When I sit down to do one of these updates and notice that two weeks have gone by since the last one, I am overwhelmed. Many two week periods of time in our house warrant a book. Some a trilogy. And looking back, the past couple of weeks is no exception, but I'll try to give the Reader's Digest version.
Papa Hoss and Gigi came down from Ohio over Mother's Day weekend. Katie would be foolish to think the visit was a tribute to her. Not that she isn't my mom and dad's favorite daughter-in-law by a wide margin (forget that she is their only one), but they spent the winter in Arizona and they hadn't seen Elliott and Ian since before Christmas. No, make no mistake; in our house it was Grandsons' Day weekend.
Some time ago I told Elliott that the next time Papa Hoss and Gigi come to town we would take a train ride. Since those days that now seem long ago when Elliott and I would take pre-sunrise walks through Ashland waiting on the rest of the world to wake up and join us, he has had his eyes on one of those Amtrak train passenger seats. He must have said a million times, "I wish I could ride the Amtrak train." It was time to make wishes come true.
Because of the tight schedule, the trip itinerary was brief. Get on the train in Ashland; get off the train at the next stop twenty minutes later just north of Richmond. Grab a bite to eat at McDonald's and then make the return trip. When I went to the station to purchase round-trip tickets for this journey, the face on the man behind the counter made it clear I was making an unusual request. I guess it isn't the hottest round trip ticket on Amtrak's northeast corridor menu.
I explained to the man that the destination and trip duration were logistics incidental to a 3 year old getting his first train ride. His face lit up. He was no longer a ticket master but instead an older gentleman that I dared to assume had probably ridden a few trains with his own grandchildren. He handed me several paper conductor hats and some Train Day 2010 badges. My hat fit. His mission and attitude were summed up in the direction he gave me as I walked away, "Go make a memory." (As a side note, I wish all folks working in customer service incorporated as much human interest into their jobs as this gentleman did.)
So Sunday morning, that's what we did. We made a memory. We got on the train and rode the rails no more than 20 minutes south and when we got off the train Elliott said, "That was cool."
And baby Ian (I refuse to strip that title from him) took in far more of the trip than I thought. Every day since our little journey, when we cross over the railroad tracks in town I hear a little "choo choo" coming from the grinning child in the back seat. It's like his own daily tribute to the memorable ride.
The weekend was full of tribute. Sunday was Mother's Day, and the following day Katie and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. It's fitting that those two events fall so close together. Ever since our boys were born, when I look at Katie I can't see one without the other: an awesome mom, an awesome wife. And although I get to write about so many of our boy's growing pains and pleasures, many times focusing on my role in that (that's one of the benefits of writing, you get to make yourself the star of the show), behind many of the pleasures is a caring mama.
Witnessing a wife turn into a mother is one of those wonderful experiences that has no explanation outside of God. I am reminded through this transformation that our boys are God's children and he joyfully works through us to shape them. He provides us the patience and strength. But mothers, well he gives them a little something extra that's hard to identify. A gentleness. A spirit. God's own personal touch. Katie has all of those things, and every boy in our house is grateful for that.
It was also nice to have Katie's mom and my mom together on Mother's Day. I'm afraid most of their conversations weren't about the joys of motherhood, but more a celebration of their common connections as grandmothers. Much of that discussion was about Ian, since he spends his days with grandma. Grandma has some Ian stories now. I'm afraid, though, they did little to change the opinion my mom had formed during her visit - that I have grossly misrepresented baby Ian. That he is much sweeter and far less trouble than I describe.
I guess grandmothers have that perogative. They can debate the sweet and sour of all of their grandchildren. I imagine they'll always find their sweetness, and when they don't, they'll send them home.