I’ve been writing this letter to you in mind for weeks now, but until now I haven’t managed to spill the words onto a page. I hope you’ll cut me a little slack, because, you know, in addition to everything else going on during your 11th month, there was the little matter of that CROSS-COUNTRY move. Oh yes. You began this month in Altoona, PA and ended it in El Cerrito, CA.
We made it. You, Daddy, Camus, and I are finally together. We live in a cute little rented house in the El Cerrito hills. Your room has blue walls. Camus has a cat door to the lovely terraced back yard. Daddy takes the BART to downtown San Francisco to work, and you and I eat strawberries in the garden every day for lunch. Wow, Mom, sounds idyllic! Well, there are also the spiders, and the ants, and the dirt floor in the basement, and the raccoons that fight in our back yard, but you, ma petite fille, have been enchanted by the whole upheaval. Which is a good thing, because I don’t ever, ever want to move cross-country with a baby and a cat again. Ever. Okay?
Week One: Return to Altoona–with Daddy!
After two months of Daddy-dearth, you two were reunited. He couldn’t believe how much you had changed, how much you seemed like a little kid and not a baby. You didn’t remember him completely, but you didn’t treat him like a stranger either. It was a bit sad for us, because prior to this huge change, Daddy had been your primary caregiver. However, by the end of the week you seemed to have accepted him back into your acknowledged tribe of “People who love me and can take care of me, especially when I produce a hassle diaper.”
Mama was pretty thrilled about that too. It largely fell to me to take care of you, while Dad dealt with the packing guy and the movers. You loved zipping around the house with your mad crawling skills. You raced around the hall staircase, making the lap that Dad and I tread so often with you cradled in our arms. We indulged in a fair bit of “what might have been,” and it still pains me that you will never know this house that we loved so much. Plus, I hope that one day you will meet the Altoona people who greeted you into the world. We managed to say goodbye to most of our friends and colleagues there. We spent the last day at the home of our friend Robin, who had graciously offered us her house while the movers did their thing. Thank the heavens! Not only was it a boiling hot day, but between the last minute packing and the moving, our house was chaos. So Robin’s place (and her kitty cat, or “gack gack”) were a welcome oasis… especially in light of what happened at the end of the day"the moving truck got stuck on a tree pulling out of our street! But I’ll let Daddy tell that part of the story, since he witnessed it.)
Weeks Two and Three: Chilling and Chatting in Gradyville
Daddy returned to San Francisco, while you, Camus, and I returned to our summer routine at Mom-Mom and Granddaddy’s house. You do seem to thrive on routine, and it was fascinating to watch your memory improve. When we leave the upstairs bathroom, you always want to turn out the lights. Whenever you look into a mirror, you stick your tongue out. Whenever Granddaddy says “Sammy, give me a kiss,” you wrinkle your nose. You understand language more and more, and this past month your vocabulary"both receptive and active"exploded. While last month you were saying “gack gack” for “kitty cat” (and other four-footed animals), this month you uttered your first English word with recognizable pronunciation: “baby.” “Bahbee” or “baybay”… sometimes you remind me of a foreign language student, which I suppose you are. If only my former students had your diligence. You love pointing out babies"your baby pictures on Mom-Mom and Granddaddy’s refrigerator, the Gerber baby on the cereal box, and of course your own reflection. You also love pointing out birds. We ask “Sammy, where are the birds?” and you point out the window towards the bird feeders and say “Birr.” But your most amazing utterance was at the dinner table. Granddaddy helped himself to a cracker and you pointed to it and said “crack ack.” We handed you a cracker and you happily munched away.
Your vocabulary at 11-months:
- Gack gack (kitty cat)
- Bird (pronounced “Birr”)
- Ball (pronounced “Baw”)
- Mama (spoken only when in distress)
- No (“Nyeh”)
- Bottle (“Baba”)
- Button (“Bap”)
- Duck (“Gack”)
Munched away? That’s right, you have a tooth! Your bottom left tooth erupted this month and now you can make teeth marks in all sorts of crack acks.
