T-minus five days and counting.
That's five days until E and her friend, CC, plug their noses and dive into Europe as my traveling companion and I called it when we were T-minus five days and counting from that same trip ourselves. Yes, the countdown. And there's a feverish pitch of activity going on as a result.
Now when I was 25, planning a six month back-packing trip to Europe that would get high-centered in the middle and change the direction of my life FOREVER!!!, I began laying out clothes on the other twin bed in my bedroom about three weeks before I left. I must have packed and repacked a dozen times. My dad laughed at the piles, but said that since I was prone to changing my clothes several times before I decided on an outfit each day, I was trying replicate that before I even left. Then he ordered me an internal frame, soft-sided back-pack, which was a brand new concept then, and some fancy walking shoes to go along with them. It wasn't exactly the kind of backpacking trip he would have picked for me, but at least it was back-packing so it gave him a chance to buy equipment he'd been pouring over in his REI catalogues.
Oddly, I can't remember my mom being interested in much of my trip planning. However, it was a crazy summer, a ridiculously crazy summer. Really. My middle brother was in a children's psychiatric hospital that summer, for who knew how long. He was out of our home for a whole year, it turned out. And there was pressure from without to turn their backs on him, to surrender custody of this adopted son--which they never considered doing, though it cost them much not to. Financially, it was a horrible, horrible drain, emotionally it was even worse. My mom cried more days than not that summer about that poor, troubled, hard-to-reach brother.
And my middle sister got married...privately. Well, except that it was in the paper, so word got back to us, which created a very unfortunate situation. I'd been painting our deck the day the news came out, and was in the bathroom when RE came in and showed me the paper. I was certain--CERTAIN!!!--the announcement in the paper was some kind of a misprint. As I washed the paint off my hands I made RE go get the Dump, who'd just gotten home from a weekend hiking trip. A hiking trip with a girlfriend--on which she'd actually lost her really good, really new pack down a cliff and that had both Dad and Dump in a tizzy about how they were going to retrieve it. See? No way could she have gotten married, then immediately gone on a hike with Anne.
She came down to the bathroom with RE and we pointed to the newspaper. She read it, leaned back against the wall and said, "Oh. It's in the paper." It's in the paper? That's the significant issue? However, by the time we left that bathroom she'd agreed to tell our parents that night. It was no easy thing. See, Dump and Dad. Well, Dad loved us all, we each knew we were special to him. But the Dump. There was just something about her for him. It's like that between some parents with some kids. And at least RE and I, who have talked about this many times, just knew it. But what it meant that day is that the pain of her marrying like that was deep for him. And something he never, ever talked about again. Did he forgive her? Of course.
So that was the summer I was all giddy with life and adventure and plugging my nose and diving into the great map of Europe. In no small way, though it hadn't been my goal, it was like I was running for my life from a burning building, and I wasn't sorry to be going. That my dad had the strength and love to pay attention to me when there was so much chaos. It's really amazing to think of it all now.
To think of it all as I sit on E's floor, watching her and CC with their piles of clothing sort and re-sort, and list and re-list. I LOVE these anticipatory days. These days of plans and hopes. I love that they let me participate in them, offer my two cents or two dollars worth or whatever else I throw into the pot.
It hits me again, as I think through it all, how far I am from my mother. I can't even imagine my mother sitting on the floor of my room for any reason. Or climbing onto my bed just to talk. I can barely remember her stepping past the door of my bedroom. Usually talking to me through the intercom was good enough. I wouldn't have wanted her to, but maybe, if she'd been the kind of mom who had been interested in being in my space, in caring about my stuff, I might have cared too. No, Mom always said that her favorite child was whichever one needed her the most. And my goal was always to need her the least.
So, T-minus 4 days now. Four smooth, enjoy-the-planning, let-the-anticipation-build, NO-unexpected -surprises day. This I pray. And this I will rejoice in.
Oh yeah, and SK comes home a full 14 hours before E leaves. So...as we always say in our family, 'traveling mercies' to them both (and their traveling mates!).