Archives for posts with tag: travel

ChristmasLeaves“You shoulda named me Joyful Noise,”  said W a few days ago before he went back to campus. I couldn’t answer, laughing as I was at his singing, dancing, stomping, and clapping, or whatever it was he was doing that was so dang loud.

My semester ended a week before his. W’s dad B and I had worked out that B would get W to his house after W’s finals week  and would keep him there until Christmas day. Then I would bring W back home with me.

I had decided that I needed to see family, starting with sis P 1200 miles away. After my students turned in their final papers and exams, I hit the road, driving 4-500 miles per day, stopping in a hotel and grading for several hours, then sleeping before getting up and repeating the process.  I coasted in to P’s driveway on a cloud of frigid snowflakes on the 3rd day.

Her youngest daughter, a true sweet earth child, was out by the road celebrating the snow when I got there. The house was lit up, pointy windows glowing. The building was old and had been a church, a bordello, a different church, and then a family home for 30 years before sis and her husband bought it. It perches at the feet of mountains and gets semi-regular visits from bears seeking P’s wild-growing concord grapes  and from cougars seeking the family’s smaller pets.

The three girls had grown so much since 2005! The oldest is now a little taller than me, confident, funny, capable and beautiful. Middle niece is quieter with a simple ballet dancer elegance and a wicked dry sense of humor. Youngest niece is always moving, always sharing, and always smiling. Sis P’s house is comfy and welcoming like a favorite pair of shoes. Sliding in on a cold snowy night it seemed the perfect place to go for holiday warmth. P and her husband are the ideal hosts for me, making me feel welcome and comfortable and not like a visitor at all.

We had four lovely days together filled with fun excursions, good food, and a lot of laughter. We celebrated Christmas together before the real day and it was lovely. Then I headed east and, after driving all day, arrived at big sis (P2)’s house. She hadn’t known I was coming and held me so tight we both just stood and cried for a few minutes, swaying and hugging. Big sis had had a really tough year and her youngest child was to marry in a few days. I met her fiance for the first time. Turns out he had been offered a job up near W’s college and they would be moving up there in mid-January. Big sis and I sat and talked for hours in her big pretty old farm house around which a city had grown, and two of her other children came over to join us, bringing spouses and beautiful sweet children I hadn’t yet met. That too was lovely and warm and perfect for Christmas.

The next day (Christmas Eve) I drove to the house of my brother and sis-in-law  who live only a few miles from W’s dad. They welcomed me into yet another warm fragrant house and we too talked for hours, exchanging funny stories and catching up on each other’s lives. We had a very laid back Christmas morning. It was quieter than most of ours because their son and his wife and their new baby had gone to visit the baby’s other grandparents. The weather report promised a snow storm. I called W’s dad (who has a second job clearing parking lots of snow) and arranged to get W a few hours earlier than planned so that we could head home well ahead of the storm.

Even before I had W snugly beside me in the warm car driving the few hundred miles home, this felt like the best Christmas in a long time. I hadn’t cleaned the house before leaving and hadn’t set up any holiday decorations. Didn’t have a single gift for him except one Terry’s milk chocolate orange I had happened to see in the grocery. Instead of setting a day to celebrate Christmas with wrapped presents and favorite family foods, we went out to eat and had an after-Christmas shopping trip.

W had a nice long break – just went back yesterday – and we spent it going all our favorite places, doing our favorite things, seeing our favorite people, and talking about all our separate adventures. He snuggled and sweet-talked his furry sisters, hugged me a lot, and told great stories. He shared his thoughts on his classes and his work/study job and the books that he’s reading. We rented movies and caught up on our favorite tv shows. There was a lot of Joyful Noise.  It was wonderful.

Did you ever find  after a tense or scary event  that you had been clenching your hands into tight little fist balls?  And then when you tried to unclench it really hurt?

I think I need to unclench  and it ain’t gonna be pretty.  This past week I realized just how constricted my life has become … how small my world is. It first struck me as I was talking to someone about finally getting my passport renewed. It struck harder later, as I was explaining to someone else that my unwillingness to fly is no longer all about fear of flight, it’s also about fear of FWF – flying while fat. In my mind I see myself going to the airport, already scared about leaving terra firma and desperately needing some kind of medication to quiet THAT, and then having the airline clerk(s) treat me as less than a full person, and yet somehow more than a full person, necessitating the purchase of a second ticket for the other half of my fat self. That would be humiliating and awful enough. Even worse, the scene always ends with me being dragged away screaming and cursing by TSA officials  to spend the rest of my life in a dank anonymous cell somewhere, never able to use my new passport which wouldn’t be possible anyway on account of me being on a universal no-fly list.

Sorry. Got carried away with my neuroses. Perhaps I also need medication when NOT trying to fly.

If anyone had asked me when W was a tiny ball of a baby  if I had a bucket list of things I really wanted to do with him before he grew up, one item I would have listed is ‘Explore Europe with him,’ showing him all the places he has read about in the history books he so loves.  He’s gone now and we’ve never done that. His first view of the Eiffel Tower and the Waterloo battlefield and the Acropolis will probably be with someone else.  We’ve never flown anywhere together.

We HAVE driven all over much of the US from Utah to South Carolina and Boston to Florida. Also to Canada twice. When childless I drove everywhere by myself without a worry. Then I was blessed with my little bundle of boy and from that point on  my major goal was to keep him alive and safe and screw him up as little as possible. Suddenly driving seemed much more dangerous, as the possibility of wrecks and car-malfunction strandings loomed menacingly over us. I drove anyway but the carefree fun was gone. Still, I’d buckle my little guy into his child safety seat in the center of the backseat and surround him with all the necessities (snacks, drinks, book bag, toy bag, blankie, pillow, sweatshirt, kiddie road maps, kiddie shades), turn on music or recorded stories, and off we’d go. W told me years later that he sometimes cracked open the back window just enough to toss out one of his tiny plastic toy soldiers without me noticing. Their mission was to scout and report back to him.

Those trips were pretty wonderful: a dinosaur tour through Utah and Colorado with my sis and her daughters, a drive to marshy Point Pelee (on Lake Erie in Ontario) with my mom, and conference trips to St. Louis, San Antonio, Boston, Chicago and Montreal. In the cities we would use our hotel as the starting point and each evening choose a different direction to walk, exploring and eventually having dinner before heading back to our room.

W is a wonderful travel companion. He’s a good navigator, funny,  helpful, interested in exploring, and not picky about food. He loves meeting people and talking to them and he likes learning new things and discussing it all later. I’m a little jealous of his future travel companions as they are in for a treat. He has unfolded beautifully over his 18 years, unfurling from a little ball of life wrapped tightly in a favorite blankie to a young man whose height stretches beyond mine and whose horizons are limitless. His world is opening wide and, unlike his mama, he seems not to find that painful at all.

I think I’ve let myself get old and my world get small  way too soon. Have passport, will unclench. Don’t mind the noise, please; that will just be me shrieking in (temporary) pain.  It’ll be better when I get to Europe…. and certainly quieter for you.