Bobby, Noah and I loaded up in the Rendezvous (Her name’s Serenity.) and took off to South Alabama last weekend. My nephew Jerred’s birthday party was Saturday, and we’d missed our planned visit two weeks earlier because we were all sickly. It ended up being easily the best visit we’ve had since Noah was born.
I don’t know what it was that made this particular visit so special. Maybe that Noah’s gotten to an age where he’s really pleasant to be around, active, cheerful — and the fact that this is the first time Bobby and I have really felt like we knew what we were doing with a baby on the road. That tickle of anxiety I’d always felt on our previous long trips with Noah was nowhere to be found.
This is how good the trip was: Bobby and I actually talked about the idea of moving closer to family. It really wasn’t a serious conversation, but we agreed it was something we would have considered if I hadn’t gotten my current job.
Especially since my dad died, I think we are both aware of the need to spend time with our parents, with my Meemaw, who is 87 and still works outside in her garden every day, and with other family. We get so wrapped up in our everyday lives, the washer being broken, the dishes needing to be done, Noah’s ongoing cold — the list goes on — that we sometimes forget how important that is to us. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, but that’s what happens.
So I think that’s part of what was so special about this weekend. We left all the everyday stuff behind and were reminded of what’s important to us. Bobby’s dad (Grandpa, to Noah) sat with us on the porch and showed us the wood he had been working on to make a toy box for Noah for Christmas. Mr. Mathews was an upholsterer before he retired, and the cedar had been sitting in his workshop since Bobby was a child. He said he knew he would find a use for it someday.
Bobby said he’d rarely seen his dad be affectionate with anyone the way he is with Noah. Noah pulled on his mustache, and we all laughed. Mr. Mathews surreptitiously kissed him on the top of the head, and Bobby had to walk away to hide the tears in his eyes.
Mrs. Mavis (Bobby’s mom, and Granny to Noah) told us before Noah was born that she would lay in bed sometimes and imagine that she was holding him. When Noah refused to nap on a pallet at their house on Saturday, she asked if we would mind him sleeping in her bed. We didn’t, and those dreams of laying in bed with her grandson became reality. He rested quietly with Granny, sucking his thumb until he fell asleep cuddled against her side.
We stayed with my mom on our visit, and I took Noah next door to visit Meemaw and Uncle Tony. I was so thankful for technology that would allow me to take video of him with them. He cackled as Meemaw tickled him and cried when she took away the piece of mail he kept trying to cram in his mouth. I regret that Noah never met my dad, and I know that Meemaw may not be around to see Noah grow up. But he will at least be able to see how she loved him.
We loaded up Serenity on Sunday morning while my mom cooked lunch for us. She offered to send us home with some of everything she had prepared; she kept starting new conversations every time we’d head toward the door or asking if maybe we should double check that we hadn’t left something or other behind. It was hard leaving her knowing that she had spent the past 40+ years until April always having someone there with her, someone to take care of, and the past few months she’s felt the painful void caused by my dad’s death.
As we drove past the house for sale two doors down from hers, I joked with Bobby that we could always move in there, and he gave me a dubious look. I know that we will never move back to Clio or to Enterprise. We’ve built a life in Tuscaloosa, made friends who we now consider by-choice family.
Still, an occasional reminder of the importance of our by-blood family isn’t a bad thing, and hopefully one day we will find a balance in our lives that allows us not to need to be reminded.