time: sunday afternoon
place: children's museum in Madison
I was with Bel in the pie-making play area, getting served mushroom/pineapple/berry felt pizza, and Jon and Otto were in the building area. Building. Naturally.
Jon said he glanced up because he heard another dad-sounding person say "Otto, come here!"
Otto walked over to the dad-sounding person and looked at him, clearly puzzled.
The dad person looked back at him, confused and wondering why this strange boy was standing in front him, staring.
Finally my son said, "My name's Otto."
The confusion cleared, and Otto met another Otto, a teeny Otto 1/15th his size (he said). Still a baby.
I saw a lot of moms and dads wearing Ergos full of babies (made me kind of miss mine). I spotted lots of kids in brightly colored, mismatched, clearly handed-down and well-loved winter gear (my favorite sort). While we stood in line waiting to try cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at the Fontana tent at Winter Fest, I noticed that the family behind us was wearing a lot of Iowa State gear. So I asked the young fellow standing next to me (about the right age to appreciate Brandon Mull) if he'd been watching a lot of Cyclone basketball this winter.
He said kindly and a little shyly, "well, I'm a Badger fan."
I put my hand to my heart and bowed my head and said humbly, "well yeah, of course. But Iowa State is having a good season."
He agreed and admitted to watching a lot of basketball in general, so we were good.
Otto put on cross-country skiis and took off like a snow-powered rocket. Bel went a little slower but did equally well. Jon had a minor epiphany about skiing and said, maybe we should go cross-country instead of driving forever to find good hills? I said, YES.
I found out that Otto has a burning desire to see all the capitols everywhere, especially Springfield and then DC, where he would like to meet the president. He got to start his capitols tour, though, in Madison, with the best personalized introduction from Aunt Claire Ann, whose kids grew up playing on the capitol steps. She told him that the first thing he had to do was lie in the middle of the floor in order to properly see the ceiling of the rotunda.
He totally did it and loved it. Both kids did, and had a fantastic time wandering the halls, looking at all the marble and murals and people.
Then we had pizza with Claire Ann and Brad, and eventually (after meeting 1/15th Otto) ice cream at the Union.
We ended the day of fabulousness by walking out on the frozen lake (another wish of my son's that I hadn't known about, and extremely easy to fulfill this year).
I pointed out the windows in Helen C. where the library school is, pointed out Picnic Point. The kids were completely uninterested, too busy sliding and wrestling on the ice.
I looked around, and took a couple of breaths, and felt like I'd gotten something important back that I hadn't even known I was missing. My roots might be planted in Kansas, and I might've found my heart in Iowa.
But I think this is where I grew wings.