“Should we take the kids to Toronto for the wedding?”
“Would we drive?”
“It will be too much to fly. It would be fun to see all of the Italian relatives.”
“But we will be in a car for eight plus hours with the kids and your parents.”
“Let’s flip a coin.”
After much back and forth, we decided to go for it. Pack the car up with lots of snacks and games and books and movies. Pick up the in-laws in Marion, Ohio to head up to Toronto with us. Make sure someone watches our pup for four days. Ensure the “out of office” is on our email. Confirm Maria has her wedding dress she picked out from Target and her “high heels” that she demanded to where to the event.
We picked the kids up early from school, which always results in exuberance and glee and spazzing out throughout the halls (teachers either love us or hate us based on our (or I should say mostly, my, “laissez faire” attitude with the children). We headed up north to grandma and grandpa’s house, got on the road, and stopped within an hour to eat some Wendy’s fast food (yes, I enjoy my food stops!). A few value meals and a round of frosty shakes and we were back in the car watching Pocahontas as we traveled towards Cleveland.
About three hours later, 10:30 pm, we stopped at our hotel. Maria and Mario were so excited about staying at a hotel that it took us an hour to get them to fall asleep. Eventually, Mario ended up with me in my bed and Maria with Jon in his bed. I don’t know which kid is worse to sleep with since Mario wakes up crying in the middle of the night not knowing where he is and Maria kicks around the bed all night.
When we woke up on Friday morning, the first thing out of Maria’s mouth was “can we go to the pool?” Mario chimed in with “yeah, let’s go NOW!” We walked down to our breakfast buffet and each devoured vastly different breakfasts (Jon with his eggs and eggs and eggs; me with my numerous cereals and toast; Mario with his waffles and dabs of yogurt; and Maria with her hodge podge of waffles, various cereals in one bowl (her new favorite thing to do for breakfast), muffins, and toast). After our meal, the kids and I jumped in our swim suits and headed to the hotel pool. It was surprisingly warm. We splashed around for an hour or so and then got the boot from dad and the in-laws who wanted to get on the road.
“Niagara Falls, here we come!”
We all piled into the Yukon (which is a big automobile but with two kids, four adults and a good amount of luggage , food, and toys, it is cramped) and headed onward to Buffalo, New York. We finally made it to the Falls (after swearing we were lost on a couple of occasions). We decided not to park and walk to the Falls because of the rain and our desire to just get to Toronto (Maria later told her girlfriend who had gone to the Falls, too, that we just “drove by them.” Lovely!).
Although we could not stop at the Falls, we could stop for lunch! We stopped at another Wendy’s along the Niagara strip and chowed down on nuggets, fries, and more frostys. We jumped back in the truck, when within five minutes, we felt a drop on the right side of the car and a terrible grinding noise.
“What the he–?” I whispered to Patty, Jon’s mom.
Oh please tell me that it is nothing and the noise will stop soon. Yeah, wishful thinking.
A flat tire due to a piece of aluminum lodged in the big ol’ Yukon tire.
At least we were near a house with a gravel driveway. We pulled over. Jon and I tried to change the tire but that was quite the joke. The man who owned the house was in a mechanic’s suit and had a work van so I kept hoping he would pity us. Jon and I had to look hilarious outside of the truck, combing through manual pages, sliding under the truck to try to find tools. Finally, he came over to “see what we were up to” (a nice way of saying “you dumbasses, I want you off my property so I am gonna help you in whatever way I can).”
He began to help us but Jon had already called Triple A to get a “professional” on the scene. Luckily, the Triple A guy came in less than a half hour and had us fixed up in less than that time. Meanwhile, Patty and I couldn’t help but roll about the whole event.
