Journal (20Jan11)by Tourguide on Thu 20 Jan 2011, 10 AM CET, Views: 802
A fantastic week here for Rachel and I as Rachel’s mom and sister came to visit us for a few days. Our second official set of visitors behind Rachel’s dad and stepmum. So first and foremost, a shout out to my side of the family tree that Rachel’s side has outscored you 2 nothing, so let’s get with the getting. Here’s a link. 🙂
Rachel was aglow all day before her sister and family came. Rachel had grown extremely close with her sister over the last few years and she was pacing the floor of the airport waiting for them to come through the doors, practically pawing at the gate doors. Ally would be proud.
Airports, for all their stress and pat-downs, are really special places. Family trips of a lifetime, and reunions years in the making, happening all around you. I can not think of anywhere else in the world where you see so many tears of joy as in the arrival terminal of an international airport.
A few other couples came through the gates reminding me a lot of Rachel and I as well. Their lives clearly packed in the bags stacked in the cart behind them, their future here probably just as uncertain as it was when Rachel came through those same doors 5 months ago. Of course, upstairs in international departures, I’m sure we’d see the other pendulum of those same, and equally powerful, emotions.
Taking it all in, I must say I believe I’ll begin to think of airports a little differently. A place of dreams, reunions and goodbyes.
Just about the time that I began sorting out that last poetic verse in my head, I felt Rachel’s body weight shift dramatically next to me and she tore off like a bolt, her hand practically ripped out of mine. Through the gates had come her sister and mother, and Rachel was there instantaneously with tears in her eye and a thundering embrace. You’d think this had been a decade in the coming, but for Rachel who was use to seeing them every day, it sure felt like it. I had to feel sorry for Rachel’s mom and sister a bit, they had just come off a sleepless 8 hour flight and were clearly sorting out why the sun was already up …and in came Rachel. If the scene didn’t leave you a little teary eyed yourself I’d recommend a good heart surgeon, because you would be clearly in need of one.
Piled back into our vagon moments later, Rachel and I began to take on the role of tour guide. Rachel’s mom and her sister, Lisa, were clearly exhausted from their flight, and were quite comfortable with letting us do most of the talking. And as they began to truly appreciate being able to sit somewhere that didn’t involve an uncomfortably close arm rest or a tray table aimed at their esophagus I could see them already drifting off to the sleep that had been fruitlessly chasing for the last 8 hours.
Citing off tidbits of information, and drawing attention to various aspects in the new scenery around us (and fully embracing the 3 plus cups of coffee we had driving up the airport at O-dark hundred), I really began to appreciate just how much Rachel and I had already absorbed about living in Germany. For as much as we felt lost in our own new lives, it sure *sounded* like we were well at home there.
We pointed out the obvious things such has that a large percentage of Germany is truly rural, how wind turbines littered every hillside, and what driving on the autobahn was really like. We also spoke to how daily life here differs from the states. With things closing early on Saturday and almost totally on Sundays, life here is comparable to living in a small town in the states. Except that small town is only 5 hours way from three other countries and 5 major international cities.
There’s a saying over here that to American’s 200 years seems like a long time, and to Europeans 200 miles seems like a long distance. Think about it, …see we’ve picked up all kinds of international pearls of wisdom already.
As we talked with Rachel’s family about what their plans were over the next couple of days it began to dawn on me that they really had very little intention of just sitting around the house and catching up. I guess it makes sense, sure they had come out here to see us, but for the price of the airfare and vacation time they had to burn, they also wanted to see south-western Europe as much as possible. Now part of this was to be expected, but I assumed that there would be some downtime planned in. Right?
Well, I guess if I were visiting a foreign country I could only imagine what kind of itinerary I would put together: 14 hours days of sitting seeing, skipped meals, late nights, and hours and hours of driving time. Well, funny thing, turns out we’re a lot of like.
So what began at this point was what I’ll refer to as 5 days and 500 miles.
