May 7, 2013

To the Eastern Shore and Back.

This past weekend Nekos photographed a wedding in Cape Charles, Virginia, right along the choppy gray waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Tessa, Livvy, and I tagged along, taking advantage of the free hotel room and rental car and chance to visit a place we'd never been. This was our first vacation as a family of four, and we went with not a little apprehension and a whole lot of excitement. Cape Charles is a beautiful, tiny town where time is standing still, in the best possible sense. (My girls, however, were not standing still.) There is one coffee shop, one pub, one old-fashioned soda shop, a handful of locals, and a smattering of vacation homes bumped up right against the beach. Most everything there is beaten by the weather and blown by the wind, and many of the old train stations, service stations, and warehouses are abandoned and all kinds of spooky. It used to be a railroad town and major ferry port but hasn't been since the 1960s, and lots of the buildings have been just chilling there, essentially untouched for 50 years.

I loved learning about this part of the country. I did not know, for instance, that the Chesapeake Bay was formed when a meteorite punched a 53-mile-wide hole through the earth 35 million years ago. I also didn't know about the existence of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which is a seriously breathtaking 23-mile-bridge-tunnel over the Bay. I didn't know how tasty a soft shell crab sandwich could be or that there's a place called Chincoteague Island where wild ponies run free. (We incidentally came across more pony poop than ponies.) When I've been to beach towns in the past, they've been well-to-do areas with double-decker beach houses that make my heart ache with envy, but Virginia's Eastern Shore surprised me by being very working class from end to end. These weren't your run-of-the-mill pristine beach towns, but towns that have ridden out more than their fair share of ups and downs.

We were there for four days, and each day was punctuated by good and bad moments. I'm so used to getting regular breaks from Tessa since she goes to school four days a week, and it was honestly really trying to be with her all day every day. The kid talks a lot. A lot, lot, lot. She can also be very sassy, which can be exasperating when we're tired. And her picky eating at home was magnified when we were out of town because we didn't have our healthy go-to's on hand, and we hated paying for meals at restaurants that she left untouched or threw a fit about. Plus, there was the matter of putting both girls to bed in a hotel room when we're used to them both having their own room.

On the day of the wedding I had both kids to myself for eight hours. We visited the aquarium in Virginia Beach, and Tessa loved seeing the sea turtles and blue and yellow fish. I loved getting to sit and nurse Livvy in a darkened room in front of an aquarium as big as a house. Another time I nursed her on the shore, sitting Indian style in the sand. And another time pulled over in the car, watching the sun sink over the Bay. Definitely my most picturesque baby-feeding experiences to date. At the end of that day I drove back over that 23-mile bridge (and then some) with Livvy screaming her head off in the car the whole way. She wasn't hungry, she didn't have a dirty diaper, and I had been holding her all day. I never could quite figure out what got her goat, but it sure did make for a hellish ride back to Cape Charles. Luckily, the tail end of the wedding festivities awaited us, and Tessa got to break it down on the dance floor and Livvy got to get back into my arms, where she is most happy. But shew, man. It takes a toll ... hearing that much crying. Somehow, in just the few days we were away, Livvy cut her second tooth, which is mad cute, and she started sitting up on her own for several minutes at a time. Now that I think about it the tooth may have had something to do with the crying.

Needless to say, this was one of the least restful vacations I've ever taken. It seemed like a whole lot of work in fact. And it turns out that Virginia is not actually for lovers when you share a hotel room with two little girls who are thrashing around and waking one another up and protesting bed time with all of their might. I'm hopeful that vacations will get easier one day when they're older and their needs and schedules are better aligned. In the meantime, this little whirlwind of a trip has given me a bunch of new memories and pretty new photos to hang on our walls. It's given me a new appreciation for home and for childcare and separate rooms and places to put the baby down and a little bit of time to myself.