This past week was almost like a sociological experiment. Or a survivor episode. Or some sort of test to see if I have the patience to handle another kid. Apparently I don't.
My sister Amy (you know...the robot?) brought her three children down from Atlanta to spend a few days at my house, and from thence we drove 3 hours to my parents 'winter' home in Wildwood, Florida. And while I really don't have enough time, space, or brain power to describe Wildwood nearly enough to give you dear readers an accurate picture of the place, I will say that they live in a mobile home retirement community where the two modes of transportation are either a golf cart or a lurching shuffle. Oh yeah, and for fun on Friday night residents go down to the club house for the Early Bird special and a few hours of warbling karaoke to either Elvis or Johnny Cash. Yeah, it's even more fun than it sounds. And by More I mean Less.
So the ride down to my parents was actually kind of enjoyable. My sister drives a minivan equipped with enough audio-visual accoutrement to film our own documentary. She packed snacks that would have kept us satiated for months if, God forbid, we became stranded in the middle of the Ocala National Forest (since we were taking the way our father instructed instead of staying on the perfectly inhabited, safe and more efficient interstate system). The older kids sat in the way back watching Return of the Jedi, my kids sat in the middle watching Cars, and Amy and I sat up front fielding the requests for food, drinks, A/C adjustments, usage of the potty, and banishment of other passengers from the car. It reminded me of my own childhood, and being stuffed in the backward-facing seat with at least one sibling, crowded against suitcases, bags and other miscellaneous items, sweating, starving and slowly going deaf as the Star Wars soundtrack blared from the speakers and the hot road-wind roared in my ears. Actually, this car trip was nothing like the car trips of my youth. Nevermind.
We arrived at my parents house and proceeded to unpack, unwind, and release our five children into their two-bedroom, 1500 square-foot home, where almost every item in the house is an antique and has some interesting backstory that my mother would love to explain to you if you can sit still long enough or have the ability to sleep with your eyes open. And yes, this includes the food.
My parents had already been babysitting my other cousin, and so now there were six children 9 and under, shrieking and clomping around the house, getting into things and irritating each other and making messes of pretty much everything they came in contact with. I now understood why our relatives tried to keep my siblings and I outside as much as possible whenever we came to visit. Even if it was Kentucky in July and if kept outside long enough some of my fairer-skinned siblings might burst into flames. It seemed a risk my relatives were willing to take.
The most interesting part of this visit was watching Rollie interact with his older cousins. His version of 'interaction' was standing in front of the TV while the three older boys were engaged in an intense game of Avatar on the Wii, and hitting them on the back when they yelled at him to move. Luckily, my nephews had absolutely no qualms about telling me whenever Rollie misstepped.
"Auntie Bekah, Rollie won't get out of the way!"
"Auntie Bekah, Rollie just hit me!"
"Auntie Bekah, Rollie keeps saying pee-pee and laughing!"
"Auntie Bekah, Rollie is trying to stick a cracker in the Wii!"
Poor Rollie. It wasn't that he was trying to be an obnoxious pest. This was just his way of getting his cousins' attention. Kinda like that boy in my elementary school who looked up my pant-leg while I was attempting to break the 100-second head-stand record and become a member of the elite Burnt Hill Road School Head-Stand Club. I found out later (much later...like at my 10-year high school reunion) that he'd actually had a crush on me, and being an obnoxious pest was his way of getting my attention. (Side Note: It actually made me so terrified of him that I gave him a 50-yard berth all the way through ninth grade, until fate threw us in the same English class and I discovered that he was actually very eloquent at delivering Shakespeare soliloquies. Perhaps if Rollie recited some Hamlet to his cousins they might be more apt to let him have a turn at the Wii.)
Rollie did his best to keep up with his cousins, but there is evidently a huge gap between the conversational level of a 7-year-old and that of a 3-year-old. I overheard the following conversation going around the kid table during dinner:
Derek: I bet there are big, humungous alligators in the canal.
Hayden: My dad caught one with his fishing pole last time we were here.
Andre: How did he get it off the line?
Rollie: Maybe he pee-peed on it!
Hayden: He had to cut the line.
Andre: Did the alligator still have the hook in his mouth?
Hayden: I don't think the hook was in his mouth.
Rollie: It was in his poopy mouth!
Andre: Auntie Bekah, Rollie said poopy.
Derek: He said pee-pee, too.
Rollie: Pee-pee alligator, pee-pee alligator....
Andre: Stop it, Rollie.
Derek: He's saying Pee-Pee Alligator, Auntie Bekah.
I just sat at the adult table, pretending I couldn't hear the pleas of my nephews to censor Rollie. I figured if they can handle watching Princess Leia strangle Jabba the Hut with a chain, they should be able to handle a some bathroom language. And if Rollie still has a hard time gaining the respect of his cousins, he can always brush up his Shakespeare. It worked for Michael Lotze.