Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Chronicle Returns

Well, it's been a while.

The easy thing to say is I took a nice, long break from chronicling developments in my little clan, most notably those involving Nathaniel, our 11-month-old son. Truth is, I write for my job, and I'm trying (haltingly) to research and write a book, and I was just too darn tired of writing to imagine writing some more.

But I realize that the writing I do here is the most important of all. Not because I'm writing for an audience per se; this is no vainglorious pursuit. Rather, it's writing as a chronicler of Nathaniel's life, at least the beginning of it, and the satisfaction that I hope will come when he reads these postings, these musings, these joys, these tirades, these frustrations, these little raptures that come from watching him grow.

So, I'm back to trying to tell some of those stories.

A little recap: Last you knew, Nathaniel was all of three months old, a being with few emotions (beyond crying and brief rays of sunny happiness). Since then, he has morphed into a little boy, with wants and needs, a robust appetite (add pizza and cupcakes to the list – albeit on special occasions only), personality tics (he likes to click his tongue against the roof of his mouth, making a soft, popping sound), an obsession with climbing stairs and splashing the water in Hviezda's dog dish. So many changes in such a short time. I could go on and on.

As parents, we struggled a lot with Natty's frequent bouts of sickness. Last winter, any time he picked up a cold or a sniffle, the bacteria would migrate into his ear canal and park there. He got ear infections, he got fevers, he got deep coughs. He was miserable, and so were we. Finally, in July, Natty Lou got tubes. These tubes look like tiny lug nuts and are placed in the membrane of the ear drum. They let air in and help keep eustachian tubes ventilated, and thus, dry. After the surgery (a scant, ten-minute outpatient procedure), Natty's shroud of sickness had been removed – just like that, as if a magician snapped his fingers. The fluid that had pooled behind his ears, a reservoir just waiting to be infected, could finally drain.

What a revelation. What a change. It was as if we could see the relief etched on Nathaniel's face. He was happy all the time. He was giggly, bubbly, sparkling. He immediately began to communicate with us, using all sorts of different sounds, and, later in the summer, began saying "Da da" and "Ma ma." A few weekends ago, we visited the Vyases, our good friends in the Boston area, and they swore he said "dude" and "ball." Hmmm.

In any event, he is constantly interacting with Michelle and me. He's exploring his surroundings, crawling at baby Mach 4 and lifting, dropping, turning, twisting, throwing about anything he can get his hands on. He went to the beach for the first time and got dipped in the cold New England surf. He didn't care for that too much (video below), but he loved the surf and the beach (picture above).

That trip was our one big trip of the summer. Michelle's brothers (and one sister-in-law) and sister visited from Iowa and Nebraska, and we spent a week at a rented house soaking up the surf and the sun. We biked, we hiked, we grilled, we played games, and we watched as Nathaniel took stock of it all. Truly, vacations with family are so special. Granted, they're different from the trips I used to take when living in Eastern Europe. Those trips were about seeing new places, appreciating the diversity and the vibrancy of other countries and cultures, an attempt to appreciate the differences and the commonalities that is the human race. Vacations with family, I would argue, are less about seeing new places and experiencing different cultures than about appreciating the closeness that others who share your blood, or your values, can bring. They're about cherishing those ties and creating memories that invariably will be the ones we will cling to most vividly later in life.

Nathaniel, though he won't recall it, got plenty of those groovy times with his uncles and aunts. Then, he got to visit with his other aunt and uncle, and his only cousins so far, later in the summer. These were important, and special, times, and we are fortunate to have families who are as keen to do them as are we.

When it comes down to it, there is no substitute for family. None.

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