August 19: Your First Airplane Ride
There’s a whole subplot to this story which involves a foiled terrorism plot in the UK, new government restrictions on carry-on luggage, and your mother Freaking Out in the days leading up to our departure… but I’ll spare you that, and instead tell you that when we arrived at Philadelphia Airport the morning of the 19th, I said to the agent at the USAirways ticket counter: “We are two adults, a baby, and a cat flying to San Francisco.” The agent laughed out loud and said, “Doesn’t that sound like a movie title?”
Hah. If only. Mom-Mom had generously offered to travel with us, so she carried you through the airport security screening, while I handled Camus. You and Camus were both awesome travelers. We had three seats together, with Camus under your seat as your “carry-on luggage.” You cried only once when you were tired and couldn’t settle yourself in the infant carrier, so I nursed you to sleep in my arms. All in all, we could not have asked for a smoother trip. Daddy was waiting for us at the luggage carousel (too bad our luggage wasn’t waiting there too, but that’s another story) and we had a happy family reunion in the midst of other people’s bags.
Week Four: More Firsts
We celebrated our first night in El Cerrito with dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant, where you tasted your first naan bread. The next night found us at an Ethiopian place in Oakland, and we ended the long weekend at a Thai place. You preferred the Thai rice crackers to anything offered at the other two places.
You also took your first subway ride on the BART to downtown San Francisco. Daddy showed us around his work place and we walked down the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building where your mother swooned with delight at the markets. The following day we said a teary goodbye to Mom-Mom who was such a big help in taking care of you, while Daddy and I tried to dismantle as much of the cardboard palace that the house had become. As I write this, we are STILL not completely unpacked. I hope we will be by the time your third birthday rolls around.
I must admit, though, that unpacking is a diverting, if somewhat harrowing pastime for a baby. Is it something you’ve never seen or touched before? Bring it on. Cardboard boxes full of packing paper? Yay! Fragile stemware? DVD’s? Tools? Computer equipment? Impossibly small widgets and screws? Fascinating! At 11-months old, Sam, you have made an inventory of all your parents' clutter. And you love it. I can sit you down in front of a box of just about anything, and you will happily pull each item out of the box and sort it according to your own logic. Sometimes you will hand things to me with such an earnest look on your face. I accept the thing–sock, scrap of paper, UNFO (unidentified non-flying object, thank you Robert Anton Wilson)–and say “Thank you.” However, sometimes you disagree with my decision to drop the object back on the floor or put it back in the box. “Nyeh, nyeh, nyeh,” you say, and grab it back. I love that you have opinions on where things belong. And of course I have no idea where you got that from…
End of the Month: A Farewell Trip
I DO know that you did NOT get your ability to adapt quickly to new situations from me. Maybe from Camus? Anyway, exactly a week after we arrived in California, we took another plane trip to yet another time zone. You, Daddy, and I traveled to Marinette, Wisconsin, for the interment of your Great-Grandmother Ruth Goodman Dobbins, who died back in March. You did great not only with the travel (subway to airport to rented car) but also with the hordes of family and friends we inflicted upon you. In addition to meeting your Grand-mère’s brothers and cousins, you met Ruth’s sister Margo Decker who is your Great-Great Aunt! Pop-pop and Grandma CR were also there. It was a convivial gathering of folks who wanted to remember Ruth’s long and interesting life. The night before the burial there was a hot dog roast up at the “Branch Store"“a family cabin right on the waters of Lake Michigan, in Menominee, Upper Peninsula Michigan. Daddy took you down to the bay and let you dip your hands in the chilly water. The following morning we buried Ruth’s ashes at the family plot where six generations of Goodmans are buried. So many people were cheered by your presence, as you were the sole representative of your generation. Your Grand-mère, in particular, appreciated your babbling during the ceremony. It is sad, however, that Ruth never heard your adorable little voice.
Finally, what trip would be complete without a major milestone? There’s something about hotel rooms… you first slept through the night in a hotel room in Princeton, NJ. And you pulled up to standing for the first time in our room at the Best Western in Marinette. You were curious about the air vent and the control panel on top of it. So you crawled over, and just hoisted yourself up. Vertical girl! In just eleven months.
Now we’ll wait and watch for those first steps. I can’t begin to imagine where you’ll take those. I’m sure you’ll surprise us because you always do.
We love you, Sam.
Mama and Daddy