Shushu is the Chinese word for uncle, and in our family, is a title reserved for someone who totally and completely earned it.
It wasn't easy finding someone who was both able and willing to accompany me on the trip to China. It was freaking hard, actually. A three-week commitment on the other side of world, when you have your own job, kids, and life to keep track of, is kind of a big deal. Unlike, say, a touring river cruise throughout Europe, this trip was pretty much guaranteed to be super stressful, chaotic, uncomfortable, and at times downright unpleasant.
In the end only one person signed up, and like my mamma says, has cemented his win as friend of the year. Maybe even the decade. I knew he was awesome; I just didn't know how awesome.
There is some disagreement at our house over whether Luca is the kids' friend or mine. We all claim him. Jack, I think, is convinced that Lucas is in fact his own personal buddy for life and partner in crime, and that they are peers in every way. One of my favorite things about the trip was hearing Jack's voice wafting down the hotel hallways as he toddled to keep up with Luc: "Shushu! Shushsu!" Especially with a little sister who was physically frail and kinda scared of everything, it was great fun for an active little boy to have a pal who would dunk him in the hotel swimming pool, have stroller races down the halls, and encourage him to decorate his face with food.
I present the evidence for friend of year:
- He went out a not-insubstantial sum of money to make this happen, including covering things that I'd forgotten about, to the tune of a hefty price tag.
- He never got stressed out or tired of singing "Popcorn Popping" for the billionth time.
- He kept us all fed. Whether filling everyone's plates (over and over) at the hotel breakfast buffet, hauling boiled water, treating everyone to authentic restaurants and figuring out how to communicate with the wait staff, cooking ramen noodles in a hotel room electric kettle, or late night grocery store runs, we just might have starved without Luc.
- He changed poopy diapers. VERY poopy.
- He didn't lose his cool when Jack had the mother of all tantrums at an airport in Shangai, nor when Jack topped that with an even worse meltdown mid-flight, somewhere over the Pacific, that lasted almost an hour.
- He survived THREE flights--or was it four?--of the worst turbulence known to man, short of actually falling out of sky, and stayed calm for the babies. Seriously, this was grown-adults-screaming-and-crying kind of turbulence. This was make-peace-with-your-maker kind of turbulence. Not just on one flight, but three stupid flights. I have a better sense what hell feels like, now.
- He initially agreed to a ten-day trip that turned into a three-week trip. He sacrificed opportunities in his own life and never once made me feel bad for what he was giving up. I did feel bad, but not because of his attitude. He acted like there was nothing else he'd rather do.
- Laundry. Endless laundry. Handwashed in hotel bathroom sinks. Every frigging day. Toddler clothes with poop and barf. Ugh. Memories of laundry still trigger anxiety for me.
- Luc really enjoys figuring out how to communicate with others. He picked up far more pidgin Chinese than I even attempted. His enthusiasm and sincere interest won us friends everywhere we went, even new pen pals.
- He is probably the most patient fellow traveler in the universe. He didn't complain when I couldn't handle even one more hour of the heat, humidity, and smells to have a sightseeing experience he really, really wanted to do. He was understanding when I made a long day even longer in order to visit one of the orphanages, and he didn't object when I wanted to stay on the floor in a dog pile of babies forever (it was our guide who objected and finally forced me to leave). He was more than fine with curtailing most touristy experiences to focus on the needs of two very little ones.
- He thought of things I didn't. He bought Jack a car backpack to bring snacks and diapers everywhere we went. Jack was so proud of that grown-up accessory he would have worn it to bed if we wouldn't have allowed him to keep right next to his crib. Luc found places for fresh fruit so Annie would always have healthy options right in the hotel rooms.