Rory and Quinn: 18 Months

I’m standing in a garage that’s about ten degrees too hot.  I can tell if I stay in here for longer than a few minutes I’m going to start developing disgusting little pit stains.  My underwear is already riding up on me and, thanks to my leather suspenders, my pants are too high / tight to adjust.  Rory is standing on my right side, he’s got a chalkboard strung about his neck like post-stroke Anthony Hopkins from Legend of the Falls and Quinn is off to my left in a tutu.  I glance over my shoulder, half expecting to see Tim Burton getting ready to direct us.  Nope.  There’s just a couple of guys in ties and a woman in a white dress.  We’re at Uncle Jordan and Aunt Kate’s wedding at the farm in South Dakota.

Your role, Rory and Quinn, is simple.  You hold my hands and we walk from the garage, through the grass, down the aisle to the alter.  Seems easy enough…but let’s not forget that we’re dealing with volatile elements; 18 month olds.  I’ve seen footballs bounce with more predictability than you two tend to demonstrate.  In my head I’m playing through the various scenarios, trying to be ready for any possible outcome; Rory becomes distracted in garage and doesn’t want to leave.  Screams and cries like infant vampire when I try to forcibly drag him into sunlight.  Quinn decides halfway to aisle that she wants to sit down and examine grass / bug / dirt / newly discovered God particle.  I leave her behind, lying face down on the ground while Rory and I march on.  We get to the aisle and you both freeze after realizing that there are 150 people staring at you.  You begin to cry.
But none of this happens.  None of it even comes remotely close to happening.  The three of us walked from the garage to that alter in a series of tiny little steps, me cheering you on, “Good boy!  Good girl!  C’mon…c’mon!  Great job!”.  Rory, you kept your chalkboard around your neck the entire time.  It read, “Here Comes the Bride!!”.  Quinn, your job was mostly to just look pretty, which you accomplished in Aces.  Everyone made the appropriate noises, the “aaahhs” and “ooohhhs” and “look at theeeem”.  At the end of the aisle I passed you off to Aunt Theresa and Uncle Jesten and you were both mostly good for the rest of the ceremony although you laughed at none of my jokes.
The reception took place under an enormous white tent lined with tables and a dance floor.  There were people everywhere – playing games, eating, socializing and, I’ll be totally honest….your mom and I lost each of you three times.  Three times a piece.  We lost you six times.  In about two hours.  Granted, we assumed you were somewhere safe with someone we knew but there is still a sinking feeling of horror when you realize that your child(ren) have gone missing.  Man….reading that out loud really makes us sound like we deserve DSS Parent of the Year awards.
Most of the time we’d find you hanging out with Grandpa Wade or with Katie’s mom Barb (who Quinn REALLY, REALLY, WEIRDLY took to) or with Grandma June.  But once – the final time we lost Quinn – we found you on the dance floor….dancing….all by yourself.  It was so funny.  Your arms were up and you were bending at the knees and shaking your torso.  I mean…y’know.  Dancing.

The flight back to California wasn’t too bad – both of you slept 90% of the way – but the flight out to South Dakota was (allegedly) horrible.  Your mother and Grandma Kathy flew back while Uncle Hotrod and I stayed behind for a week.  Once you landed, your mom called me to say that Rory screamed non-stop, full force for the entire two and a half hour flight.  Red faced, flailing about, full on freak out mode, cranked to 11, bottoms up, no holds barred.

As she tells me this I smile and nod into my phone just imagining that your mother is…elaborating…on the truth a bit.  Feeding the truth a hormone supplement.  Beefing the story up for dramatic effect.  But your mom says, “NO!  Ask your mom!” and I do.  And your Grandma confirms it…but then I remembered that your Grandma Kathy gives the truth high octane steroids.  So I just smile into the phone and nod again and say, “Well, I’m glad your flight was safe”.

