Our family is extremely excited about our summer vacation this year. This July, we are bravely crawling out of our mole hole, blinking from the bright light of the sun, and going out for the first time as a family of four. Yes, I know, it is a vacation and I should be duly grateful. But note that my trepidation is related to the fact that Olivia will be 10 months old in July.
We are flying first to Albuquerque, to visit Uncle Walter and Aunt Peggy and soak up some New Mexico sun. (Wait, we live in Boca for pete's sake, what are we thinking?) After three days there, and just enough time for Olivia to become settled, we then head further west, to California. We have grand delusions of languidly traversing through wine country ("are we there yet, are we there yet"), visiting Giant Trees, relishing dim sum in Chinatown. Sharing in our planning verve, Jake wanted to know which amusement park we would be visiting.
The part of the trip he is most interested in discussing (Disneyland having been nixed) is what Uncle Walter is now like. He has heard countless tales of growing up around three off-the-wall, ridiculously high I.Q.'d guys who were always willing to torture me like a sibling. Knowing we are about to visit one of them prompted him to ask me which uncle I loved the best. I carefully explained how one loves people for different reasons, and that you can't measure who gets the "most". He is a child, however, for whom putting things in order of appreciation is very satisfying. It would also let him know, out of loyalty to me, whom he should love the most as well.
It did make me think about it, I admit. Well, most everyone knows that I think of Jack more as a brother than an uncle, so the immediate reaction might be to name him. But I couldn't just black-and-white the answer like that. So I explained it to him the way he loves most: a ranking. But rather than putting my love for three uncles in order, which I cannot, I gave him a "Best List" of experiences. My uncles will see from this the incredible importance they had in my life. And maybe that too, my children need to experience some of this from them.
Walter ties with himself. Calling the house the first time I ever stayed by myself at nine, scaring me, thereby forcing me to run out into the alley to wait for my mother to return. And by many other times, by donning that horrific green mask and walking slowly, but relentlessly (like Yul Brynner in Westworld), toward me.
Honorable mention is William; my son says at least once a week, "tickle me like William tickled you." He knows I can't begin to come close to those fingers of steel, but he begs me to try.
Jack, who drove me to New York City and went shopping with me at Bergdorf Goodman. I bet I am the only one (outside of Alice) that he would do that for. It is never forgotten.
Best Ice Cream Cone:
William, when I was around eight or nine. The sweet treat was, I am sure, fine. However the mention is for afterward learning a valuable, life-long lesson of avoiding the law. As we were tooling around Houston, at night, without working headlights, I was required to "act casual" as we drove by a police car. To this day, next to a copper and open champagne bottle between my knees, I can play it cool like nobody's business.
Jack, hands down. In Boston, an irate, insane driver (now that I live in South Florida I see what a wimp that guy was) chased us around for a while, and Jack (pre-racing days, mind you) got away cleanly. The guy recognized him a few months later, and chased him around some more. I am just realizing that it might be because of that experience that he now takes his current behind-the-wheel risks.
Wow, in retrospect that was more fun than Bergdorfs.
Best Surreal Experience
William. First, see Best Ice Cream Cone, above. Then tack that on to the fact that the evening had started out seeing either a Fellini or Wertmuller movie and there you go.
Walter edges out those foreign films and their accompanying permanent scarring by escorting me to a Pink Panther film after much cajoling. No points lost for bargaining that I must then go with him to a Bruce Lee movie.
Best Torture of an Animal
This one--ironically now--goes to William. He taught me how to play Football Kitty. Requires really slick wood floors. Fifty-six, thirty-four...hut, slide feline backwards between legs.
Best Music Appreciation
All my Uncles. To William, whose fantastic piano playing of jazz and boogie woogie made me one of the few people my age whose only Ella Fitzgerald performance is not on a Pottery Barn compilation disk. To Jack, who one year gave me a favorite, used CD for Hanukkah while a replacement one for himself was on backorder. Only to find out I had wrapped for him a favorite, used CD for Hanukkah while a replacement one for myself was on backorder. (Oh, and for sending me Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.) And to Walter, for being so creatively fun at the piano and (what I consider) an undiscovered Billy Joel.
After I finished telling these and other stories to my son, we sat there for a moment: I reminiscing, he imagining. "Mom," he whispered reverently. "How can you choose who to love best?."