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on the bus to Milwaukee


And so we begin.

Preparation now packed, rather loosely of which I am so proud, in two rolling carrying suitcases, two back packs and my over the shoulder bag. None feels too heavy. A nice way to begin a journey. Julia complains about walking in the airport and I take a breath. We’ve hardly begun. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, she will grow into travel walking again. We will do a lot of it this time. No cars except for cabs and probably not many of those. Trains mostly punctuated with a few planes. And walking.

New York, Turin, Genoa, Orta San Giuliano, Milan and London. A week in each. I checked weather on the bus to Milwaukee airport and we are packed appropriately. Except for London where it was 57 degrees and drizzling in the evening. If it is that cold when we get there, we’ll both be bringing home new sweaters or sweatshirts.  

I woke up at 4 yesterday, tossed for a few minutes and realized that I was up for the day. Apart from one melt down in late morning, Julia and I were able to work together all day. She had therapy scheduled for three to six, and I had a small shopping list to accomplish–a return to Old Navy, finding gift bags and an additional adapter. Plans changed when therapy was cancelled and we shuffled. We fit in an evening gardening short hour, Julia picked weeds out of the cracks in the driveway and the worst of the side walk and I deadheaded everything I could in the front garden. A few things days too soon but perhaps we will reap a second bloom by the time we get home.   

The bus passes the restaurant that M and R took me to for my birthday the year after David died. It is getting close to another anniversary–6 years–and there is no ignoring heart tugs. How many friends have stepped in to make holidays, personal and public, bearable. How many times I have lean on and found support, love and care. Even today, we were driven to the bus and hugged before boarding.

We are at Milwaukee airport hours early. That is what happens when you take a bus. At least in the States. It is fine. We are going away for a relatively long time and I have two goals connected to time. The first is to spend travel days traveling not rushing. I intend to be early, to wait around, to read (I brought three books) and write, and allow Julia plenty of drawing/coloring time. She has a new Harry Potter coloring (thank you, Kelly) and print out pages from a meditation coloring book. She has only one game on her iPad but 3 art apps to explore. We are doing summer home work but it is simple. 6 multiplication (or division) problems and a chapter of “To Kill a Mocking Bird.” She’ll do some writing about the book and journaling. And Instagram to work on social skills. We’ll do this on travel days and exploring days but not everything everyday. I want to see what lightening up on school work gives her.  

Julia put her cello away yesterday after practicing. I had her put it into the case and we stored it in a lonely corner of the dining room. She mentioned something about taking it on vacation. A noble idea not to be entertained. We’ll find some music to listen to.

The second time related goal is about not over planning. Although the I still did a lot of work finding lodgings and places of interest and restaurants, I hope to use it all lightly. I want to just walk, allow us the time to see cities for what they are, allow us time to get lost and find our way again. To find gelato where it is least expected. This is a heady goal for me. I travel plan like my mother cleaned–with so much more intensity than is/was required. Sometimes when I clean, especially like I clean before traveling which has a bit of stress attached to it, I recall the stress of cleaning for and with her. She was a master and I her unworthy apprentice. There was still dust on the bureau and a spot of burned vegetable left in the pot when I finished. Not that I like dirty pots but why stress cleaning until even the lovely result became unappealing. I know I’ve been there with travel planning and the intensity came from a feeling of scarcity. I believed that if I did not see every important sight or eat in the most incredible of places, that I’d never get back to that destination and I would have missed something I would never have the chance to experience. Ever. This year we return to Italy. I am hoping to intentionally change.

Like any traveler, I have stories of unplanned magic. When I went to VietNam with a friend who adopted a 6 month old, we stayed in a multi-storied hotel in Saigon with rooms opening out to a center covered garden. One evening as we, perhaps just she, was trying to put her new daughter to sleep, we sat in the hallway, our chins on the cool railings (oh, it was hot, even in air conditioning) watching a wonder of a wedding preformed three stories beneath us. The bridal couple began the evening in traditional Vietnamese garb and then changed three times to appear in Western (bridal white) garb, some very fancy ethnic Vietnamese outfits and finally in black and red Spanish regalia. Two of the appearances began with choreographed dances featuring the couple and some friends. Lots of pictures were taken and new courses of food appear each time they changed. If we had been typical tourists, we would have spent the evening at a restaurant and perhaps a show, never would we have just hung out in the hallway of our hotel. And then, what we would have missed!  

I would like to invite, to cultivate the possibility for such wonder.

So, we sit. Another hour before the plane takes off. If it is on time. The airport is cold. I should have put socks in my backpack. Julia finished math and is copying a picture of a sandwich dragon. I am ready to crack open a book.

And so we begin. 

Best laid plans . . . Our flight was delayed twice and then cancelled. Weather. Although there doesn’t seem to be any ugly weather predicted in NY or here. But, ok. We’re in a hotel with a pool for the night. I’m exhausted but Julia is thrilled with wifi.

An so we’ll begin again tomorrow.