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Smoky Mountain High

About that vacation…

Matt and I both have an abiding love for the mountains. Specifically, we love the ancient, treed mountains found in Appalachia, the Smokies, and the Blue Ridge. Matt was lucky enough to live in the mountains of Tennessee for four years in college, and I was lucky enough to live a half-day’s drive from them during my time at Carolina. There’s something about the views, the leaves, the crisp air, and the proximity to mountain music and crafts that puts me at ease and makes me feel happy and relaxed. In fact, after a few days in the mountains, I usually find myself wistfully checking out the local real estate ads and dreaming of taking up the rural life, a dream that always ends with my noticing that the chalet of my dreams costs upwards of $500K.

Since we’ve been back in Kentucky, we’ve gone to Gatlinburg and stayed in a chalet up in the mountains twice. This year, we decided to head to the North Carolina mountains and meet up with friends Beth and Bob and their sons Andrew, five, and Evan, two. They were pretty gracious about the whole thing because Beth comes from a major beach family and has access to a family house on the Crystal Coast. Owing to this legacy, I felt more than a little indulged when she and Bob agreed to meet up at a mountain house this fall.

Our stay was short, but boy was it ever sweet. We got lucky with clear and bright weather and bright autumn leaves; our house was very nice and sported great views of the Blue Ridge; and our kids turned out to be very compatible. This last item was not a given. As I’ve written before, Simon is on the timid side and takes a while to warm up to new people. And since Evan has big brother Drew, there was a chance Simon would be doubly intimidated or that Evan would never bother to socialize with him.

Instead, by mid-way through the first day, Evan and Simon were friends. They conspired to open and shut doors on the back deck, they giggled over the oven light, they mostly shared toys well, they sat side-by-side to watch Thomas and Curious George, and they even hugged a time or two. For his part, Drew happily entertained himself, played with the adults, or helped out with the kids. These are two very bright, very sweet boys, and after 48 hours in their company I was eager for more time with them.

There were hilarious points of contrast between Evan and Simon. Evan speaks like a five year-old. Seriously. Full sentences, can pronounce anything, and said things like “My mommy does that, too” when I kissed him on the head one morning. He knows his full name, learned mine, and can sing the full Thomas song. Meanwhile, Simon came out with his first real sentence on this trip, and it was “All door shut.” The funny thing about this is that Evan gets his verbal precociousness from his mother, who is a judicious talker today, while Simon gets his slow talking from me and my brother, two people who have hardly ever shut up after the age of three.

On the other hand, Simon exercised his flirting muscle whenever he could. During one memorable lunch, he saw a pretty, twenty-something brunette at the table next to us and began his full flirty assault. Huge smile and dimples: Check. Quick turn to the side in display of mock coyness: Check. More smiling and talking: Check. While Simon was in l-u-v love, Evan and Drew were wholly concerned with food, toys, and those at our table only. On several other occasions as well, I watched Simon try to work a crowd while Evan remained pretty oblivious to it.

There were also differences in adventurousness. Evan and Drew both were less cautious on the playground and interacted with more items at the children’s museum than Simon did. But when we hit the petting zoo the next day, Evan opted to stay outside the fence, Drew approached the animals tentatively, and Simon charged right up to a goat and got his pet on. I suspect our having cats has much to do with this difference. That or after our four-hour marathon of the Dog Whisperer two weeks ago, Simon thinks he can tame even the most savage beast.

I learned on this trip that while Simon will share toys, he will not share me. Twice when I had a quiet moment with Evan I put him in my lap for a snuggle. Twice Simon walked in on us. And twice he broke down into distraught sobs until I put Evan down and picked him up. I’m sure part of this possessiveness is a vestige from his being sick-we were inseparable for a full week-but I think he’d have had trouble even if his schedule had been more normal of late. He’s in a Mommy phase right now.

Finally, I learned that some connections are timeless. Beth and I met in 1988. Bob came into our circle of friends in the mid-nineties. Our friendship was forged when we were all young and childless, and the last time we saw each other Drew was not yet two and the others weren’t here yet. And yet, with all these changes behind us, we launched into a conversation as if no time had gone by, Bob was reading a book I’m interested in, we all swapped magazines, we were familiar with the same political blogs, and our parenting styles were wholly compatible. What are the odds? More than the scenery and the weather, this recharged connection made whole trip worthwhile.

One Response to “Smoky Mountain High”

  1. bethnbobinnc says:

    We had a blast too, Jessica. Drew talked to Oma on the phone when we got home and told her, “Simon is a cute little boy” and yesterday on the way home from the grocery store Evan pronounced that he wanted to go to “Simon’s house”. I, for one, will sign on for another mountain getaway without hesitation!

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