Walking down the street in Palestine with my brother-in-law, Grace, and Whit.
It has been almost two years since the four of us went to Jerusalem to visit my sister and her family. This, Grace and Whit’s first international trip, was a wonderful and powerful experience and it continues to echo through all four of our lives. When we got home, I reflected on the immensely different ways that Hilary and I responded to our childhood of hopscotching back and forth across the Atlantic. She and her husband took her three and five year old daughters to live in Israel for a year. I have lived in the same house, in the city where I was born, for 12 years.
And yet. Perhaps that childhood of mine, rich as it was with travel and cathedrals and museums and ski trips in Austria where I learned to speak a few German words and simultaneously striated with tearful goodbyes, acted on me in more ways than I knew.
Over the last year or two I’ve felt a new and firm desire to have adventures with Grace and Whit whenever we can. Part of this comes from my keen consciousness of how limited the opportunities to travel together are now. But another part of it comes from having watched Grace and Whit respond to a foreign land, culture, and language. They soaked up more than I could have imagined in Jerusalem, and I want to make sure we continue exposing them to new places and experiences during our few breaks. This doesn’t have to be international: last spring break we went to Washington, and the Grand Canyon is surely on my list of places I want to visit with the children.
Adventures. New places. Rich experiences that augment their sense of the world and their awareness of their place (important, but very far from the center!) in it. These are what I’m after.
Last week, Grace, Whit and I somehow got on the topic of Great Pops, who has now been gone over a year. We talked about how he had truly seen the world, and about how his life had been long and full and marvelous. Grace remembered the Christmas card he sent the year he was 90, which featured a photo of him ziplining in Costa Rica. And Whit recalled the photograph of him standing in front of the pyramids in Egypt that stood in his living room, as well as the picture of him skiing in front of the Matterhorn that now hangs on the wall of a bedroom in my parents’ house.
“Great Pops really saw the world, didn’t he?” Whit asked from the back seat.
Why yes, I thought. Yes, he did. “See the World,” by Gomez (a song I love) ran through my head.
And that’s what I want for Grace and Whit. To see the world: not just globally, though that’s an undeniable part of it. I want them to see their world. In all of its majesty and multiplicity. My childhood was extremely different from theirs, but one thing my parents did without question was show me the world. This contributed to who I am today in ways I’m still understanding, but I know that a certain openness of outlook and orientation towards empathy resulted from the travels, adventures, and myriad experiences that made up my childhood.
I can’t wait to help Grace and Whit see the world. There’s so much to look forward to. I can’t wait.