a fleeting number of days

I had a fantastic day with my kid on Friday.  It saddens me a little that everybody (you know, “THEY”) says as my daughter gets older, the opportunity for those days will fade.  I don’t know if I’m willing to let that happen, but then again, I may have no choice.

I took the day off work and kept her home from school.  We planned to go to Richmond and just kind of bang around, go to a museum, get lunch, etc.  Not a terribly rigid plan.  I think I finally woke her up at 7.30, planning to leave at 8.30.  We more or less got out the door around then, but we had to stop to put air in the car tires (which required waiting 10 minutes for a nearly completely clueless dude to use the air machine before us – if only I hadn’t wanted to turn around first!).  I let her get breakfast at McD’s (which is maybe the 1st time I’ve let her do this in the last 5 years at least) and we hit the road.

I-95 wasn’t too bad except down around Dumfries/Quantico where all the construction is.  I thought about bailing out to US 1, but we weren’t really in a hurry, so I stayed on the highway.  I figured it would clear up sooner or later and it did.  South of Fredericksburg on I-95 is a real joy – clean, smooth highway and very little traffic.  I can’t wait to get out of this area to get away from the shitty traffic and sheer number of horrible people that live up here in NOVA.

I mentioned something about the traffic, which led to a long discussion about moving.  We plan to move south in two years when she finishes middle school, and I’m leaning heavily towards the general Charlottesville area.  One of the big reasons for the move is that I want to buy a house, and I simply can’t afford one in Fairfax.  I might be able to buy a tiny condo or a shitty, run-down townhouse, but a decent house with a garage is just out of my salary’s reach up here.

The conversations about moving are awkward.  My daughter is 12 and while she’s lived in 4 different houses (well, 3 houses & 1 apartment) in her life, she went to one elementary school and will go to one middle school.  We’ve worked very hard to make sure she has that opportunity.  As a military brat who got dragged all over the US & Europe, I wanted her to have the same set of friends for as long as possible.  I want her to go to one high school, too – but not one in NOVA!  Being 12, she can’t see the bigger picture and doesn’t understand about cost of living.  Up here, just to get by, I have to work a full time job AND a part time job; her mother has to have a full time job, too, and some months are still tight.  We could feasibly get by on just my full time job in Charlottesville AND be able to buy a house to boot.  Maybe not IN C’ville, but in that area.  I’m very much looking forward to it.

Anyway.

We planned to go to the Science Museum of Virginia, then get lunch, but because of traffic, it was about 1030 by the time we got to the outskirts of Richmond.  We changed our plan to go to a used book store (Chop Suey) and a fun toy store (House of Mirth), then get lunch, THEN go to the museum.  That way we could spend as much time at the museum as we wanted and not be rushing to do anything else.

Chop Suey is a neat, funky little bookstore.  Their prices are a bit high (no $1 bargains), but their quality is high, too (no crappy, half-destroyed books).  Very weak science fiction section, but we found some good stuff.  My daughter picked out a book about a classic (very old) comic strip called The Culture Corner. It reminded us of the Disney cartoons where Goofy is learning how to do something – play baseball, ride a horse – and it all goes horribly wrong.  It did my heart good to see her take an interest in an art form that’s on life support – and the strips are REALLY funny.

House of Mirth is just about the coolest little shop ever, but their prices are REALLY high.  We got an $8 zombie card game that looks like fun, but pretty much everything else there was just too expensive to justify.  We stopped at the Plan 9 record store, but going in there reminded me why I stopped going to the Plan 9 that used to be in Charlottesville – I’m just not cool enough.  The staff was cold and the selection of mainstream music was pretty weak.  Lots of indie and pseudo-indie stuff, though.

We had lunch at Mellow Mushroom, which was delicious, and set off for the museum.  We got there about 1.

Their Foucault pendulum is neat and we watched that for a while, but then we dove into the main exhibit area and had a really good time.  In the “unplugged” area we built an arch, then of course we destroyed it!

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We took in the IMAX feature “Worst Weather in the Solar System” in The Dome.  The movie screen is a … dome.  It made me a bit dizzy, but my kid loved it.  Did you know it rains diamonds on Neptune?  How cool is that?

We ended up closing the museum down; after they kicked us out, we headed to my mom’s place about 45 minutes away and spent the night there.  Grandparent time is important!  The next morning, we headed home so she could spend some time with a friend of hers that’s moving overseas in a couple of months and then she had a sleepover planned (at the other kid’s house).

We got along great, with only a little friction here & there – like at the museum, when I wanted to move on but she wasn’t done with an exhibit yet.  Most of the time I let her linger, but a couple times I hustled her up.  I tried to let her lead and we had a good time.  I feel like it was excellent bonding time – neither of us had anybody else to pay attention to for the most part, and it allowed us each to focus on the other.

Next year she’s 13, and it won’t be long before she’s in high school, then driving, then (hopefully) off to college and the rest of her life.  I can quell this melancholy feeling inside me that days like Friday are going to be fewer and further between as she grows up.  In one sense, I’m happy for her to grow up and become her future self, but I’m also afraid of that exact thing taking place, because it means I’m losing my little girl.  She’s a fun kid most of the time, and while it’s getting a little tough lately, there’s more good days than bad.

Your kid growing up isn’t one of the things people tell you about when you’re having a baby.  They throw down all the projectile vomiting and horrific diaper stories, but they don’t tell you about how hard it is to watch them turn into … people.

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