Thursday, January 07, 2016

Travel, Tears, and Going Home

Our children scattered to the winds over the holidays, making for a strange Christmas, with only Steven at home. He wandered the house, quiet and bewildered.

I told him this is a taste of coming to visit us when we're old.  It's the strangest thing how you're always surrounded by siblings while you're growing up, and it's almost never just YOU AND MOM AND DAD--how weird!--unless you've been really really bad, or there's some kind of emergency--and then you're 45 and you fly home to see the folks and it's just you and them.  Morning.  Noon. Night. Meals. Church. Family devotions.  Everything.

Steven smiled a little and said, "Hmmm."

But then Emily and Ben came home from Thailand, after the most bizarre glitches, all involving China.  You can read more at

Which made it especially propitious that Emily is taking a class on Chinese Anthropology this term.  Today, she said, a speaker from China talked about how much the country has changed in one generation.  In 1990, the speaker's father was going to college, living in a tiny, crowded house in a village of small, crowded houses, and hoping to save up enough money for a bicycle.

Today, the village is a city with new high-rises under construction and a huge spacious high school.  The speaker's dad has two cars and lives in a large, lovely home.  And his trajectory has been repeated millions of times all over China.

But...contrary to how we think things work, the economic explosion has not led to a similar explosion in freedoms.

I hope she blogs about this because she can say it much better than I can.

Meanwhile, Jenny came home last evening after an adventuresome trip to the east coast, where she and her big brother Matt gallivanted south to my sister Margaret's and north to my niece Annette's, with a bit of Washington, DC, in between.

Yesterday Jenny took the train from Lancaster to Philadelphia by herself, and between discovering that the train didn't go right to the airport as Matt had thought, and getting off at the wrong terminal, she had some frightening and frustrating moments.

Twice, she says, she found someone to ask for help, and promptly burst into tears, even though she's not the weepy sort.

This prompted a discussion on the way home from the airport.  Emily and Jenny say they can hold it together, in these situations, until they start talking.  Then they start crying.  I said I keep it down until someone acts sympathetic, then I lose it.

So I'm hoping Jenny has discovered these profound truths:
1. It's normal to feel lost and frightened when you're traveling and can't find the Delta terminal.
2. You can always ask for help.
3. It's normal to burst into tears at such moments, especially if your suitcase handle broke and you've hauled it in the cold for half a mile.
4. Things have a way of working out.
5. If all else fails, you can call Dad.  Unless you're in China.
6. Each terrifying new experience gives you confidence for bigger things.
7. Sometimes you just want Mom.

Steven plans to come home Saturday, and then we'll finally have our traditional Christmas Eve Kenyan meal and our gift exchange.

I'm glad I have kids who travel the globe, but I sure do like to have them come home again.

Quote of the Day:
"I never told Annette that I’ve never changed a diaper, so I had to wing it.  It worked out ok, though.
--text from Jenny while she was babysitting Annette's two children
Last night she added:
"I had a YouTube diaper-changing tutorial ready, just in case."


  1. I was flying home to VA from a visit to see Paul in MS. When I got to Atlanta I saw the gate for my next flight into Charlottesville full with people. I looked at my watch and decided I had one hour that I could be cool and go get a cup of coffee. When I came back, the gate was empty and my flight had left. I had forgotten about the time change. This was way before cell phones but after I got all the details worked out to get home, I burst into tears.

  2. "It's normal to burst into tears at such moments, especially if your suitcase handle broke and you've hauled it in the cold for half a mile."

    This might make a nice t-shirt.

    Love your work - inspirational!

    Life Coaching

  3. I love your list of profound thoughts on travel. :) I'm not a "crier," but it's amazing what lack of sleep and long flights and travel mishaps can do to one's psyche... Your kids really did scatter to the wind! Sounds like they had fun adventures! I'm glad you still got time with them in the end.