By Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out
You’ll have to excuse any quality issues in this week’s column; despite remaining in the same time zone, I’m feeling jet-lagged from travelling to Atlanta last week with Charlotte. While travelling with her came with its own set of challenges, seeing her reactions to new experiences more than make up for any difficulties in getting to our destination.
My Atlanta-based brother’s son Matteo is two weeks younger than Charlotte; the two met last year when they were about four months old. I knew from the outset that this would be a different trip, for many reasons. For starters, instead of a snoozing baby that could be strapped into an infant seat, I now have a decidedly “free range” toddler who is as curious as she is cute.
Most airlines allow children under two to travel for free if they sit in their parents’ laps, but I knew trying this would likely result in a visit from the air marshal — it’s easier, instead, to buy her a ticket and awkwardly lug her car seat around two airports. I’m a little bruised from carrying that hulking thing, but at least we weren’t detained by Homeland Security… or tarred and feathered by the other passengers.
We arrived at the Buffalo airport last Tuesday afternoon with plenty of time to spare (a good cushion of time is invaluable with unpredictable children). After lunch, I brought Charlotte to the lookout area so I could introduce her to the magic of flight. Sure enough, I could see a plane making its way to the runway, and we tracked it as it came in to land, Charlotte squealing in anticipation. And she even got to watch a plane take off! We sat in the very end row of the plane (AKA the baby ghetto), so Charlotte didn’t get to see our own plane’s take-off and landing. But flight attendant George kept her more than entertained for the two-hour flight, along with a library of books, snacks, and of course, the Sky Mall catalogue.
We arrived at my brother Carl’s weary but excited for the re-introduction of Charlotte and Matteo. From what Carl had told me, Matteo is more reserved than dear Charlotte. He did take a few minutes to size up the babbling blonde finally freed from her car seat, but it didn’t take much longer for the two of them to be playing together, sharing their toys and toddler wisdom like old friends.
While Charlotte and Matteo aren’t carbon copies of their parental siblings, there is some resemblance: it was pretty cool to see “little Carl” and “little Andrea” tearing around his apartment during our visit. My brother is five years older than me and, unlike how my sister and I did when we were young, he and I never really imagined our children, let alone them doodling together or splashing each other in the pool. Our sister’s children are much older than Charlotte and Matteo, so it’s extra special that they are so close in age. We can watch them grow up alongside each other, teaching each other their newly acquired skills (Matteo’s great at pulling things down from the counter; Charlotte’s skilled at jumping on the couch).
The morning we said goodbye, Matteo and Charlotte spent a good 20 minutes — eternity in toddler time — lying on the floor, talking earnestly to each other. Naturally, we couldn’t make out a word they were saying, but we’re pretty sure they were reflecting on the wonderful couple of days they had together, even though both of them were off their routines and had some new bumps from vigorous play. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say to each other next time they meet.
On our flight home, Charlotte got the window seat, complete with actual window. She was excited to see the planes taking off and landing as we taxied toward the runway, but I will never forget the awed, rounded “oh!” of her mouth as she watched us take off, the landscape growing smaller and the clouds growing nearer. She gazed intently until we hit cruising altitude then promptly fell asleep. She woke up just in time to take in the landing, which was just as fascinating. I think we have a traveler on my hands… but Andrew or I may never get a coveted window seat again!
Despite Atlanta’s nickname of “Hotlanta,” it was warmer — and certainly stickier — in Southwestern Ontario last week. Here’s a wonderful cold soup from Anita Stewart’s The Flavours of Canada — especially appropriate given that Canada Day is this Sunday.
Light Dilled Cucumber Soup
1/2 large English cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup minced green onions or chives
1-2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Purée cucumber, yogurt, stock, green onions and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours, or overnight. Ladle into chilled bowls and garnish with more dill. Makes six to eight servings.