The best part (and what made it, I thought, easier) was that we returned to Vermont -- where we had our honeymoon and first anniversary trips. We stayed at the familiar Middlebury Inn. We walked around familiar Middlebury and drove the familiar roads that took us to familiar antiques shops. We stopped for a familiar romp around the Bennington Monument (although we'd never ran circles around the green before...thank you, toddler energy!).
Since it was Parents' Weekend at Middlebury College, we could only book the Sunday into Monday (fine by us). We arrived in VT early after a pretty uneventful trip (hooray for naptime!), let the folks at the Inn know that we were early, then sauntered over to one of our favorite places on Earth: the Middlebury Co-Op. We've been there a few times and love it more each time. There's cast-off (perfectly fine) soap from a local natural soap company that we stock up on (literally purchase pounds of the stuff in varying scents). Dave ogles the grind-it-yourself coffee. I love finding a vast selection of items I've only heard about online, often shouting with unabashed excitement to Dave two rows over. And, for it being one of his least favorite activities, Hadley did pretty well being carted through the aisles. (Key here: Constant motion.)
We then checked in for realsies, rode a "real live OLD SCHOOL elevator" with a teen to operate it, dropped off our stuff, (had the Pack 'n Play delivered and set up since it had been forgotten; the only small glitch), and headed to the lobby for Dave's favorite -- afternoon tea.
They also have yummy pastries and cookies, so we loaded up a plate and brought our tea (and Hadley's sippy cup o' juice) to the "veranda" to watch the quaint traffic and enjoy a moment. Dave was in his glory, as my mother would say, and Hadley was a very good boy...since he was getting tastes of chocolate or lemon cookies, a huge treat.
We then went for a stroll around town. Unfortunately, since it was Sunday and heading for after 4, most of the stores were closed, but we still enjoyed our walk. I had hoped that Hadley would sleep for a little while in the stroller, to no avail. We then headed back to the Inn to get ready for our 5:30 reservation. Dave was already talking about the cheese plate, which we always order (for whatever reason). I was preparing myself mentally for a hadn't-napped-sized meltdown from the munchkin.
I was pleased that our timing seemed to avoid any big rush (you never know when people will eat dinner, do you?) so that we'd be disturbing minimal guests with our noisy boy. He ate pouches, and tastes of my pork and the most delicious braised cabbage and whipped sweet potatoes I'd ever tasted. He ate cheese of his own while we feasted on our cheese plate (all goat this time, strangely; usually there's at least one Cabot since the factory is on the outskirts of town). He played and hammered his hands and utensils on the table and caused a general ruckus, much to our disappointment, but the other guests seemed very forgiving and our hostess kept assuring us that he was very well-behaved and sweet and "nobody minds a bit, he's so cute!"
(Looked horrific dumped into a to-go container, but tasted lovely!)
We usually bathe Hadley in the kitchen sink, so this was his second tub experience. I let him play to his heart's content, then run around the connected rooms (we had our own separate bedroom attached to a kind of living room, where his Pack 'n Play was set up) before finally calming down, reading a book, and settling down for the night. Dave and I watched crappy cable and read magazines and books, and talked about how much we missed the cats. It was awesome.
The baby awoke far too early the next morning, but we weren't ready to get up yet, so I brought him in the fluffy bed with us -- where he immediately conked out. He has a weakness for comfy pillows, I suppose.
I got ready early and played with the munchkin (and got him ready) while Dave took a shower. We packed up and Dave loaded up the car while Hadley and I tore through the large lobby. (Okay, I didn't tear through it, but he did...and I came tumbling after.) I finally realized there were a butt load of Morgan horse pictures (they were first bred here! And my niece's name is Morgan, so what's better than that?) adorning the walls, so we went from one to the next, pointing and "oofing." (All animals say "oof"...or is that just what the cool kids are doing?) Daddy came back and we found a short line waiting for the Inn's delicious breakfast -- which made our nerves immediately spike.
With just two or three other tables of folks the night before, we were confident. With an entire dining room full this morning, we felt dead in the water. "Will. He. BEHAVE?!" we both silently wondered. Luckily, they were gracious enough to seat us at a HUGE table in the corner (near windows, though -- we didn't feel relegated to the dungeon) so Hadley could discover his table manners in relative privacy. The huge room, however, was eerily silent (what, were people whispering or just not talking to their spouses?! C'mon, can't SOMEONE have a public spat??), so every little noise he made echoed. Eh, ya win some, ya lose some.
I had been dreaming of the couldn't-be-more-perfect waffles for years (they're the reason I bought a Belgian waffle maker...and still haven't been able to find the "taste," so quit trying), so I made a plate with extras for the munchkin of waffles, bacon (just a bit), eggs (which he loves), and some yogurt. Man, those waffles were as awesome as I remembered. We filled our stomachs and the baby let us know that he was ready to go. Off into the perfectly drizzly autumn day for some driving and antique stops.
We only stopped at two antique shops along the way -- one run by a kind older man with a friendly pup who follows you around the store, and the other (Branford House Antiques) where we had befriended the owners and purchased a sidebar on our honeymoon. BOTH had "For Sale" signs plopped unapologetically on their front lawns. *pout* I suppose this is the end of an era.
Purchases were kept at a minimum: I grabbed a $10 wooden crate (wicked price, whether it's an antique or not) and Dave bought an Art Deco lighter to adorn his office at work. Relatively cheap, and no regrets of over-purchasing. Win-win!
We DID over-buy at The Chocolate Barn in Shaftsbury. Maple candy, people! And handmade chocolates!! Great for gifts, and for a lil' treat. Needless to say, ours were gone in under a week. I think that's a new record.
And, finally, we stopped in Bennington. It was past our usual lunch by this point (we gave the baby an organic pouch at one stop, but he's a ravenous lunatic when he hasn't eaten...like his mama), so we were incredibly lucky to find a little cafe with awesome local food and drinks still open. A sandwich that was killed by how much spicy mustard it contained and more butternut squash soup for me (I'd had some at the Inn the night before that tasted like the best soup I'd ever had...ever), a grilled cheese sandwich for the monkey, and I can't for the life of me remember what Dave got...maybe panini. Or something. Definitely coffee.
After our late lunch, we went to the Bennington Monument that we've been visiting since well before we got engaged and took some new pictures next to our buddies -- a statue and a random plywood militia man. Hadley also socialized with anyone he could get close enough to and ran around like a fool. It was awesome.
Yeah. I know. Too awesome for words.
The rest of the trip took a couple of hours, so we got home in time to feed the annoyed, ravenous, yet strangely happy cats -- it was clear that they had missed their boy, and it warms my heart to think of how affectionate they were when they saw us. They're usually quite friendly little creatures, but the love that poured out for Hadley was just so darn evident.
While we headed back to work and normalcy the next day, I remain very glad that we took the leap into travel with our little man. We once made a list, while heading home from our honeymoon, of goals to maintain in our relationship and life. One that has stuck out stronger than any others was this: "When we one day have children, we will accept them into our lives, not completely change to suit the children."
Of course, we knew that LIFE would change with a child (and we expected that when we wrote it), but what we meant -- that we still wanted to have adventures, that we wanted to keep searching local, organic and healthier eating options, that we still wanted to go antiquing and history-hunting and the dozens of other things that we like to do -- was ultimately that we want to share all those things with our young ones. We also want to acclimate them to a change in routine, the idea that the world does not revolve around their beautiful little noggins (well, the one noggin, for now - ha!), that certain behavior is expected in certain places, and, mostly, that there's a great big world out there for them to discover, enjoy, and take advantage of.
And I think we're on our way.