sideways rabbit

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chains of Love

"I think he's doing remarkably well," said my friend Cecilie, as I drove her this morning to her second day at the Organic Growers School Conference here in Asheville. She meant that Beau, as an only child, was weathering with stoicism the three-day visit -- she called it "takeover" -- of another five-year-old in his domain.

But it's not just any other five-year-old. It's Cecilie's youngest child, Solveig, born the same month as my son. Cecilie and I have known one another since we were eight, but have not lived in the same town since we were twelve. Nevertheless, our amazing epistolary friendship -- first "real" letters, then e-mail and Facebook -- has lasted almost 30 years, i.e., most of our lives. So when Solveig and Beau were born the same month, we decided an Old World style marriage contract was in order. And we're only half-kidding!

Their initial meeting was concurrent with Cecilie's and my joyful reunion this past weekend. She and Solveig are staying with us -- I insisted she bring her -- and Scott & I are babysitting while she attends the growers' conference during the day. (Having recently moved to Alabama with her big family, Cecilie's thrilled to finally be starting her dream farm in the balmy south.)

A strikingly lovely child who has her Norwegian mother's Fjord-blue eyes and red hair, Solveig (pronounced Sool-vay) is as fearless as Beau is measured and cautious, so there have been some amusing yin-yang moments going on, as well as some precious clinches of love (cuddling on the couch in the morning, showing one another the designs on their night-time pullups, chaining themselves together with Zoob blocks), and some grumpy disagreements. Here I should critically mention that Solveig is the youngest child of six. She breathes brothers and sisters. And, as any reader of this blog knows, ours is an "only."

It's been intriguing to witness the dynamic. Solveig is blithe and independent, Beau the word that comes to mind. With occasional mutters and frowns, for three days he has shared toys that heretofore have only been shared on brief playdates with friends or, at longest, an overnight visit from his triplet cousins. So far, I've seen only two tears -- one from each of his big brown eyes, over a dissension in choice of bedtime books. But I think he may be fulminating a grudge. He tends to.

Solveig is a breeze. Literally -- she is like an Alpine wind, except a little sweeter and easier than that (must be the Alabama creeping in). Yesterday, at the threat of snow that never materialized, we brought the kids to this giant arcade warehouse facility officially titled Fun Depot. I call it Migraine Dungeon. Zooming around Go-Kart tracks, Beau rode with Scott and I with Solveig. Peering over at her, her strawberry hair streaming off her high forehead, I tumbled down a rabbit hole plop into my childhood. She could have been Cecilie, cantering on her horse on her long-ago farm in Western New York. For that moment, she absolutely was. Then, Cecilie-like, she noticed that I wasn't paying attention. "You have to keep your speed up," she chided about my driving. Her voice is a little deeper than you'd expect, just like Cecilie's was as a child.

Soon after that, we ran out of money. Beau was already tired, but Solveig wanted to keep going. She pointed to game after game and I had to shrug sheepishly. "We didn't bring enough money," I said. I braced myself. But no tantrum came. She shrugged and moved on.

So it's a sad testament to our personal lack of fortitude that after this relatively fun and easy trip to the arcade, upon arriving home, Scott and I crashed HARD, popping in a Scooby DVD for the kids, going to our room to take a nap (our house is tiny), and telling the kids to come get us if they needed us. It's hard to explain our exhaustion. Really, they'd behaved just fine. It was simply that we were unused to caring for two children, shepherding two personalities.

"I think we really are meant to be an only-child family," Scott said wearily, before dropping off to sleep. Today, we're taking the kids on a hike, putting a little March bluster into them. I'm sure it will perk us up. Because after all, there are wedding plans to be made...

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