At three days old Ross crossed state lines for the first time. Our road trip home following his birth was an intense 14+ hour drive broken up over 5 days– all while adjusting to a newborn. It’s not something I would recommend, but somehow we survived it. We pulled into the parking lot of our apartment complex exactly one week from the day he was born absolutely exhausted and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Our first day covered about four hours of driving that turned into more than six hours on the road. We spent the night in a hotel just a few minutes from where my grandparents lived for the first 18 years of my life. I was just six weeks old the first time I visited the city, and just about every year after that I spent more than week of my summer with them. It was meaningful for me to bring Ross to this place that held so many memories, even though he will not remember it. As the city lights came into view I called out to him in the back seat as we passed the familiar attractions: That’s where we went to baseball games! I remember when that stadium was brand new. That’s the amusement park where I rode my first roller coaster! Grandpa would always win me a stuffed animal at the carnival games. That was where Grandma would take me back-to-school shopping! We would always find a good restaurant nearby for lunch afterwards….
The next morning we bundled up the baby and took him to see the famed bagel shop of my childhood. I warned Kyle ahead of time that the owner was a bit like the “soup Nazi” on Seinfeld; you had to know what you wanted before reaching the counter or risk being scolded. As a kid I always found him so intimidating, but this time when he yelled at me for loitering in front of the menu I bit back a smile. After a quick breakfast we posed for a picture with the sign out front.
But there was somewhere far more important that I wanted to take Ross: my Grandpa’s old company building. One day out of each visit I would put on my best outfit and Grandma and I would have lunch with Grandpa at the company. It was my favorite thing to do– better than the zoo, the aquarium, and the baseball games– I was so proud to be introduced as their granddaughter. The old building is no longer in use; they’ve now moved to a more modern (ugly) building next door, but the original is still there. We drove up to the front gates and read the “No Trespassing” sign before continuing on down the drive. I climbed into the backseat to dress Ross in his warmest bunting while I told him about how Grandpa used to have summer concerts for the families on the sprawling front lawn. Now the impressive gold lettering on the front of the building has already started to fade from lack of care, another reminder of the passing of time. As I carried Ross closer for a picture, I wished that we were able to step back to the 80’s to watch Grandpa climb those front steps again in his crisp suit, briefcase in hand. Instead, we were here in 2016 and he was not. Ross will never know his namesake.
Another 4 hour drive had stretched into a full day when we pulled up to Kyle’s brother’s house later that evening. As we carried our first load of baby things up to the house, my sister-in-law waved from the back window with our newest nephew on her hip. The last time we had been there she was in her third trimester and we had barely entered our second, still feeling anxious over the fragility of early pregnancy. Now Levi was already four months old and we were finally able to meet him for the first time. Ross looked tiny in comparison, a full pound lighter than his cousin’s birth weight. The babies looked surprisingly different despite their fathers being twins: where Levi seemed to take after his daddy’s Swedish side with his pale blond hair and deep blue eyes, Ross had a rounder face and slightly darker complexion.
Throughout the night we were there it was never far from my mind that my mother-in-law missed out on seeing her sons as fathers; if she had still been alive I would have texted her these photos. When she passed away unexpectedly four days before Levi’s due date in September it changed all of our lives. Somehow we have already gone four months without her. And because of so many years wasted by our infertility, she lived her whole life without knowing what it was like to be called Grandma.
Morning seemed to come faster with each day that passed. The third day we drove five hours through the snow to get to my parents’ house, our last stop before home. It was our longest day of travel, but by then I had become an expert at feeding and changing Ross on my lap in the car. Thankfully he slept through most of the driving hours which made everything much easier.
Once we got to my parents’ house, Ross got to meet his grandfather (my mom had met him at his birth and flew back ahead of us) and one of his great-grandmothers, as well as his big fur-brother, Orion. The following morning some more of his great-grandparents came to visit us for lunch and to meet the baby. It was wonderful to have so much of the family around to enjoy this part because I never got to share the fun parts of a pregnancy with them. Now he was here and could be a part of their lives through more than just an ultrasound picture.
We ending up staying an extra night with my parents since Orion wasn’t doing well, but eventually we loaded up the car for the final time and finished the last two and a half hours of driving to get HOME.
And no one was ever more excited to cross over those last state lines.
Or more exhausted.