Tag Archives: travel

Change of life

I don’t mean the euphemism for menopause. But I am very much in the midst of a change of life—actually several changes. I will experiment with trying to write some different posts around this change of life theme in the coming days.

A few teasers are: My daughter (age 12) is, this very morning, in Bilbao, Spain on the second half of an exchange program with her middle school. She chose to take on the project of making such a big trip (and she really did make a big internal decision about this trip that her moms had nothing to do with). Now, for the first time since we brought our baby home, we find ourselves in the house with her away for two weeks. I am thinking about things I wanted her to know about, things I wanted her to know how to do before she went off on her own, and how we found times to talk about those things. All of this, time without her at home, working to get her ready to do something big without us– all a big change of life for me, and for M and me. Last night and today I am taking a deep, internal breath and reflecting on her strengths, her ability to form deep connections with people, her smarts and good common sense, her generosity and clarity about certain things. All this leaves me incredibly proud of her, fairly secure that she will be ok, and ready for her to do this. All that is a big change of life.

This Bilbao adventure has involved three parts that I know of, and there will surely be at least a fourth– the aftermath, but that’s for later. Part One, was my daughter’s decision to go, and all the collective work of the young people, parents, and school administration to plan and fundraise for a big trip that is not managed by an international travel company—it is managed by us parents. Part Two, was our Bilbao “daughter’s” trip here along with the rest of the Bilbao kids and chaperones and our many adventures in large and small groups with them. I loved that part and was more profoundly affected by it than I ever anticipated. So I have meant, for nearly two months, to finish some writing about parts one and two of the Bilbao adventure—the months and weeks leading up to, and the two weeks our Bilbao “daughter” was here all of which were eventful and rich with feeling and insights. But now I will skip to part three–what is happening yesterday and today and tomorrow– my daughter, N, in Bilbao.

Another teaser for another post in the Change of Life series. As you may or may not know or remember, I work for a state-level elected official. I work for a state-level elected official in a jurisdiction that is so Blue that the election is, in most races, over when the outcome of the Democratic primary has been determined. And in April, my boss, after four terms in office, and in a huge surprise upset, lost the Democratic primary. So I will be out of a job come December. Since the election, the fact that this job will end has felt like liberation, a very good thing. As my feelings and struggles about what I want or wanted from my career continue to evolve, I face this change as a definite, immovable next chance to figure out some important things about me, and work, and what I love and value. It is a chance to maybe do something closer to exactly what I want.

That’s the brief update, and those are the teasers. Being the parent of an internationally traveling young person who is still, (happily, for us) extremely connected to her moms, is like this. You help pack her things and take a deep breath and cry sometime—like before or after or at the airport—and give a some big hugs and send your big girl off. Then, in this magical era of texts and phones that take amazing photos and Skype and Facetime, you live like the parent of an infant but with less control. You should sleep and work when you can, because you will not sleep through the night and you will no longer be able to do anything without interruption. We got a Skype call at 1:00 a.m. (EST) when she landed for a layover in Paris and a series of dinging, ringing alerts at about 6:00 a.m. when the first parent learned that they landed safely in Bilbao and we all started writing each other and sharing photos that had been texted to us. And as I drove, late to work at about 9:00 a.m. here, the Skype call I’d been waiting for came in. N– safe and sound in a bedroom far, far away with her Bilbao “sister/ friend”, A. There they both were, together.

One last thought for now. Here’s the start and end point for me about the stunning fact of very tiny babies you once held in your arms, growing up. She is wearing a pink tie dye tee shirt she absconded with from me. A tee shirt I bought at our first trip out of our hotel, in El Paso, Texas, where she was born, to Target, when she was 12 days old and under 7 lbs. It looks awesome on her.

That is my first installment on Change of Life. Photos of travelers below but I loaded them in reverse order– Look first at the Air France desk where we checked in yesterday, next see N. sitting around the airport with her fellow middle-school travelers and parents and teachers milling around photographing the young people. Finally daughter N., and one of her best friends, Y.,– seated together on plane. And the text messaging began.





My birthday was Saturday. I’ve said it before– I like my birthday.  The version of chronic -Jewish- sadness that I often, unconsciously carry with me lifts entirely; the world looks good and often my world looks really, really good on my birthday.  This year was exactly that way.

I decided I wanted to go home to the Midwest for this birthday, and because of various scheduling things, my daughter and I traveled without my partner.  We left last Thursday afternoon to go to be with my sister and my two nephews in Milwaukee where they live.  (Chicago, not Milwaukee, is my hometown, but Milwaukee and Wisconsin are my second home; I lived in Madison WI for 10 years.)

When we arrived my sister had me make a list of all the things I hoped to do on my birthday trip and we did some and not others, but I loved thinking about all the things I might like to do and having it considered by all.  Things listed and done: I got a great haircut– shorter than in a while and I got in a great workout at the JCC while my daughter and nephew went swimming.  My mother came up from her home in Chicago on Saturday.  She will turn 80 in the fall for which there will be a really big celebration.

I forgot my camera, and still don’t have an Iphone so no beautiful photos of the lake or my good family or even of my older nephew dressed up in his rendition of Harry Potter attire for the opening of the last Harry Potter movie.

On Friday I  sat for a while in a coffee shop with my older nephew, while my sister and younger nephew took N, my daughter, to the independent bookstore next door, with her own wallet with her own money in it.  My sister told me later that it wasn’t easy to find something for only $14.00 which is what my daughter had, but that my daughter insisted that she would not take money from her aunt. She wanted to buy a present for me herself and she did.  Then I had a great work out at the JCC and we all went to a play.

On Saturday morning– my actual birthday– my daughter was, in fact, the only person with an actual gift to hand to me which she did, first thing in the morning.  I have no complaint about the absence of other material gifts; we now live in the world too busy, too much going on, and so, so many things cluttering our minds and our homes.  But I see in my daughter, a kind of care that she takes about people, me included, that touches me.

Saturday morning we all ended up at Alterra, another of several great Milwaukee coffee shops– and I got an excellent cappuccino after we walked on Lake Michigan.  When I am in Chicago, or Milwaukee or Door County, Wisconsin, and as more birthdays come and go, I remember that Lake Michigan is, to me, the most beautiful body of water.  I’ve been to the great Atlantic and Pacific Oceans too many times to count and to many other magnificent bodies of water on this earth, but Lake Michigan is gorgeous and it is where I looked out and dreamed things as a very young person and now as an older person too.

Later we went to see my younger nephew performed in a small mandolin orchestra.  He has been learning for a year, and was the only young person in the group.   And in the evening with all of us joined by some cousins who I also love to see– there was dinner outdoors on a cool, light summer night and cake and ice cream and balloons (also courtesy of my daughter) back at home afterward.

On Sunday morning, when my daughter and I boarded our plane back home, I realized several things I love about 10 years old (her 10 years).  She went to buy gum while I got coffee before boarding our plane.  She carried her own backpack. Unrelated to being 10, she is, as she was from day 19 when we boarded a different Southwest flight to bring her from Texas to her new home–a wonderful traveler and unbeatable companion.

Home in the afternoon there was part two with women’s world cup soccer, and another party, this one with my partner, my 17-year-old niece who is living with us for a few weeks and friends from home.  And cupcakes.  I don’t need to carry cupcakes with me daily throughout the year, but I could really use to carry the good feeling of those four days.