So I wasn’t the only one starting late. My children were born in the age of my confinement, and thus never had the pleasure of travel either. They were getting older, 8 and 11, and my daughter, in particular, was getting itched by the travel bug. “When will we go to California,” she’d ask. “When will we see the big city?”
My son was a bit older and understood some of the complexities of a complex situation, and so he tried to hold back his sense of angst and disappointment. It’d come out in drizzles. My daughter was triggered by anything on television that showed a possible travel destination, and she was relentless in her urging. Like flies around dung relentless. Like, my friend’s were given the ‘Don’t you dare mention your travels in front of this kid’ relentless.
Of course, my dream had always been to travel with them; and the older they got, the more these questions and pleadings made me feel like a failure. I couldn’t blame it on anyone. I was responsible for getting them on a plane and helping them to see that life is not an insurmountable mountain; that our dreams don’t just belong in our minds; that adventure is not just for story books and movies and other people.
Finally, I made it happen. I found an airline with really cheap tickets and we booked an exciting… one day trip to Washington, D.C. Now, you may think I’m saying this sarcastically, but I’m not. You see, one thing I’ve learned throughout this Starting Late experience is that small victories are still victories and worthy of celebration.
My goal on this trip was not to embark on some spectacular extravaganza; the trip alone was a grand adventure.
A little background about me.When I had my first child, I would sit solidly still for hours for fear he’d wake up and start screaming bloody murder, as was his custom. Later, I’d wait for their father to come home before embarking on a trip to the grocery store. If there was an awesome family event happening in the next city, we were NOT going. Me and traveling with children was oil and water. But here I was– bleary-eyed and dashing through an airport with my two darlings. So yes, it was one day, but it was a good solid step to accomplishing bigger missions later.
The plane ride was a doozy. A near-disaster, though I like to remember it fondly as an exciting addition to the journey. So the plane roared to life and started down the runway. Little hands gripped the seat handles in terror and exhilaration. I stared at their faces like I was watching the formation of the universe.
Then, suddenly, something I’ve never before experienced– something the kids have certainly never experienced– something the kids have certainly never experienced– the pilot slammed on the brakes! Like, you’re driving and a puppy runs out into the street slammed on the brakes! Like, you’re driving and a puppy runs out into the road slams the breaks.
What the %*!# is this &#!*@?! The kids, in all their utter lack of experience, ask me if this is normal. My heart doesn’t beat hard enough to destroy my chest when normal things happen. I want to kick something, but the person in front of me isn’t to blame. There was a light on apparently. Things needed to be checked out. I scream inside, “We’ve got a blasted schedule to maintain! We’ve only got one $*!#&@ing day to make this happen!” I try not to panic because my energy will become their energy. This will be my first trial. Two hours later, the plane finally departs.
Trial number two quickly presents its ugly face when I realize that our prime destination, the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, is an hour away from the airport we landed in. I had figured D.C. was fairly small and so I didn’t bother with confirming whether this was the best landing location. Besides, my airline only flew to this one. Again, I have to tell myself to not flip out. Don’t show a drop of disappointment. A hundred-dollar taxi ride is nothing, right? I’m independently wealthy and there’s money from the… NOT. I’m flipping the f#&! out on the inside. But only for about 12 minutes. Then I remember what we’re doing and how far we’ve come. We’re together and on our way. Life is good.
Why do I share this embarrassing little inconvenience? So that when you go for it, that adventure, you don’t have unrealistic expectations of perfection. Things may go wrong. Oftentimes they will. Roll with the punches.
The sun was bright and the day was clear. This gave us a renewed sense of invigoration. My immediate impression of D.C. was that I’d never seen streets so clean. The whole city looked as if it had been power washed the night before. When we walked up to the door of the museum, I felt totally empowered. We made it!
The Smithsonian was beautiful. My daughter stuck her finger between the chiseled buttocks of early man and we awed at the most spectacular and varied gem collection we’ve ever seen. My son, the scientist, loved this room the most. My favorite was the exhibit of animals displayed in various positions. When I approached the life-sized buffalo, I understood, truly, for the first time the gravity of our loss. My goodness, these creatures are majestic. I stood staring at this creature like I woke up one day, having never heard of rainbows, and stepped outside to see one sprawled across the sky. I was almost moved to tears.
We had had a long day. By the time we were ready to buckle under with fatigue, it was time to catch our flight back home. That hour-long ride back to the airport was a good time for a nap and the kids knocked out shortly into it. I aim to have more of these trips with them in the future. Short trips and longer trips. Near and far. It’s the steps that make the journey. Do what you can and make plans to keep moving forward. I’m so glad that I did. We are so glad.