Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Wednesday Pop - Vol.4 . . . Leaving on a Jet Plane

I've been thinking a lot lately about traveling.

Travelers are headed here to us, and I'm soon to leave on a trip myself.  All of that has got me thinking about the yearning so many of us have, way deep inside, to find out a bit about how the other guy lives.  Our dear Irish family, the Quinlivans, are en route here, as I write this post.  (You can read more about them in The First Day of a Trip that Started in 1985 .)  I'm eternally grateful for that yearning I have, and I owe a good deal of it to my family.

I have travelers in my blood on both sides, and I've always reveled in the tales of far away places (or even the stories of places close by).  I've always appreciated the call to see new horizons, to hear other voices and to get a glimpse at how another life-liver lives his life.  Both of my grandmothers modeled this - they both traveled whenever they could, and I can recall that long ago I decided that retirement (if it meant I got to go all of those places) sounded mighty good!  In my mind I carry separate pictures of  each grandmother boarding buses and planes and trains and giggling all the way with fellow travelers.  I like those pictures.

My mother was a seeker, too, and spent her final days living out her questions in her beloved England.  (If you are new to the blog, you can read about her here:  A Few More Things about Mary George .)

I've always thought my maternal grandfather, Papa, was one of the smartest men I've ever known, but we differed greatly on our ideas about travel.  He believed he could find out what he needed to know in books, and I debated that one had to see it, feel it, live it.  We finally agreed to disagree (but I always sort of felt that he understood my point more than he let on.)

And so, it seems, I came by this travel bug honestly.  I'm thankful for that.  I thank my Dad, though, for so many of the ways that he showed me how important it was to know how another lived.  He showed me countless times that it was vital to search for answers, meet the other person, and see with new eyes.  I've always been thankful for his passing that down; but, as a parent, I've begun to see something more that I appreciate.

Buying plane tickets, signing up for a trip, and packing bags for one's own trip is awesome - it's exciting, it's full of great moments of anticipation and it's relatively easy.  I've come to see that what's much harder is watching, even encouraging, another to take bold steps.  That is HARD . . . especially when the other is your child!

So today, I look back with thanks and admiration on the many times and various ways that Pop encouraged, empowered, financially backed, pushed and allowed me to take the trips I needed to take, both large and small.  I thank him for having the wisdom to show me how big the world is, both in the excitement of big travels and the small amazements of hiking through the gardens down the street.  He opened my eyes, continuously, and he models still a life of learning.  All of that is amazing.

I'm more amazed now, though, in the strength that it must have taken to allow some of the trips, near and far, that I needed to take.  How hard it must have been to hold back words of worry and offer a voice of encouragement.  I realize now that it's sometimes scary enough to let your child go to the bathroom alone, much less board a plane to another country!  I fear the thought of watching my own children back out of the driveway, and I shudder to imagine how it must have felt as Jodi and I traveled through the teenage years.

The point is . . . he was bigger than his fear.  I appreciate that, and I hope I can live to emulate it.  I hope I'll remember the gifts on the way for my children when I see them drive off, giggling on the way to a football game across town or embarking on a trip that looks downright useless to me.  I hope I'll remember the many ways that Dad has seen me off, with confidence and good wishes and excitement.  It's a tall order!

So, thanks, Dad, for these traveling moments (just to name a few):

  • when you loaned me your Easter Egg blue Volvo to drive to Florida with a car full of giggling girls.
  • when you dropped me off in the middle of the Pocono Mountains to be a counselor at a Jewish Summer Camp, when neither one of us was even sure we could understand the accents!
  • when you walked from one end of Manhattan to the other, allowing me questions and observations and dawdling, as we looked at things you had seen tons of times.
  • when you planned countless weekend trips to see little pieces of other places, other ways of doing things and bountiful nature.
  • when you somehow mustered a confident smile to see me off to Bonaire, by myself, to learn to SCUBA after the hardest year of my life.
  • when you watched in what must have been complete shock as I explained to you why it made perfect sense for adult me to go to Africa for six weeks by myself, in what was the trip of a lifetime.  
  • when you walked beside me through new places, in our own town or new ones, and explored with me.
I see now a speck of how hard it must be to watch your child go into unchartered waters, to excel or fail, to explore and learn.  I see now what I put you through!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, though, that you allowed me the chances and gave me the practice.  

Lord, please help me do the same for my children.  Help me to love them enough to give them wings - and not just allow them to fly, but encourage them, even in my fear.  Here's hoping I can muster the strength you have shown and show now.  Help me to instill in them the desire to see how others live, to imagine how others may see things and to wonder.  

Thank you, Dad, for the sense of wonder.

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