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Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Thursday, December 29, 2005

2005: A Father Grows Up

When Marta was born I heard the comment "your life will never be the same again" a few times. My Uncle Frank can be credited with advising me that I would "never sleep the same way again," and the quote that "children are expensive" can be attributed to my brother Ian.

But I think deep inside I held out a flicker of naivety that all these older blowhards were wrong. Frank had three kids, and Ian had none. I had one. So shouldn't I be the expert on my own situation?

Right from the start let me say this - Marta has been very agreeable considering the situations she's been put through. When she was a few months old she got dragged on a trans-Atlantic flight from Tallinn, Estonia to Prague to New York, and then limo'd to Setauket, Long Island. When she was 10 months old or so it was again back across the ocean to Frankfurt, then to Helsinki, to the US embassy in Helsinki, then on a boat across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn - the city of her birth. Marta's passport has more stamps in it than my passports received in the first 22 years of my life.

In two years she has traveled farther than any of her grandparents had in their entire lives. So she's a pretty amazing kid - this is indisputable. However, in my youthful naivety I may have overestimated her ability to be thrown on my shoulders and dragged to the ends of the Earth.

When I met Epp she was an older experienced world traveler and I was sort of a sophomoric traveling type. She had been to India and China. I had done a lot of Europe. But we both came together during a period of our lives where we relished travel - the shaking up of ones surroundings in order to produce a better insight into "how to live the perfect life."

In many ways, psychedelic drugs and physical travel are similar experiences. You take the drug and it alters your perception. The next day - when you awake from that altered perception, you see your surroundings with gained insight of having experienced them differently. The same goes with travel. You shake up for environment. You surround yourself with foreignness, and in the process you learn to trust your intuition to survive. It's a rewarding experience.

I was under the impression that if we threw Marta on our backs and did a little traveling around Europe, she's be a champ. But it took one night in Amsterdam to teach me that those blowhards were right. Life has been forever changed.

The first thing I noticed about the hostel we booked in Amsterdam in July was that it was filthy. Filthy. As a backpacking youth I would have slept in and not have minded the dirty carpets and grotesque individuals. But instead with my daughter I was shocked to discover that the hostels of A-dam catered to filthy, itinereant, exhausted young people who came there to do drugs and see Van Gogh paintings. I shivered as I thought of bed lice nesting in my daughter's curly hair. We stayed there one night.

The next day we were booked in a cleaner hotel closer to the center of town. Marta had had fun in Amsterdam with us - she had been on canal rides and to the zoo and played with little Dutch kids - but that morning while watching a Dutch children's TV show she looked sick and then...hurl. She puked in our bed. Now I really felt like an asshole father. And then the sickness spread from her to my once wild and free wife. Before I knew it, I was at the Dutch apothecary buying medicine. Mr. Mom.

Marta got better when we went to Scotland, but, though she is a Capricorn, her hardy, mountain goat-like persona has its limitations. One of the first things I was reminded of in Scotland was how many people dislike children. They sort of think they are cute, but they don't want kids messing up their stuff, waking them up, puking on their sheets.

I recall I went to inquire about a tour we had registered for, and was told abruptly when I mentioned our child that children weren't allowed on the tour. The bus tour through Scotland was for 21 year olds in search of sexually transmitted diseases - not wholesome 1950s types like us. So we didn't go on that tour. Then the owner of the guest house we had booked nearly didn't let us in when she found out we had a smelly, vomit-producing child with us. She had to take in Marta's natural beauty before she agreed to relent and let my child have a roof over her head for the evening. What a saint!

And so, we dragged Marta around Scotland, pausing to play in a rundown 1970s era playground in Glasgow, and dragging her around the Isle of Arran with us. In fact, by the time we made it to the old Pictish stones on Arran during one of the few sunny Scottish days, Marta had passed out in a field full of sheep and sheep poop.
Yep, 1.5 year olds aren't built for rugged hikes in Scotland.

The highlights of that trip were meeting other children. Marta had a lot of fun on the ferry between Stockholm and Tallinn. Tired of being the penny pinching father I indulged us in a roomy suite on the boat and Marta had plenty of room to roam. She ran into the Tallink ferry discoteque a few times and had fun in the ball pen in the cleanly playroom. She was so full of energy. It felt good to be able to say, "Here. This is all for you."

From now on when we go places I am going to keep Marta in mind. I want to do things that she will enjoy. In short, I am tired of me and my needs. I am satiated. It's she who deserves a good, easy time.


Blogger Eppppp said...

"Your life will never be the same"...
Life will never be the same anyway, life IS change.
And it´s so interesting, with a child, to reach all these new milestones and face the life/change.

6:23 PM  

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