Wednesday, July 21, 2010

family: ... have I got everything...

... am I ready to go? *

I'm back from our trip to Alabama and Sea Grove, FL, and have plenty to share about the experience, but before I get into that I figured I'd write a bit about travel and about the difference between leaving an adult behind and leaving children. (M and the girls will be staying an extra 10 days in Birmingham to help her mom who is about to have hand surgery.)

Popsicles, shared
(front porch, before leaving for FL)

I find flying disconcerting, but not for the reasons most people assume. Sure, I hate the poor leg space as much (if not more than) anyone, hate the treatment of passengers as dumb animals, the ridiculous charging of checked luggage that virtually guarantees people will try to carry on more than they ought to, thus clogging the aisles and slowing both boarding and offloading and guaranteeing that if we needed to exit quickly, we'd all be f@#$ed, the "security" measures that could hardly stop any intelligent person determined to do something bad.... What I'm talking about is the disconnect I always feel between me as traveler and anyone I leave behind.

In 2 hours I can experience multiple scene shifts, surprises, shocks, while back home the kids have been sleeping the entire time and M (if she's lucky) has managed to go back to sleep after dropping me off, or (if unlucky), gets coffee going while helping the girls wake up.

Sitting in Memphis at 7a, my day already felt half-over, the urge to call M at her mom's house was strong. So much to tell her: the unhelpful ticket agent who basically said we would get nothing from the 3 tickets we're not using, the backed up security line, the 6'+ woman volleyball player, the family of 4 (one lap child) who took our other 3 seats. But I know it's a silly urge. On her side nothing has really happened since we kissed goodbye at the airport, so there's nothing to report.

Leaving always feels edged with sadness but this time it felt especially so, and as I lay in bed the night before I left, I thought about how much I love K&L, how much they mean to me. This, even though there have been plenty of moments during the last week during which I would have been willing to trade them for minor league players to be named later. But that's always the case - the chaos and noise and intense demands of parenting are balanced by intense love, profound joys.

As I lay there thinking about the girls I tried to understand why the missing I anticipated for them felt different than that I anticipated for M. And when she climbed into bed next to me we talked and the closest I could come to explaining the contrast was to say that I felt I could rely on her to understand purely verbal communication, while the same is not true yet with the girls. I can tell her I love her and miss her and trust that she'll take me at my word.

But with K&L so much of our communication remains non-verbal. Snuggles, hand-holding, looks at one another. I carry one or the other. I hold K balanced on the toilet, brush L's hair out of her eyes when she's hot and sweaty. I wipe noses or tears, kiss booboos and share (not entirely willingly) bites of food. This is how we say "I love you. You are important" to children. This is how we reaffirm to them that they matter to us.

I'll miss M very much (and will be thinking about her back in the 90+ degree heat) but not with quite the sharpness that I'll miss K&L. I know I'll talk to all of them multiple times, but those phone conversations will be more satisfying between M and me than they will between me and the girls. I won't get the benefit of sticky hugs and teary cheeks smeared against my chest and tiny fingers grasping my thumb.

I'm back, but not completely.

Group Portrait, Sea Grove
(what happens when an air conditioned camera goes outdoors)

(* from "Traveling Again" by Dar Williams)

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