Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Living someone else's dream

I never felt the urge to travel.


If someone really pressed me, I may have told them that I’d like to visit an island.  One with white, sand beaches, where I could listen to the waves lap at the shore with a strawberry daiquiri in one hand and a thick paperback in the other.

Gosh, that still sounds good.

But I’m not squinting my eyes against the blinding glare of a white, sand beach right now.  And I’m not savoring a sweet, icy beverage or the sand-sprinkled pages of a good book.

No, right now I’m straining to see my sleeping children across our dark, wood-beamed room, sipping a hearty stout from a plastic cup as our toddler snores beside me.

Outside the distant hum of an Italian highway seeps through our cracked window, and a soft light deepens the shadows of a tall, apple tree.  

The children spent the evening gathering fresh eggs from haystacks, building acorn villages, and filling their bellies with homemade pasta, meatballs and rich, chocolate pudding.  

It’s the stuff of dreams.  Not my dreams.  But someone else’s, for sure.

I spend our first night in any new location nervously pacing the room, inspecting the sheets for hairs and the ceilings for bugs.  I grab for an ounce of control here and there, organizing our bags, cleaning the children, snapping at anyone who stands in my way.

It’s not my thing, really.  New places.  Strange cultures.  And always, always a different language.  

I often feel homesick on our drives.  Even as our car winds through the sprawling, uniform rows of Italian vineyards, I find myself longing for the predictability of America.  Or even the familiar warmth of our small, Hungarian village.  

Joel, on the other hand, practically leans through the windshield, soaking everything in.  Anxiously awaiting the next new thing.

He loves new and different and change and everything my brain so violently opposes.  

I'm not so good with new and different and change. To be honest, I’m not much of a traveler.

But I married a man who very much is.  And after waiting patiently through six years of same and familiar, hoping I’d one day feel ready, I finally said yes.

Let’s do it.  Let’s travel.

And so we picked up our home and our little family and moved across the ocean. And now we travel.  To new countries.  With new people.  New sounds.  New views.  New food.

I didn't feel ready, really. And sometimes I still don't.  But he loves it, and now my kids love it too. And as it turns out, you don’t have to love to travel to love travel.  

Because even though I’ll barely sleep tonight as I fret over creaking floor boards and fire escape plans, I’ll wake tomorrow morning to a frothy cappucino and fresh eggs, and I’ll look out the window at the dewy grass and the clucking chickens and something will catch in my heart.  

I know because it happens every time.  This moment of I’m so lucky. Because even though this wasn’t my dream, it’s my reality. And I am, indeed, so lucky.

In the end, I’m glad I decided to marry a traveler.   

I’m braver than I used to be.  And slightly more adaptable.  (Stop laughing, Joel.  I am.) But mostly, I’m different.

I’m not the same, because I’ve seen new things and I’ve met new people and I’ve learned, first-hand, how different we are, but also how we’re really the same.

I don’t keep good records of most things.  Baby books, doctor’s visits, school work.  But I have this treasure box of memories.  And since the day-to-day runs together for me, it’s full of snapshots from our travels.  It marks moments in time as my kids barrel towards adulthood.

I don’t need pictures to remember Finn popping whole fish in his mouth by the Croatian sea side.  Or Aiden climbing the thick stone arches of the Roman Colosseum.  Or Benjamin exclaiming, “Mountains!  Up, up, up!”  in the shadow of the Slovenian Alps.  

Those moments are there.  Etched, somehow, into my poor memory.

They’re no more important than a day-to-day memory.  Just more there, I guess.

And I’m grateful for that tonight.  For moments that are more there, more alive, than others.  So that while I can’t stop my kids from growing, I can stop the moments from escaping so fast.

And so here I am, living out someone else’s dream, while someone else lives mine.

I can only hope they’re enjoying it as much as I am.

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