Surprisingly, the trip was pretty quiet after that incident and we arrived at Philip and Lucy’s house (our cousins) at 5 or so. Lucy had cooked for us (of course). She had a salad with tomatoes that had been picked 6 months earlier! Is that insane? And they were delicious! She also had pasta soup, bread, pizza, cheese, fried cheese dumplings, and chocolate chip cookies. Ahh, heaven. We ate and ate and ate. Finally, we decided we had to hit the road for our hotel in order to get some sleep for the night.
The hotel was very European in style with a crisp, white, modern lobby but very plain, sparse rooms with two beds, a tv and a bathroom. Maria and Mario just wanted to know where the pool was located. We jumped in our suits and headed down for a late night swim. The pool was freezing! Luckily, there was a tepid hot tub in the pool area, which Mario enjoyed thoroughly. Jon sat in the hot tub with Mario for the most part, while I caught Maria jumping into the frozen pool. We trekked it back upstairs to our room, got in our pjs, and goofed around the room until finally zonking out at 11:30. That, to me, was the most memorable, wonderful time of the trip.
The next morning, the kids and I went to the breakfast buffet bar, which was way too amazing for Maria and me. We salivated with each step around the hotcakes, the donuts, the chocolate croissants, the bacon, the cereals. Mario, on the other hand, could have cared less about it. After stuffing ourselves, we headed to the pool (nothing better than being completely bloated from gorging on food and then stuffing yourself into a tight bathing suit). Mario bolted to the tepid hot tub – he is so tiny and skinny that he immediately freezes when he gets into a pool that is not heated. Of course, I made him get out of the tub every five minutes due to my fear that his organs would melt even though the water was tepid, and he sat on the top step the entire time kicking the water around. Maria loved jumping in the water to me and then acting like I was her prince and we had just got married. Yes, everything these days revolves around boyfriend and girlfriend and prince and princess – even swimming.
We headed to the wedding that afternoon, which was beautiful, simple and very catholic. After the wedding, the families hosted the guests in the downstairs of the church with prosciutto, olives, cheeses and bread. Desserts and fruit, too. We all chowed down only to be fed a seven course meal a few hours later at the reception. Yes, these Italian weddings can pack on ten pounds in one day. Maria fell back in love with her Italian cousin, 9 year-old Jean-Franco. A couple of years ago they played around at another Italian wedding but he was younger then and a little more amenable to playing with a 3-year-old girl. This time around, he is 9 and “mature” and she is just old enough at 5 to be “an annoying little girl” versus a cute little toddler. However, she was still able to spend some time with him, lying her head on his arm while he played games on his i Touch (yeah, age 9). As she confessed later to us in the car “that was my favorite part of the trip.” Mario ran around like a mad man, sliding across the dance floor, making monster noises, and flirting with the hot Italian ladies.
Mario passed out at 10:30 pm just like a frat boy who parties it up so hard through the night that he lays out flat in the middle of the room when it finally hits him. Maria made it to her car seat but was out within five minutes. It was actually snowing when we left the wedding (ahh, I miss that now that I am dealing with 87 degrees and humidity!).
On Sunday, we promised we would get out quickly so we could deal with the traffic and we could get home at a reasonable time. “Get out quickly” is not a term used in the Italian culture. There was no way we were getting out of our cousins’ house without sitting down to a big ol’ Italian lunch of pasta, manicotti, shrimp, pizza. I am not complaining by any stretch, however, because I enjoyed every minute of it, especially the act of just sitting around and talking, relaxing, catching up. We don’t do that enough.
We took off around 1:3o with the stomachs full. The ride home went amazingly well just like the ride to Canada. The customs line was a little longer but we kept reading to the kids and singing songs and playing “three little pigs.” I was surprised at the amount of tv watching – I thought it would be on non-stop but we managed to only watch a video here or there. Impressive!
When we finally pulled into the neighborhood at 9:30 pm, we felt a sense of relief in being “back home” but also a sense of loss in leaving our gregarious, generous, warm family from up north. If Maria has her way, we will be back up this Summer so she can again hang out with Jean-Franco because he is “sooooo cute!”