The Birthday Trip

Somewhere along the early part of trying to figure out what real parenthood meant, it occurred to me how powerless the position really is.  I mean, I was already surprised to find that my two daughters were born with personalities that were completely distinct and developed.  They had ideas of their own from toddlerhood on, and wasted no time in going about their plans.   I quickly understood that if I also had ideas of my own, there were limited opportunities and I’d better make some decisions quickly.

Abby with cello

Abby with cello

I picked two things and went for them in a big way. First I went for Music.  It was a connection that I had with my father, who loved classical music and played piano by ear.  I was mesmerized by his ability to sit down and play anything he had heard on the radio.  To this day the sound of a solo piano is a source of peace. When my first daughter Katy was born, with no piano at my house and thus no ability to find the melody, I asked him to record the melody of every song in an old nursery songbook, Baby’s Opera, into a cassette recorder.   From that beginning I built years of nighttime singing, then piano, choir, and so on for both of my girls.

My daughter Abby was an angelic looking child, white-blonde hair and piercing blue eyes.  This was a great diversion – her personality was pure warrior; she knew what she wanted and she was out to get it, and was perfectly prepared to do battle for it. She paired creativity with courage and plunged forward. As a mother, I felt her vulnerability to the dangers ahead.  I was terrified, she fearless.  The Runaway Bunny was a palpable experience – she loved it for the naughty little bunny running away from its mother, and I loved it for the reinforcing message that she wouldn’t ever too far that I couldn’t catch her.

Which is what I have always tried to do.  And somehow along this part of the track I find that I am learning from her, and that it is an awesome journey.

So this is also part of how the second idea came into my head, Travel.  I wanted them to have an opening to the world, a familiarity with people and culture that would make them comfortable everywhere and with everyone, a life that had less fear of the unknown.  I saw a big bonus that Abby or Katy could be anywhere in the world and know how to make their way through the train systems, get money and food, and be safe. Then I wouldn’t have to worry.  So much.

So thus was born the Birthday Trip.  It worked great with her older sister, and Abby clearly observed. When it came time for Abby’s first trip, she decided on “Seetle.” I realized that she had picked the farthest place from Chicago that she could find on the map….and this began the chase after my little bunny.

I have been amazed by these trips, and what came out of a little idea I didn’t know would work – Spending time together without any pressure of home or the traditional mother-daughter context; a no goals kind of wandering, working out what we liked.  Out of it also came something else unexpected – I, a highly organized, intensely driven, bossy woman, learned to give all that up and just give in to the moment.  It pleased Abby, then a novice with lots of ideas, to take complete command of a mission, make a plan of all the things she wanted us to do, and figure out how to make it all happen.

Who knew that holding on for dear life took you to such amazing places.

Abby in Scotland


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