We aborted our plan, said ‘another time’ to karate, and turned the car towards home. As they say, “a blessing in disguise.” An afternoon ahead of us with unplanned extra time together, homework free, a chance to just be.
“Can we go to Europe again this summer?” my son blurts out out of nowhere.
“No, I don't think so,” I respond practically. “Why?”
“Well, it was fun when we went.”
That was three summers ago. Three weeks of travel with an eleven-year-old who felt homesick rather quickly, missing our dog, missing his bed. He opted for hours in a hotel room with Harry Potter over wandering the cities with me. I wondered if in some ways I'd brought him too soon, a trip wasted, before he could fully appreciate what was around him.
But here he is, longing for a return trip, wanting to go with me, asking with hopeful eyes.
“I wish we could go,” I say, his having activated the longing in me. “If we could, where would you want to?”
I’m playing with the fantasy as much for him as for me. For a while now, I’ve sidelined my travel bug. In abandoning a career with real paychecks to chase a dream of writer, I don’t know when the next paycheck will arrive. I don’t know when these free wandering trips will again be an option. I’m dipping into stockpiled resources on a regular basis these days. How long can that continue? Which impulses can I listen to?
“I’d like to see Scandinavia,” he says. “Sweden. Oh, and the Netherlands.”
Most of my travel has centered around what I might call the passionate countries: Italy, France, Greece. I speak Italian and French, though that may be a generous description of my current language skills, and I’ve always gravitated to places where I can slide into the native language and not arrive as the stereotypical, American tourist approaching everyone and simply speaking English.
I think of my son’s desires, his instincts to hit these northern countries, and I imagine my experiences expanding with his lead. I imagine us with backpacks hopping on and off of trains as I did for months post-college more than twenty years ago. I imagine our being able to share this experience before he decides being with his mom isn’t really that much fun, a time I thought had already arrived before he launched this conversation.
“I wish I was studying a real foreign language at school,” he continues. “Latin doesn’t count. You can’t really speak it.”
I’m treasuring this moment, the fourteen-year-old before me wanting to speak a foreign tongue, wanting to leave the comfort of the known, and venture out.
Since that conversation, I can’t get the image out of my head of our traveling together, even though the last time was challenging. I check my accumulated frequent flier miles that I zapped down to zero last year, and see if they’ve built up enough to squeeze out two tickets to Europe if I could miraculously find any open flights during the peak travel season. Miles away from what I need, I turn to the internet to search for cheap fares to anywhere over there, to find just a place to land and begin. I start thinking of how I could possibly support this trip, if some magazine somewhere might want to hear of the tales of a single mom and a single son wandering cities and countrysides, discovering the land and each other.
And I decide to put that out there, to create the intent and the possibility, for when will I even again be presented with this opportunity with my son? How can I let it pass due to life’s practical decisions? Is it worth stretching, and borrowing from here to pay for there, all with the promise of an irreplaceable experience?
Most of me screams, “Yes! Don’t let this go!” Another part of me says, “It’s irresponsible.” I want to put both voices in a ring and let them duke it out. You know who I want to win.
I know I haven’t heard the end of this. Not from my son, but from myself.