Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
Even at 'baseline,' I'm a very high-strung, Type-A person. It's a trait Jen has had nearly six years to get used to, and one my family has been familiar with since I got nosebleed migranes in grade school.
So I knew things must have gotten hairy when, all last week, mom kept telling me to slow down, to take it easy, to see a doctor about my blood pressure. (I should, of course -- my last full, turn-your-head-and-cough checkup was nearly a decade ago.)
My in-laws are wonderful, warm, interesting people. And having them in town added a touch of contentedness to Jen's aura. But boy... I doubt I have ever experienced such a sustained level of high stress.
Journalism is in my blood, whether I want it there or not. But I therefore thrive on long swaths of meandering and procrastination broken up by intense but short peaks of hell. I wasn't equipped to worry so much for so long. Even now, I feel like I'm still recovering -- twice this week I've passed out before 9 p.m., whereas getting more than five hours of sleep a night is usually unheard of.
I have to say again, I love Jen's parents. High stress doesn't imply unhappiness.
I really don't know why I spent the week running in the red, even when I was in class or at work. I think I just reverted to type, thinking the world rested squarely on my shoulders, and I was worried that not everything would be perfect. If I saw a gray cloud moving in over the mountains, or if the traffic was unusually bad, I immediately began bracing myself for the end of the world.
Never mind the fact that -- as Jen's mom kept saying -- I can't control the weather. It's still my fault, dammit! It was supposed to be sunny and clear, and instead it rained and gusted every single day they were in town save the last.
And fate, being the sucker for melodrama that she is, couldn't end the adventure without a big, unforgettable climax.
Jen's parents' flight out of Honolulu, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, was abruptly canceled. A few hours later, Delta changed its mind and said it was just delayed... six hours. "Mechanical problems" was the airline's entire explanation. After spending an eternity in line at the airport, then at a counter whimpering at a frustrated Delta agent, we ended up bringing them to the apartment to pass the time until a replacement plane out of Texas arrived.
Although we got to spend some extra quality time together, Ed, Jen's dad, eventually got too nervous to sit around and had me take them back to the airport shortly after 8 p.m.
When I dropped them off, Delta said their flight wasn't due to leave until 1:30 a.m.
It actually left well after 2 a.m. And, after arriving on the East Coast, their connecting flight to Orlando was also delayed. Four hours.
Their last day here, they kept saying they hated leaving. But after losing half a day to Delta, I know they have probably never been happier to be back home.
Katie had a banner week too, of course.
Last Tuesday, her first birthday, brought her much anticipated baptism. Jen's parents brought a fancy white christening gown, and mom, Todd and William were also on hand. Deacon Sidney Townsley was charming, in his gruff way, and made some small talk before giving everyone one last briefing on the ceremony.
Katie looked such an angel in the gown, everyone's hearts melted. But as soon as things got started, she transformed almost immediately into a screaming terror the likes of which we'd never seen.
At first it was just angry shouting. But when the deacon approached to smear a Holy Water cross on her forehead, she grabbed and shoved his hands away like he was Death himself. From that point on, she seemed to have decided she wanted absolutely nothing to do with whatever was going on.
Seriously. Jen was barely able to hold her as she wiggled and kicked. The deacon struggled to maintain solemnity despite nearly having to shout. Everybody looked absolutely mortified.
And I was seriously struggling to restrain a laugh. One of those "there's simply no other response to this situation" laughs. The video camera was running the whole time, and I'm afraid of the look I must have on my face.
I couldn't help but think that her sudden fury stemmed from a small part of her spirituality -- the skeptical, adventurous part -- that she inherited from me. I seriously thought for a moment that I could hear her voice in my head, speaking with the firm resolve I know she'll grow to have as an adult.
"I will go to church," I imagined her saying. "Church may educate me, enrich me, comfort me... but it will never own me."
That's my girl.
Screaming fit and all, it was a surreal experience. I feel like I went through it in a haze, much like my wedding. I know that it was a significant moment, but one I'm still weeks away from fully appreciating.
