In less than three weeks le Petit will set foot in the United States for the first time. As much as I'm looking forward to introducing him to his motherland, I'm dreading the trip over. Eleven hours in a plane, nine hours of jetlag, a fourteen month old baby. . . I'm expecting the worst. But it is a direct flight, mercifully, so when we arrive we'll have nothing more complicated to do than take le Petit and his two passports through immigration, claim our bags, and collapse into my mother's station wagon.
I can't wait to show le Petit my other home, to see him run up to a douglas fir tree and explore the crevassed bark with his fingers. I'll let him run along the beach on Puget Sound and pick up pebbles. We'll lift up barnacle-covered rocks together and watch the little crabs scuttle for cover. I'll take him to the parks I remember from when I was small. He'll stay in the last house I grew up in, and he'll crawl up the same carpeted stairs I ran down so often as a teenager. He'll play in the dirt in the garden where once, a very long time ago, I planted rose bushes.
He's too little for it to mean much to him, I know. But I still imagine that it will trace in some lines on his internal map of the world. This is where Mommy grew up: curious forests of tall evergreen trees, colored houses made entirely of wood, giant cars and buildings, beaches littered with twisted tree trunks, and rivers where salmon still find their way back from the sea.
But right now I'm fearing I'll relate a little too well to those poor salmon fighting their way upstream for the sake of their offspring when I arrive at Sea-tac International Airport.
Does anyone have any advice about traveling with small children, or getting them adjusted to jet lag? Yes, we were too cheap -- ur, frugal -- to buy him his own seat on the plane, we won't be traveling with our own car seat, and we weren't about to splurge for business class. So, given those parameters, what can we do to make the trip bearable and avoid any major diplomatic incidents? And what should we under no circumstances forget to pack in our carry-on luggage?