Now one of the concerns Rachel and I had about incoming visitors would be what if we got tired of visiting all the same places? Good thing was, both Rachel’s mom and Lisa had already done the Europe thing. Rachel’s folks even lived here back in the day, and hell, Rachel was born in Germany. So, fortunately the pressure to hit the big exotic locals like Paris, Berlin and Zurich was not required. But that wasn’t to say there wasn’t plenty of plan B place to hit. And hit we did, in 5 days we saw:
o Trier, Germany
o Heidelberg, Germany
o Landstuhl Castle,
o Kaiserslautern shopping district
o Luxemburg City, Luxemburg and
o Strasbourg, France
Not bad, eh? Including our home town of Spesbach, that’s seven cites and three countries (though how Luxemburg has managed to not get swallowed up after 2000 years and 2 world wars is beyond me; seriously, …its smaller than Rhode Island) in little more than a long weekend.
I’d like to say weather was better than it was, but we had a few clear days, and Rachel’s family were real troopers (how cute are those hats?). Dropping them off on a street corner in Heidelberg in the pouring rain (I had a work meeting in town), I definitely had a sense of pause driving away. But they turned it into a great experience together. And that was really the point, being together. Sure they got to be together in some gorgeous locations (the Strasbourg Cathedral still takes my breath away), but all that was just background scenery to being three peas in a pod again.
For myself, I diligently performed the roles of navigator, chauffeur and family photographer and chimed in as needed. But I knew this trip was really about Rachel. God willing, my family would be making their visits here (uhm, did I mention the a link), and Rachel would take over the trip logistic aspects when that time came. …Or not 😉
It’s interesting some of the emotions you go through when you hear about how life is carrying on back home. Its always nice to hear that folks are doing well, and to find about who’s dating who and who’s expecting and all that. But there is a part of it all that stings knowing that life has gone on without you, that your part was to a certain extent, …replaceable. Now this isn’t to suggest that we would be expecting shrines of candles and empty placing settings awaiting our return, but it does remind you that life goes on. With or without you, it’s the nature of things.
Things are always changing, lives are always in flux. And that makes you kinda realize, there really is no “going back.” That is because the life you left won’t be there, it will be a new life and a new world that you return to.
The snapshot you have in your mind about how your life’s chess board was set up was outdated the moment you left the table. You have to let it go. Kinda of like those aunts and uncles you grew up with, who were always so surprised to see how big you’ve gotten in the months since their last visit. Like they assumed we all just went on “pause” after they’d gone. Sure, it would be great to think that things would just kinda rotate in place while you are gone keeping your seat warm for you, but that is an unrealistic notion.
We’ve only been gone 5 months and the chess pieces in our lives have been in a flurry of motion, as they should. It isn’t fair to think that we would be the only ones allowed to make a go at new lives. The lesson here is that it turns out you don’t just walk away from your life all at once, in a swift goodbye. You walk away from it a bit more each day. As that life is left to grow unrecognizable in and of itself. As that life goes on filling in the space you left.
When Rachel and I returned from Japan in September of 2006, after 6 months in Asia, and a year of traveling, it was interesting to see our respective social circles try to recalibrate to our presence. It wasn’t easy by any means. In some cases it didn’t work. Married folks hang out with married folks, and couples with kids move on to hanging out with other couples with kids. Lives realigning, its normal. Soon some of the closest people in your life just started heading a different direction, becoming just a icon on your contacts page.
Who knows what will happen after this tour is done, which will be considerably longer. Those social circles could be scattered across the globe.. Hey, but at least there’s Facebook, right? In today’s day and age, anyone is only a few mouse clicks away. Funny, I remember there use to be a time when saying Goodbye really meant something. Still some are always harder than others.
And sadly, 500 miles (photo album) can come and go too quickly just the same, and soon we were back at the airport, this time experiencing the other side of Frankfurt International Airport, …the departure gate.
Hugs, tears and promises of future trips blended in with the conversations around us. It’s always hard finding the words. And soon we were on the road back to our home, and Rachel’s’ family was on the road back to theirs, 3000 miles away. Rachel leaned her head against the side window, and closed her eyes. Soon she let out a quite murmur, “…I miss them already.”
Just another reminder that World Tours like ours are not for the feint of heart.