I write off the entire experience and we fast forward to two weeks later.  We’re waiting in our terminal at the Sioux Falls airport and there are at least THREE seperate instances of people coming up to us and saying, “Oh!  You’re taking this flight back to Los Angeles!  How are your kids?  Are they in a better mood today?”

It was all true!  Rory, your epic meltdown on the plane was so monumental, so elaborately explosive, so def-con 5, that total strangers remember you two weeks later AND felt the need to question your current temperament to mentally prepare them for the following flight.  You, my friend, are destined to make an impact wherever you go.
The week following our arrival back home was the Fourth of July.  The four of us plus Uncle Hotrod drove to ________ to purchase our fireworks.  It’s about an hour drive up north and it’s incredibly beautiful once you get out of the city.  The way up was fantastic – there are orange groves and apple orchards and vineyards and little shanties to buy honey combs at; farms, cows and pasture.  It’s gorgeous.  We purchased a small pack of light-em-ups and hopped back in the car for the hour long drive back and well, well, well.  LOW AND BEHOLD!  LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!  Rory Brookbank did NOT want to go back in his car seat and he was going to make certain that everyone knew how displeased he was about not being given an option.
Granted, I’m sure it’s very frustrating to be a toddler and to be shoved into the back seat and strapped in like some Death Row inmate on murder watch….but I wonder if it’s as frustrating as having one screaming in your ear for a full 60 minutes at point blank range.  Poor Hotrod – he was stuffed in the back like our enormous third child, his butt crammed tightly between two car seats.  Honestly, I wasn’t that concerned about his inability to latch his seat belt because we were going to need the Jaws of Life to get him out as is.
Anyway, Hotrod – he does this thing when you’re crying.  Like, if you’re really crying and he can’t just go outside and escape back to his Troll Hole.  Really sternly he’ll sort of shout, “Hey!  That’s e-NUFF.  I said that’s e-NUFF”.  And he’s trying really hard to say it with authority but you don’t recognize his authority so you just keep screaming and then he tries to pick you up and coddle you but he’s the galoot that’s just finished shouting at you so you scream louder and then he goes, “Huh…I guess they don’t like being picked up.  What’s with your kids?  Why don’t they like being picked up?”
Jade deals with screaming in the car by just turning up the radio.
I tend to zone out and go to that Happy Place – the world around me just goes silent and black and white like a Charlie Chaplin movie and I feel no pain.  That said, the entire ride home I was having really horrible cramps in my stomach so I wasn’t able to escape the insanity.  From the backseat I was getting Rory screaming, his face red, his fists pumping.  Jarod is behind me as well and he’s playing like a broken record, “e-NUFF-e-NUFF-What’s with your kid?-e-NUFF-e-NUFF-What’s wrong with your kid?”.  Jade has cranked up Linkin Park and I’m about to shove a screwdriver in my ear because I hate them.  I’m trying to escape to my Happy Place and let the world go quiet around me but my guts are twisting around and I’m sweating and everything is horrible.  My mantra is, “Only 45 minutes to go.  Only 44 and a half minutes to go.  Only 44 minutes to go.

I look out the window and the scenery is beautiful.

All that said, lighting off fireworks with you both in the backyard made it all worth it.  We sat around and lit sparklers, which Quinn was a HUGE fan of and we lit fountains with names like “Volcano Mayhem” and “Emerald Palace” which Rory loved.

It was a fantastic Fourth and it’s these yearly markers that remind me how much each of you has grown.  Last year we were holding both of you in our laps and you weren’t even crawling yet.  In fact, I think you had just started to roll over not long before.  Rory hated the fireworks and we had to put him inside like a dog.  This year he wanted to light them himself…and with a little help, he did.  Quinn, your Fourth was pretty much the same as the last except you’re about ten pounds heavier and fitting inside your skin a little more.

Maybe next year we’ll get you holding a Roman Candle all by yourself!…or at the very least a sparkler or two.


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