My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea..." (Part 1)

Note: I'm still catching up; this post is about the events of October 15-17.

One of the professional organizations that AJ is involved with holds an annual convention in Ocean City, Maryland* late each year. Since it's off-season, they get a good deal on hotel accommodations, and during the periods of free time there's a much higher ratio of beach::visitor than during the summer months. Over the past few years, our folks have taken advantage of the opportunity for a mini-vacation and joined AJ for at least one full day of family time at the beach.  (*I specified OC-MD because one can also spend time in OC-FL, OC-NJ, or OC-WA!)

Last year, for the first time, AJ had the Pipsqueak in tow, so our folks spent a bit more time babysitting and a bit less time vacationing... quite a bit more time babysitting, in fact, since my niece expressed very little interest in sitting through the many professional presentations & training sessions!  The weather was a bit on the grey, blustery, and cold-ish side, so despite some happy moments of discovery (the Pipsqueak had never seen the ocean before, or so much sand in one place) it was a bit less of a "play" weekend than everyone had hoped for. In addition, Miri was so young (and so bundled up!) that it was all Just Another Trip for her, one that generated a lot of photos but that she didn't seem to really remember in any significant fashion.

This year, with the Pipsqueak much less "baby" and much more "little girl," the expectation was that she'd be keeping her Grandma & Grandpa occupied during the day, then (hopefully after an afternoon nap) keeping Mommy occupied while Grandma & Grandpa attempted to recharge their batteries. As usual, I was hoping to use the weekend to catch up on my long-and-still-growing To Do list, but it was made clear that I was welcome to share as much time in OC as I felt I could. At first I was seriously tempted to try to spend the weekend "constructively" with yard tools, spackling knife, and recycling twine firmly in hand...

...but then I got to thinking.  Dad's eighty-one... Mom's approaching 80... and the Pipsqueak would never again be a two-year-old discovering the ocean for the first time.

I did the bare minimum of what I really had to do (and not much of that, to be honest), called our folks to let them know what I was doing, tossed my old sleeping bag and a couple of changes of clothing into the Beast, and hit the road. Since I left a couple of hours later than I thought I might, I soon found myself driving a rural highway alone, in the dark, with a radio that couldn't pick up any of the local stations along the route. I remember one phone call to update my folks on my progress (what did we do back in the days before near-universal cell phone coverage?!?) when I had to admit I had absolutely no idea of where I was because I was between towns, forgot which one I had just left, and all the fields on either side of the road were pitch black.

I finally crossed over one last bridge, made one last turn, and parked in the hotel's lot.  Mom & Dad came downstairs to find me and escort me upstairs --  they had neglected to tell me which room they were in and I had forgotten to ask. As we walked in past several large "WELCOME CLASS OF 1954!" banners and a raucously loud party room, Mom said they hadn't told the Pipsqueak that I was coming because they wanted to keep it a surprise. I poked my head around a corner in the room to see Miri very much awake & active on one of the beds, and she absolutely made my day by yelling out my name and bouncing up & down on the bed in excitement to see me. (It's always nice to know my niece likes me!)

Miri helped me finish off a little Mac & Cheese and a granola bar, and we talked about how we would have time to play together in the morning, then everyone filled me in on the double rainbow they'd seen the day before, I played with Miri for a little while... Eventually the Pipsqueak settled down enough (after an abortive attempt by Grandma to trim her fingernails) for everyone to get into bed for the night. By "bed" I refer to where the rest of the family was sleeping; I had my old mummy bag on the floor, with one of the bedspreads folded up underneath for "padding" -- an arrangement that very quickly made me nostalgic for all those beds I complained about in our hotels in China.

I remember lying awake a long time (at my age, a mummy bag on a hard floor is not comfortable!), musing about the last time I'd spent any appreciable time staying in a hotel with the Pipsqueak & AJ, but eventually even the repeated ouch! of banging various joints on the floor dulled enough for me to doze off. I was looking forward to spending at least one day at the beach with my niece, my sister, and our folks...

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