Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sweet Sorrow

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I was sad hugging my husband goodbye at the train station that early, dark morning in Germany. It seems like years ago, though it has only been two weeks.

When we jetted away from our good friends after a perfect day in Boston, I heard the words (from more than one Wellman), “I wish we didn’t have to leave already.”

It would become a common refrain.

Pulling away in my rental car, and seeing my grandmother close her front door made me wish for just a little more of that precious commodity we call “time.”

I can hardly stand to recall the tears of my mother as she hugged the kids, not knowing when she will see them again.

And there was the moment frozen in my memory, of my grandparents, standing on their front porch in the fading light, their hands raised at our parting. I couldn’t look very long–not with the tears blurring my vision.

When we originally left the states for Germany, we didn’t know how long our goodbyes would have to last. It ended up being six years–a lifetime in kid years.

There will be more partings before the final week of our trip is over, and I do not look forward to those.

But I have to remember, for every goodbye, there was an equally enthusiastic hello. For every tear drop, there were hours of laughter. For every parting hug, there were multiple good night hugs, good morning hugs, or the very best, hugs for no reason.
I have lingered over coffee, laughed over knitting, and have relished the simple joy of walking next to people who held me as a baby.

There have been a thousand conversations and stories and dreams shared.

There are hopes and wishes and prayers and kisses exchanged, and tender little hands held by ones rough with time and wear.

Whether our goodbyes will echo in our hearts four years or four months, and despite the sorrow we feel at parting, we will hold close the sweetness of being with those we love.

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Baggage Drop

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The one bag rule is the brainchild of my friend and writing buddy, Jenn Miller, in whose cozy Cape Cod cottage we are currently crashing.

Because we so highly recommend the notion of one family, one suitcase in our book [enter shameless promotion here] there was no way this Gypsy Mama could show her face in the US while dragging more than one bag.

So how do five people share one suitcase?

Space saver bags.

Each person on the trip has one space saver bag, into which goes 2 outfits, 2 pairs of socks, and 1 pair of pajamas and some undies.

That’s it, except maybe a toothbrush.

If we need something, it is easy enough to pick it up once we arrive.

For the airplane, each person carries a small pack, strictly for items needed during the flight.

The only exception to this was my pink roll-around hard-case a friend of mine had dubbed the “Barbie Suitcase,” which I found I needed in order to bring the kids school books, when the beer and chocolates pushed our one large bag over the weight limit.

So, I brought on board a purse and the Barbie Suitcase, which is still small enough to fit easily in the overhead compartment.

I knew that having less baggage would make train-to-plane transit much easier, but I didn’t know the joy it would bring other people.

The five of us were standing at the Lufthansa baggage drop at Frankfurt International, when the clerk asked how many bags to check.

“One,” I replied.

She raised her eyebrows.

“Just one?” she suggested, as if I’d mistranslated her perfect English.

“Yes.”

She counted heads again.

I smiled cheerfully.

The look on her face was as if I’d just brought her a gift, which I guess it was for a person who tags and hefts suitcases all day.

Then she gave me an unexpected gift by slapping a “Priority” tag on our lonely Samsonite.

I was extremely pleased that at the end of the eight hour flight, we were wheeling our single priority bag towards the exit, while most of the other passengers were staring longingly at the four bags circulating on the luggage carousel.

As we approached the exit, we were stopped by a security guard.

“Here we go,” I thought, “He’s going to confiscate the beer and chocolate.”

“You are TOO good,” he said.

“Pardon?” I asked, feeling I’d missed something in translation, though we were now in America, and the guy was speaking English.

“You only have one bag!” he exclaimed, “Where’s the rest of your stuff?”

“We have everything we need,” I replied.

He chuckled and shook his head.

Minutes later we were through all the checkpoints, and ready to toss our suitcase in my friend’s van.

I have to say, that despite my initial skepticism to the one bag rule, it worked out better than I could have imagined. Not only did it make the trip easier for me, but it spread a little joy, which should be one thing the traveling family always brings along.

There’s no extra charge for joy, and it pays off in ways that matter.

Now, I just need to go buy a toothbrush.

Ready…Set…

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The clothes have been hanging on the hallway bannister since Wednesday, though the packing process began a week ago with laundry and clothes organizing.

We used to choose a color scheme for the kids–and even matching outfits, but this time, the color scheme chose itself. With the exception of the subtle browns of our oldest young adult, the rest of us will be a vibrant mix of ocean blue and coral.

We’re bound to stand out in the Frankfurt International Airport anyway, so we might as well wear things we like.

In twelve hours our very long day will begin, but the thought of the fun and joy at the other end of the journey makes it all worth it. The kids’ moods have been swinging from happy/excited to devastated/nitpicky–I’d forgotten what nerves can do.

But since we are all buttoned up and ready to head out the door, I forced the kids outside for some exercise. Even though we’ve been in a literal fog all day, the two hours they spent on the trampoline seems to have done wonders for them. They are relaxed, happy, and eager for the hugs they’ll get when they land in the US for the first time in six years.

I finished my chores by lunchtime and went out for a run through the mud. It was so quiet and peaceful–I even saw deer! It was a great way to begin a journey.

I am nervous about how the kids will react to America. Will they have panic attacks in Super Wal-Mart? Meltdowns at Target? I already plan on taking pictures of the rows and rows of milk jugs–GALLON sized, no less! For me, (a person accustomed to 1 liter cartons for my tiny fridge) it’s a novelty. And I am sure to be in AWE of American washing machines–I might be able to fit more than 3 towels in one!

I will miss my husband, my dog, and even my juicer (yes, it’s become that important to me), but I can’t wait to hold a cup of hot tea or coffee in my hand and chat face-to-face with the people I love so dearly.

My co-author has forced me to stick to the “one-bag rule” outlined in our book, The Gypsy Mama’s Guide to Real Travel with Children–and I’ve found it a little difficult, to be honest. But then I think about the fact that we are going to the land of plenty, and even if we arrive at midnight, there will be a store open somewhere. We won’t starve, or stink, or have frizzy hair–all the necessities can be found.

I find it ironic that for all the years I lived in Alaska, there was never a Target or a Starbucks, and Olive Garden was a fantastic dream.

And now I have lived for six years in a place where targets are shot at with arrows; where olive gardens are a seven hour drive and include ancient ruins; and Starbucks is an hour and a half away.

Despite the Toy Ban of 2012, the kids want to visit Toys-R-Us. They claim they don’t want to buy any toys, but merely to view it in a museum-like way.

I’m not sure they’ve convinced me.

Though I know we will pick up a few things we need, the best part of this trip will be spending time with friends and family.

We’re ready.

We’re set.

And now, it’s almost time to go!

See you on the flip side!