Family (re)union at sea

Why yes, I am blogging from the middle of the ocean. I have to purchase some Internet time here on the ship at the luxury rate of about a bajillion dollars a minute so that I can do a little work, so I figured in for a penny, in for a pound—you get a piece of me, too. Lucky you!

Yesterday was a VERY long day. It turns out that the business of getting to the port, meeting up with eight other people in your party, getting through security and check-in, and then finally boarding the damn ship takes quite a while. And then just as you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, I’m on a floating city and will never find my way back to my room again,” you have to run out on deck to your “muster station” for a safety drill, where they tell you how to put on a lifejacket and which lifeboat you should take in the event of an abandon ship order. (While that’s kind of crowded and boring no matter what, they pack you in five lines of people deep and sound various alarm chimes and I thought poor Monkey was going to abandon ship of his own volition if it didn’t conclude pretty promptly, which—thankfully—it did.)

I could (and probably will) write endlessly about the ship itself. I am… not a vacation person. Or, at least, I’m certainly not a luxury vacation person. The sheer volume of STUFF and GLITZ here on the ship makes me feel a bit like I’ve stepped through the looking glass. It all seems impossible, somehow. Our dinner last night was so extensive (choose a starter! or two! and a fancy main course! and sure, the kids can have whatever they want!) that in something of a stupor, I ordered a slice of cake for dessert before remembering that hey, dumbass, I haven’t eaten wheat for more than a year. Seriously, I FORGOT THAT I COULDN’T HAVE CAKE. Because it just seemed like here in BOATLAND chocolate cake made sense. (Not to worry—I had creme brulee, instead. OHMYGODSOGOOD.)

But that is not what I wanted to tell you about, today. What I wanted to tell you today is why we’re here and how weird and wonderful it is.

See, my father rounded up the family for this trip to celebrate his 70th birthday (which was earlier this year). As he’s footing the bill, we all congratulated him on picking such an awesome gift for himself. (I do sort of feel like we should buy him some cufflinks, or something, but instead so far I’ve just sat at his table at dinner and made a fool of myself explaining to the waiter that apparently I’m too stupid to remember what I can and can’t eat.) That means that we have my dad and stepmom here, and my family of four, and then the other “kids” in the family as well.

My brother is here with his girlfriend. My brother lives in Nevada, and yesterday we figured out that we haven’t seen each other since Monkey was a baby—ten years ago. So not only was this my first opportunity to meet his girlfriend (who is not only warm and lovely, but has gone on a lot of cruises and even been on THIS cruise before, so she has the inside track on everything), this is the first time I’ve spent any time with him in a VERY long time. And it turns out that my brother is a helluva nice guy. And my kids feel like they’re meeting their uncle for the first time, because of course they don’t remember meeting him before. Plus they brought presents for all the kids—a little Lego set for Monkey, a pretty necklace for Chickadee—so the kids are pretty jazzed about this arrangement.

My stepbrother is here with his wife and two kids. Now, here’s the funny thing about growing up in a small town: Although our parents didn’t get together until well after we were adults, we know each other. Sort of. I mean, we went to high school together and had friends in common. The last time we saw each other was high school, which means it’s been 20mumblesomething years. Kind of a long time. And of course I was meeting his wife and kids for the first time.

Banana is about three and a half, and shy, and spent the first ten minutes of our time together hiding her face and refusing to talk to anyone she didn’t already know. Monkey—bless his little non-social-cue-reading cotton socks—was undeterred, and in very short order he and his little cousin were new best friends.

Gerber is turning one (today! yay!) and has completely captured Chickadee’s heart. She pops Cheerios into his mouth and bounces him on her knee and carries him around. Gerber’s mom and I hang back and chuckle and marvel at all these cousins, who yesterday were strangers, who now are army-crawling under their grandparents’ bed and laughing hysterically, who are holding hands and walking around together, tickling Gerber’s chin and calling to one another, “Come see THIS! Come LOOK!”

We all lounged around in my parents’ cabin yesterday, watching the kids play, discussing which shore excursions everyone wanted to go on, and it was just easy and fun and chaotic and wonderful. My stepbrother brought up a canopy ziplining tour and asked if anyone else wanted to go, and the wise and acrophobic amongst us demurred, but Chickadee’s eyes lit up and she began to bounce with the force of “YES YES ME ME I WANT TO GO PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE?” I asked Otto if he wanted to go, and he said no, and I reminded Chickadee that I am not a fan of heights, and was about to tell her she wasn’t going, when my stepbrother said that he and his wife would be happy to take her. And I turned to my shy girl and asked her if that would work for her, and instead of casting her eyes down and muttering “nevermind” as I half-expected, she grinned with delight and thanked her uncle.

Today we sail all day, and tomorrow we arrive someplace exotic and go out snorkeling with stingrays. But even if we didn’t do a single thing on this trip beyond what we all gained in our first half day, it’s been totally worth it.

27 Responses to “Family (re)union at sea”

  1. 1
    daisy June 7, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    We love to go on cruises. I’m not sure we’ll ever travel another way again. Of course we do want to see several of the national parks so we may have to make some adjustments, you know, unless they figure out a way to put a cruise ship in the middle of Yellowstone.

  2. 2
    Karen June 7, 2010 at 8:39 am #

    Life is Good :-)

  3. 3
    Jess June 7, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    That sounds really wonderful.

    I’ve always been reluctant to go on cruises, because of my whole general dislike of… okay, other people. ;) But I think that otherwise it would appeal.

  4. 4
    Leandra June 7, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    Yay! Sounds like an awesome trip. I also love seeing my kids connecting and reconnecting with their cousins that they don’t see very often. It just makes me feel all warm and tingly and family togetherness-y. Hope the trip continues to be awesome.