Saturday brought Katie's birthday party.
It was a small, family-only affair at the Pagoda restaurant. Jen's parents, my parents, both of my grandmothers and Uncle Al's family.
Although we were proudly saying all month that we had nabbed one of the Pagoda's "tea houses" -- charming, detached party rooms floating out in the Japanese garden -- we ended up in a side room. The same room, in fact, that housed the buffet for the entire restaurant.
Nonplussed, Jen -- at my urging -- expressed her disappointment to the manager. He smugly informed us that there were four "tea houses" at the restaurant. Three of them were quaint, round structures surrounded by koi ponds, but the fourth "tea house" was indeed the plain, square, buffet-holding back corner of the regular restaurant in which we were standing.
Well. How charming.
Despite the generally frumpy attitude of the Pagoda staff, a great time was had by all. Heidi, Todd and mom had arrived early and did a whiz-bang job on the decorations. Mom had finished the 'year in review' photo board she'd been working on all week, and we happily distributed the hand-made party favors to guests.
We administered a cute "Gettin' to Know the Birthday Girl" quiz that Jen and I had written the night before, and mom put together a neat word-find puzzle featuring the name of every guest present. There was moderately good food, and lots of colorful chatter. (Grandma O. was, as usual, thrilled to be shooting the breeze with William again.)
Katie fell asleep halfway into the festivities.
In the end, it was Jen that had to blow out the candles and pick the winner of our door prize. (Katie was supposed to have grabbed a name out of a box.) People had to speak in whispers to say goodbye. Mom noted that I too slept through my first birthday party. We agreed, though, that a sleeping baby wins over a tired, cranky baby any day.
The presents, which we opened the next day, were mostly cute clothes and more than a few U.S. Savings Bonds. Any actual money that came in went straight to Katie's two savings accounts, which are already nearing four digits.
The day after also gave Katie the first taste of chocolate cake that she'd missed at her party. The pictures we got of her smearing heaps of pink frosting across her face are so adorable, they are definitely going out with the thank you cards.
Gettin' to Know the Birthday Girl
1. When my mommy was in labor, what was the only thing on TV?a. John Glenn's return to space.
b. Marc McGuire's record-breaking home run.
c. Debate over same-sex marriage.
d. Monica Lewinsky's affair with the president.
2. When did I take my first breath?a. 11:38 p.m., Monday, January 26, 1998.
b. 4:49 p.m., Monday, November 17, 1997.
c. 9:14 p.m., Monday, January 26, 1998.
d. 1:01 a.m., Tuesday, January 27, 1998.
3. What are my favorite toys?a. Spoons, plastic straws and video boxes.
b. A stuffed "Po" Teletubbies doll, eye glasses, and a yellow truck.
c. A set of plastic stacking rings, mommy's keys and three blocks.
d. Dad's wallet, and pots and pans and anything noisy.
4. What is my favorite color?a. Green.
5. My full name is quite a tongue twister. What is one of my two middle names?
6. I'm a fast learner. But which of the following have I yet to figure out?a. Waving.
c. Feeding myself with a spoon.
d. Giving people "high fives."
7. How many teeth do I have?a. Three.
8. How much did I weigh, and what do I weigh today?a. Starting at 7.1 lbs., 4 oz., reaching 21 lbs., 10 oz.
b. A dainty 5 lbs., 2.5 oz., now a modest 17 lbs., 7.3 oz.
c. From 6 lbs., 3.3 oz., to a hefty 19 lbs., 7 oz.
d. Born with 9 lbs., 4.2 oz., grown to a whopping 23 lbs., 3.1 oz.
9. Though I like "grown up" food now, what was on my favorite baby menu?a. Pears.
d. Sweet potatoes.
10. When did mommy and daddy decide on my name?a. The day they learned I was a girl, December 1997.
b. The week before I was born, January 1998.
c. The first year they were dating, November 1995.
d. The night I was born, January 1998.
11. What would my name have been if I turned out to be a boy?
1: d. Monica Lewinsky the story broke three days before Katie was born.