I love that line in Golden Girls (ok, I love ALL the lines in Golden Girls) where Sophia admits to Dorothy that she felt safe and secure when three year old Dorothy climbed into bed with her “Ma” when she had a bad dream. I feel that way too. While I prefer to sleep next to my husband sans offspring, I do enjoy the comforting feeling every so often of having one of them climb into bed to be “safe” next to mommy and daddy. But back in the day when my youngest was two or three years old, she’d climb into bed and hum for what felt like hours. Knowing it was keeping the hubs awake, I’d scoop her up and climb into the bonus room bed with her. With just the two of us in the confines of the bonus room, she could hum herself to sleep. Under the cool, fresh covers and without the anxious, gnawing feeling that she was keeping daddy awake, I’d drift off to sleep as well. But to be completely honest, I’d never sleep in the bonus room by myself; it’s dark and scary up there! Having my half-pint humming girl by my side scared away the monsters-under-the-bed (ok, aliens outside the window) fears. If only she knew that she was a comfort to me as I was to her!
I’m about to depart for a week-long journey with my five year old, Ellie. We have traveled as a family together plenty, but for this trip it’s just me and my youngest. And we are going abroad. As excited as I am to finally visit old friends again, speak German with Germans, and eat amazing European bread and produce, I’m also nervous! I have always loved traveling and in college adopted the mentality that plans will sometimes go awry – expect that and you may enjoy your trip more. If I lose a jacket or a pair of shoes or miss a train, I can accept it instead of mourn the imperfection and carry on with my newly adjusted day. But what if we lose Ellie’s lovey, Owl?! Oh my God! I can’t even bear the thought.
Even though I was well-versed in European navigation back in my twenties, it’s been a minute since I’ve crossed the pond. I can still vividly remember waiting on the platform for my train to come, hurriedly and sweatingly climbing aboard with my obnoxious back pack, rushing to find my train compartment, heaving the monster of a pack up on the rack, sitting down to finally catch a breath of air and then with a panic, wonder I am on the train to Munich, right?! I really don’t mind the travel-induced mini-panic for myself, and I know Ellie is along for the ride and won’t be aware if we take the wrong train (I mean, she’s not even aware that she has to stop playing with the cat and eat her waffle to leave the house in time for school even after I’ve reminded her one hundred-eighty times.) But I’d certainly hate to get off at a wrong subway stop and make her walk two extra miles. Besides, I don’t even know how the time change will affect her. And I don’t want to carry her for two miles.
There are a lot of unkowns about our trip. I guess that is what makes things so scary. I’ve been watching some of my Facebook friends celebrate their children’s high school graduation and imagine that feeling – an unknown future – exciting and scary! Will they like their dorm roommate? Will they eat at least two meals a day? Will they attend class? Will they fail college algebra the first quarter? (Oh wait, that was me.) Will Ellie enjoy her first plane ride? Will she sleep at all as we cross the Atlantic? Will she eat any food while we are there?
But I also wonder how will she and my friends’ German children communicate? I can’t wait to see! Will she love a Bavarian buttered pretzel as much as me? Will she love eating ice cream at a café in the pedestrian zone as much as I do? Will she pick up on the word Brötchen to order her own roll at the bakery? Will she love browsing at the drug store and grocery store just to compare what is the same and what is different than at home and then buy a tube of toothpaste just to see if it tastes different than Colgate? Well, I imagine she might taste-test candy. And I’ll be happy to join her in that experiment!
The newness of this upcoming experience has butterflies in my stomach just as I had on my first day as a high school German teacher. I want to be a good tour guide to my daughter (meaning I want to ensure we get on the right train unlike the time I shooed my family on a painstakingly slow regional train from Munich to Florence under a train-platform-mini-panic.) True, I called myself, in a tongue-tied German-English moment, Frau Poop, on that first school day, but I also recovered and had several amazing years as a German teacher. I might accidentally order Ellie something she absolutely hates (like when I ordered the hubs Weiβwurst – he was NOT a fan.) But maybe one of those imperfect moments will be a situation we look back on in the future and laugh about. Just please, dear God, don’t let it be a missing Owl lovey!