Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turkeys and toddlers never let you sleep in.

According to a poll reported on CNN this morning while I was at the gym, the day before Thanksgiving is the most traveled day of the year. *Relief* I sure dodged a bullet on that one.

I've made no secret of the fact that traveling with a toddler is one of my least favorite things to do. Of course I know that there are tricks that make that hellish endeavor easier. But there's no way around it, going on a holiday trip with my kid is no holiday.

Having said that, I was at the airport yesterday, ALL BY MYSELF, and I couldn't stop watching other people with their kids. I had a book, I had a whole bunch of junk food that I never get to eat at home, I had a few precious hours of alone time before I returned home to what would likely be an ulcer-inducing domestic revolution (Lindsay moved Addison to a real bed while I was gone). I could have nestled myself into some little corner, as far from other people's little hellions as possible. But no. I've found that now I'm a dad, I can't. stop. watching. kids. Mine, yours, theirs, whoever's . . . it's like a strange Clockwork Orange alternate reality of parenting. A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have thought twice about a dude and daughter on a moving walkway, his finger clenched in her little toddler fist. But now, it's as though any moment of parenting that I encounter, whether I've got my kid with me or not, grabs me by the eyeballs and says, "THIS IS YOUR LIFE. THERE IS NO ESCAPE."

So no big surprise, I missed Addison. I was away for six days, and seeing one little hand enveloped by a bigger one put a lump in the my throat. Even a kid throwing a tantrum and spewing chewed goldfish out of his mouth at other passengers put a lump in my throat. Because my daughter has totally done that. I'm sick. I know this.

On this day eight years ago I was on the Appalachian Trail near Harper's Ferry. I'd gone out there to avoid people, including the girl I would later marry (see our relationship timeline). The only life I encountered on the trail was a vicious gang of turkeys (smart critters -- there's no hunting allowed on the thin strip of the Appalachian Trail that runs through the area, though hunting is allowed on either side. Apparently this turkey gang had figured out the safe zone) that would not let me sleep in, but ran gobbling by my tent early every morning. Otherwise, it was just me with my thoughts, and I liked it that way.

I still like to be alone. I daydream about it frequently. But if I was to go out on the AT for another solo trip, and that obnoxious bunch of fowl sprinted past, odds are I'd look at the runtiest of the bunch and think, "That funny-looking one runs just like my little girl. I miss her."
My pirate-turkey daughter
And now that I'm back at home, I can hear my wife in the other room trying to get my belligerent, naked toddler to put a diaper on and Addison is screaming, "LEAVE ME ALONE!"

Sometimes it's such a tricky balance between being away and having a heart full of absence, and being present and desperately wanting to get away. Ah, life, why you gotta be so paradoxical?

And if you haven't already read it on my Facebook Page, here's this:

My daughter haunts my every waking hour, but to her I'm just below scrambled eggs in the pecking order. You win, irony.