Ever since my son Rowan arrived on the scene—nearly eight months ago now—there’s this weird thing that happens every time we are around my nephew Desmond. I call Desmond Rowan, and Rowan Desmond. So when I wonder aloud, “Desmond, do you need your diaper changed?” people look at me oddly, because Desmond is in second grade and has not worn a diaper for years and years. Additionally, when I look at the second grader and call him Rowan, he cracks up and gives me this look like he’s thinking: Again, you crazy lady? Haven’t you figured this out yet?
Apparently, I haven’t. It used to not be such a big deal as we only saw our Connecticut family several times a year. The occasional mix-up was just a silly reflection of my muddled brain’s state of ever-confusion. However, now that we are living here, I can see it becoming more of an issue. Desmond thinks I make the mistake because the boys look so similar. While Rowan does resemble Desmond as an infant, there is no ignoring the fact that one kid is a GIANT, and the other is still crawling about on all fours.
It could be that the names are somewhat similar; they both have two syllables and end with an /n/ sound. Whatever the cause of my bizarre error, I need to work on some kind of strategy for keeping the names straight, as we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other, and I’d like to not be known as batty old Aunt Kirstin before I’ve yet hit my fortieth birthday.
We’ve settled into our new temporary home in Connecticut. There are still boxes to be unpacked. And, while I fear those same boxes may need unpacking months from now, the essentials have been put away and there is room now to walk about, and in fact, live comfortably.
Although we have been coming to Connecticut to visit friends and family for the past seven or eight years, I’ve never really paid much attention to the routes we’ve taken or the landmarks we’ve passed on our journeys back and forth. And, let’s face it, even if I had, I was not born with the same inner compass that my dad, my husband, and even my sister, Melissa have. You know, the kind of people who can visit a place once and then always remember how to get around there, even years later. I, on the other hand, am perpetually lost and directionally challenged.
To illustrate this point, I will share with you a couple of examples.
Last year, when I taught fourth grade, I exited my classroom and turned to the right to get to the rooms of the other fourth grade teachers. At the start of this school year, I moved to fifth grade, where I needed to turn left to get to the other teachers’ rooms. Up until two weeks ago, I was still making wrong turns as I came out of my classroom door and other teachers’ doors. Additionally, I would come up from the main office stairs and walk back to my old hallway, and then realize it, and abruptly turn around.
When I take the back roads from the retail outlets to my parents’ home in Pennsylvania, I always take one of two routes. However, depending on the route, I have to take a right or left turn when I come to the end of this one road. I can NEVER remember which way to go. I often guess incorrectly, and need to make a u-turn to get back on the right track. Unfortunately, my girls are used to me getting lost and making wrong turns.
Since I’ve been home with the kids here in Connecticut, and Liam’s been working, we’ve been out and about exploring local attractions. Grocery stores, children’s museums, libraries. Naturally, I’ve had to rely on the GPS on my iPhone to get us places.
The other day, after the female voice of the navigation system instructed me to turn right onto Bank Street in two-point-seven miles, Nora asked, “Mommy, who is that?”
“Hmmm?” I said absentmindedly.
“That lady talking. Who is that?”
“It’s just the voice on the phone telling me how to get where we’re going,” I said.
“But, what’s her name?” Nora said.
“She doesn’t have a name,” I said. And then, after a pause, “Should we give her one?”
“Yeah,” Nora said. Then giggled. As if she understood the absurdity of it all.
“What should we call her?” I asked the girls.
Nora suggested Kiki since that’s been Frances’s favorite go-to name lately for all things make-believe. After I laughed out loud at the suggestion, I agreed that the voice should be called Kiki.
The other day I told the girls that I was going to try and find our way without using the map on the phone. However, after one of the roads with which I was familiar was blocked due to construction, I had to resort to using my crutch. I told the girls I needed to consult my phone after all in order to find our way.
“You mean you need to get help from Kiki?” Nora asked.
“Yes, I need to get help from Kiki.” I admitted in all seriousness.
And about a hundred other mental health professionals while we’re at it.