Coming soon: Patrick & Nana in D.C.

I’m knee-deep in preparations for another Patrick and Nana adventure, this time to Washington, D.C. Patrick will turn 12 in April, and coincidentally has spring break during his birthday month. “You know what that means,” my oldest grandson nudged. “Yeah, it’s time for you and me to hit a few more states.” He has set a goal of visiting every state in the U.S. “Driving through counts, but flying over doesn’t,” he advised. “So far, we’ve only hit 15. We’ve got a lot more to cross off. And Nana? I’m kind of counting on Niagara Falls this summer – from the Canadian side, so you’ll need a passport before July. I hear it’s better from that side. I’ve been reading up on it from travel sites.”

Oh. I didn’t realize I was his only transportation plan. “I have a passport, Patrick,” I replied. “But what we’re really going to need is money. These trips cost money, honey. Lots of it. Real money, not play money.”

“Okay,” he answered agreeably. “I’ll start saving.”

“Saving what?” Patrick gets a very, very light allowance from his mom because he doesn’t understand the value of money. And he’s not great at finishing chores, either, to earn the occasional dollar.

“I saved pizza money to surprise Mom,” he answered. “One night in February when the pizza guy came to the door, I said to Mom and Grandpa, ‘Hey, I got this one, guys. Pizza’s on me tonight,’ and I paid for it myself. I guess I can chip in to help you out, too.”

“How long did you save for that?” Frankly, I was amazed. I couldn’t imagine that at $1 a week, given his propensity to carelessly drop money on the floor or refashion it into a parachute for a tiny soldier, he’d have been able to pull that off!

“I got it from you, remember?” he said, smiling. “From the money you paid me for writing for In Business that time that made me famous in Madison.” He said this without guile. Anyone featured on a magazine website is famous by his standards, and he did write a guest blog for me once when it was deadline and I had nothin’. As he turned it in, he haughtily reminded me that writers get paid, and so I made him vacuum my office, too, to make it worth $20, the only currency in my wallet that day. (If I’d had less in my wallet, I could have skated by for a buck – he just wanted to be paid for the principle of it.)

I thought at the time that he’d drop the twenty on his dresser and forget it, because money has absolutely no value at all to Patrick; he knows he can buy things with it, but he’s not a kid who expects to buy something every time he goes to the store, and “expensive” or “cheap” are constructs he just doesn’t really get. So when he says he’ll help me pay for the trip, he likely thinks he’ll earn another $20 from me, hand it back, and we’ll be set to go.

“Then, the next summer, we’ll go hiking in The Grand Canyon,” he added. “Don’t worry, Nana. I’ve got lots of places I think we should see together, so don’t worry about me becoming a teenager and leaving you behind to go off with my cooler teenage friends. We’ll still travel together all over the world, I promise.”

Actually, that is kind of sweet and reassuring to hear, though when I insisted he get over his fear of flying (too noisy) and travel (disrupts his routines) by spiriting him away to New York, I slayed his dragon but created a little travel bug. Following our subsequent trips to ride horseback in the Montana mountains and take a riverboat cruise on the ole Mississippi, the boy has become a fearless, unstoppable adventurer. I mentally make a note to transfer his college fund into a travel account; his mother will have to figure out how to formally educate him if his real-world experience is going to be financed by Nana and Grandpa. I also think, “Note to self: forget retirement for an extra few years.” There are, after all, three more grandchildren coming up behind Patrick! I’ve got only three more years before the next one turns 10, our official “travel alone with Nana” coming-of-age marker. (Continued)


I asked Patrick if he’s sure he wants to visit the Holocaust Museum when in Washington (he does). And, he added, the Spy Museum, Ford’s Theatre, the bed where Lincoln died, the FBI, the old Post Office, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Vietnam War memorial, Arlington Cemetery, Lincoln Memorial, “and I think we should drive over to Maryland, too, so I can cross that off my list while we’re out east.” His greatest disappointment is that the White House is no longer offering tours, which enrages him. “It’s the people’s house!” he shouted upon hearing it was off-limits now. “What is happening to this country that it can’t afford to let the people visit its own house? How am I going to get the president’s autograph now?”

I have my own gripes, including a two-hour booking session online with Orbitz, which routinely books me in a room with only one king-sized bed, though I underscore that I’m traveling with an older child and so need two beds. That error took an hour, and three hotel changes, to straighten out while chatting with “Michael Kent” in India. Then Associated Bank automatically declined use of my debit/charge card due to it being “unusual” for me to book a trip. So while keeping “Michael” on the line, I had to call the bank and get the funds cleared. Then the card was inputted with the wrong expiration date (linguistic problem?) and subsequently refused by Orbitz because of the number of swipes made.

I started all over with Expedia and actually saved $200 after an hour of back-and-forth hotel and flight changes with another online technician. However, the already approved departure time – 9 a.m. (perfect!) – was mysteriously changed to 9 p.m. when the second, unacceptable return flight (6 a.m.) was changed to 9 a.m. to leave Washington. I didn’t notice the unexpected switch of the first flight’s terms until AFTER confirmation, and no, I didn’t buy cancellation/change flight insurance because Patrick only has one week off of school and we WILL be on that plane, sick or not! But now, we’ll be boarding in Chicago at night, arriving at Reagan at midnight, and good luck having the car and hotel held. Dammit, I also lost one full day of five squirreled away to do all of those things on his list!

And so, the next Patrick & Nana Adventure begins …

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