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.