we took my daughter to a family outing she would scream the whole time and everyone would look at us like, “What are you doing to this poor child? Why isn’t she sleeping and happy like the OTHER babies in the family?” Etc. It was miserable. We started doing just an hour max at any family outing to save our poor daughter from the “Screams.” Bravo to you! You guys are pros at this parenting thing. I’d say it sounded actually not that bad, but then again my experience has jaded me haha! Way to go! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dearlilyjune says:

      I’m probably just more likely to view any social event as a disaster since it ramps up my anxiety! She would occasionally get angry, but then we’d move to another room, and there would be more to see, and she’d get overwhelmed and fall back asleep! So it mostly worked out okay.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ellie P. says:

    Alyssa, I can share the *definitive* story re my ex which I wrote quite a few years ago (and therefore it still features some vitriol, lol). Although it’s not the Greek story (that is still to be written!), it’s really too long to post on my blog. It’s a ‘short’ story of a few pages, but really too long for here… plus too mean I think! So I’d love to share it with you but it means u will need to trust me with your email address, so I can send it to you. (I’ve never gone public with it before; you would be the privileged first. ;-)) If u feel like it, u can send me your address to my email address, which is ellie @ presner .com (without the spaces). Then I’ll send u the story. Plus we can trade bons mots in email which would be less clunky than on here. Whaddya think?

    Liked by 1 person

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