  5. 5
    Peggy Fry June 7, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    You can buy him cufflinks (and lots of other stuff) in one of the many expensive gift shops on board. We cruised in January, and actually had a sort of stealth wedding in the chapel. We decided we’d better ask if it was ok if we reserved some spot to get married in and to our surprise they offered the chapel! And they played music (some cheesy piano thing and the Love Theme from Ice Castles – which made me laugh thru the tears) and gave us a certificate and all sorts of stuff. It was lots of fun! Drink the drinks of the day and enjoy the wonderful company!

  6. 6
    Annette June 7, 2010 at 9:33 am #

    I’m so glad you are having a great time!

  7. 7
    Tracy June 7, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    What an awesome time. There is nothing more precious than that of family. Your Dad is the greatest. I secretly wish he were mine…just think, I could be the half sister you never knew….until we met on the ship. ha!

  8. 8
    elz June 7, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    What a great gift for you all. I love that you forgot you couldn’t eat cake! Hope the rest of the trip is spectacular.

  9. 9
    Tammy June 7, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    Sounds like a fantastic time.

    What’s up with Banana and Gerber? You’re destroying the naming convention symmetry here!! I have some suggestions for you that keep with current convention:

    Barnacle
    Baboon
    Badger
    Beetle
    Blue Jay
    Butterfly
    Bluebird

    Ok, so the first ones weren’t great. But I came through at the end. Butterfly is my favorite.

    Now for Gerber:

    Gazelle
    Gecko
    Goose
    Gerbil
    Gnu
    Grasshopper

    Hmm. Tough choice between Gecko and Grasshopper. I like Grasshopper–especially for a boy.

    You’re welcome. And, you’re pretty!! ;)

  10. 10
    Jamie June 7, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Sounds like the trip of a lifetime. Until you all do it again because you’ve had so much fun this time!

  11. 11
    JennyM June 7, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    Yay! It’s so awesome when a trip or party turns out to be even *more* fun than it even occurred to anyone to think it might be.

    Maybe Chickadee should do a guest post about the zip-line adventure.

  12. 12
    Lylah June 7, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    This story made me happy in so many ways! Mostly on a “Yay, Mir is getting a cool vacation!” way, but also in blended family, teen/tween, siblings, and far-flug family way. Enjoy your cruise! And have more creme brulee for the rest of us landlubbers, please!

  13. 13
    Chuck June 7, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    Glad you are having fun. Thanks for sharing, hope the entire cruise is awesomely fun!

  14. 14
    Megan June 7, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    Sounds fantastic – and I would totally zipline with Chickie!

  15. 15
    Mara June 7, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Sounds like a great trip so far! I can’t help but think that it’s really, really weird to have not seen your brother for ten years (Nevada =/= ends of earth), but assume that there’s more to the family back-story than what you want to write about. I’m glad you’re seeing each other now, and that your kids are meeting their cousins! Family is a gift.

  16. 16
    Donna June 7, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    So extremely cool on many accounts. I wish I had extended family who I’d want to take a cruise with! Have an awesome time!!

  17. 17
    Scottsdale Girl June 7, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    I didn’t read anything after creme brulee…

  18. 18
    aem2 June 7, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    Heh. I just got off a ship (ocean liner, dontchaknow). You can order Every. Single. Dessert. And three entrees, if you like. You can pretty much spend the entire time aboard eating.

  19. 19
    Keesha June 8, 2010 at 12:17 am #

    Is it love Thursday? Cause this made me a little teary. Sounds like an awesome time…enjoy!

  20. 20
    Kristel June 8, 2010 at 1:10 am #

    Wow you’re having fun;-)

  21. 21
    Lady M June 8, 2010 at 3:56 am #

    Awesome. I’m just imagining the creme brulee and it’s enough.

  22. 22
    Brigitte June 8, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    I think you’re having fun, despite yourself! ;-)

    My 5-year-old would kill for a canopy zipline tour. But I tell her she has to wait until she’s at least 10. And I have to go with her. And it better be rated to carry people of my heft (better yet, I want to see people heavier than me go first).

  23. 23
    Kailani June 8, 2010 at 9:07 am #

    Seriously, is it Love Thursday? Is it?! I hope that you won’t let another 10 years go by before spending more time with your brother. And that maybe you’re inspired to build a relationship with your step-brother and his family. Your dad is so handsome and awesome and maybe it appears that he was giving YOU all a gift for HIS birthday, but I bet what he’s witnessing onboard is WAY more valuable than cufflinks. Take the time to take some great group shots. Ones with Otto not behind the lens! Enjoy!!
    K

  24. 24
    Nelson's Mama June 8, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    My husband adores cruising – me not so much.

    The “barking” and “debarking” and the wading of people simple wears me down; I’m a cut to the chase kind of girl, let’s fly to a destination and be done with it!

  25. 25
    mamaspeak June 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

    you know what you can do for your dad? take lots of pix (hmmm…that might be a stretch for you guys) and put together a scrapbook of the trip. If you’re really feeling inspired journal each day & put it in a book w/the photos. You can put something together on a conventional site (ie-snapfish) but I prefer to put my own pages together in photoshop (which might work better w/journaling) and I’m willing to bet that Otto happens have photoshop and be rather prolific in it. I think THAT would be the best gift of all; an easy way to remember this awesome experience together.

  26. 26
    mamaspeak June 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    Opps, forgot to add, I do my printing at Costco, but there are other services for cheap/good printing.

  27. 27
    Katie in MA June 11, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    No way, just NO WAY is your dad 70.

    Glad you are all having a blast and getting to know each other all over again!

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