Whims of Desire

Yesterday my son and I got lost in Los Angeles traffic. Not really lost, but delayed. Confined. Streets immobilized by what I later learned was a landslide that closed a major thoroughfare and had that trickledown effect of gridlocking a city already hovering beneath the strain of too many cars.

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.


kristen said...

right on, sister.

and if europe isn't possible, there's always manhattan. i can't think of a more exhilerating location for you and your boy to get your travel feet. and the added bonus of a free place to stay, making the budget expand.

flutter said...

I don't think it's irresponsible in the least.

I think it's stretching those wings, for you and your son

Anonymous said...

I'll add my voice to nixing the irresponsibility factor. What a great learning experience!

Girlplustwo said...

i think all we've got is right now.

do it.

mer said...

In such cases, you need to put yourself in someone else's shoes. And that person is David Sedaris. If Mr. Sedaris had listened to his logical part of the brain, do you think he would have done half the amazing things he writes about? And look where he is today? PARIS! Think of this trip with your son as a way to write better material. Then write it off on next year's taxes. That's the American way. Hope you get to go.

mer said...

oh. P.S You should look at getting published in Skirt Magazine. I love, love, love the stories in there. Look them up online. www.skirt.com/

Anonymous said...

What a great post. Try to make it work!

The Honourable Husband said...

Do it. Start writing your book proposal NOW. And drop in when you come through Munich.

thethinker said...

I say go for it. You only live once.

Nance said...

Is it worth stretching, and borrowing from here to pay for there, all with the promise of an irreplaceable experience?

Just wanted to say that I loved this, especially.

tracey clark said...

A trip like the one you speak of is worth everything. I'm glad you gave it to the Universe to work on with you. That's the best way to do it. Hey--what about pitching the idea to a mag so that at least you can write about the trip and provide photos and get some of the trip paid for and using the rest as a write-off?

PS. Sorry I missed meeting you face to face at Royce Hall! : )

Miao 妙 said...

Nice to hear that your son is so interested in learning languages. I'm currently learning German now too. Learning a foreign tongue is difficult, but I think passion conquers all. :)

Miao 妙 said...

Oh, and I'd love to travel to Scandinavia too. I've been looking forward to Norway all my life.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Deezee, I have stopped over here after reading your supportive comment on my blog, thank you for that. I am so very glad I did come here because I absolutely adore your writing and therefore your blog. Your post stirred something deep within me, I certainly don't think it is something you should take lightly, try everything possible to make it come true. If you could project yourself forward to your own demise, would you be regretting that you made a trip like that happen? I don't think so, I think those things are the 'real' things, the things that are worth fighting to do with all we are worth. You and your son would return with an entirely different relationship, memories, oh it would be so wonderful especially as he is still young enough to want to do this with you, you could use the time to help shape him and teach him and just offer him so very very much. Try everything you can, believe in yourself so strongly, your writing is wonderful, you will find a way. Take care and thank you for supporting me, I would love to be cooking up plans to go with you, and bring my son along too! Love to you my friend Jen B. xxx