“Time is the longest distance between two places.” ~Tennessee Williams
A year ago this week I was jetlagged, excited to be reunited with my husband and nervous about the journey ahead and what it meant for my family.
Living 3,000 miles away and an ocean apart from loved ones, especially sick loved ones, can and does mentally take a toll. You question if you made the right decision, if the sacrifices are worth it, and what exactly your child is gaining from an experience he may never remember.
I’m not sure I have the answers, even a year on, if this journey will be worth it in the end. We are having a wonderful time and Nathan is learning German and we are all experiencing a different culture and our lives are definitely enriched by the journey. Ultimately, these things are important to us and Dan and I will always cherish our memories from here.
Oscar Wilde said “Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.” But it has not escaped me that while my little family is over here creating memories, my mother in law is back in Arizona slowly losing hers to Ahlzeimer’s. I think about the last year and what a wonderful experience this has been but I still have tremendous guilt about leaving her behind.
It’s hard to talk about and even harder to put my thoughts onto paper and maybe I won’t know the long term affects on us until the long term knocks on our door and arrives for the party. But I look at Nathan and I know his life has been enriched even if he will only have fuzzy memories of that time in his life where he said “nein” instead of no and played with kids who he couldn’t communicate verbally with.
Yesterday I asked him how to say green in German and without missing a beat he said “grun.” Not only does he know the german word but he understands it’s the same word in a different language. He went to a birthday party Saturday, by himself, as is the norm here, and when we picked him up the mother told me that the kids told her “Nathan understands what we are saying to him.” So he is beginning to understand German and he can say a few words. This never would have happened in Arizona.
Nathan’s playgrounds are castles and vineyards. His vacations are filled with ancient sites and churches built during the Renaissance. He spent his birthday at a chocolate factory in Switzerland. He spent his summer traveling through Poland, France, Germany and the Czech Republic. He will spend his Spring seeing the tulips in Holland and seeing the beauty and natural wonders of Croatia and Slovenia. Hopefully, he will spend another summer seeing Spain, Scotland or Hungary–or wherever we choose to go, as Europe is our playground.
The Arizona desert is beautiful but it lacks the character and culture of the Old World that I crave deeply. I grew up in Chicago, a place filled with museums, buildings and streets a mile high, unbelievable pizza, hot dogs and bagels. Dan grew up in our nation’s capital-filled with history and the steps of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. These childhoods gave us a thirst for knowledge and culture and a passion to continue enhancing our lives by new experiences. Living in Europe has exposed Nathan to a diversity and educational experience I could not have provided him in Arizona.
Will it be worth the sacrifice of the time we are losing with our parents? Will it make an impact on Nathan’s future? I don’t know.
My childhood was also surrounded by a huge family. Nathan doesn’t have that here. I grew up with all of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, first cousins, second and third cousins. My family was everywhere. I don’t have the answers. I do know that we love living on a hill above the vineyards overlooking the Rhine. We love living in wine country, a four hour drive to Paris, a one hour flight to London, a train ride to Switzerland and a six-nine hour drive to Italy, The Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia or Austria. In the last year Nathan has been to seven countries and will be going to at least three more this summer. These are the experiences of Nathan’s childhood, these will be the memories that shape his character and life.
“To travel is to live” -Hans Christian Anderson