Photo: Elvert Barnes
I want to travel with you — just you. I want to explore a new place alongside the woman who raised me, who changed my diapers, who put up with my teenaged angst, and my rebellious college years. I want to see my favorite cities with the lady who taught me essential life lessons, like look both ways before crossing the street, and how to use a glue gun, that it’s not worth sleeping with every guy you meet, and that the most important thing in the world is to help others.
I want you to stop dropping me off at the airport for some trip I’m about to take, and start becoming my seatmate.
I always appreciated the vacations you planned for our family: spring break in Philadelphia, where we saw Robert E. Lee’s taxidermied horse at the Civil War Museum, and summer in Williamsburg, Virginia, where you watched me learn to square dance with a costumed historian. Spending time by the Jersey Shore, eating snow cones and helping me build sandcastles — any time spent with you in a new place was always exciting, and enlightening.
And despite what the other siblings might say, that summer when we rented a cabin in New Hampshire was one of the coolest trips I ever took. I loved swimming in the murky waters where On Golden Pond was filmed. I remember sharing a mushroom pizza with you at some New England restaurant, and recall how we both thought it was not too shabby for non-New York Italian cuisine. You’d watch me reading The Great Gatsby on the porch at midday. I wonder if you felt proud of me. I wonder if you knew what that awkward seventh grader would become.
When I went off to college, I remember what you said to me. “I wish you’d consider doing something with your writing.” It was always a hobby of mine, sure, but a reality? No way. Too hard. I remember what I said to you: “Yeah, right, so I can be poor and become an alcoholic, and live at home with you for the rest of my life?”
Most of those things happened: I graduated. I became poor. I moved back home. I drank heavily. But I also got back into writing. I’ve since moved out, and now I call myself a writer. Funny, how you really always know what’s best for me?
Mom, I want to travel with you. Let’s just go — we can go anywhere in the world, just me and you. You can pick the place, and I’ll do the rest. I got my right-brained, analytic planning genes from you. And the frugalness. I’ll find us the cleanest, most unique budget hotels in Europe, and the cheapest, most eco-friendly cruise passage to Antarctica.
I also inherited your sense of adventure. Don’t think I forgot all those stories you told me about crazy road trips you and your friends used to take across the US, or those Caribbean resorts you used to frequent in your college days. And I still think it’s incredibly romantic that your honeymoon was spent dancing flamenco in Spain and riding camels in Morocco, not at some cliche, newlywed hotspot, or worse — Niagara Falls.
But here’s the thing, Mom. I know you’re scared. I know you’re scared to experience a place beyond what you already know. That place I am referring to, Mom, is Florida. Florida is fine, sure. But it’s not Rome. It’s not Tokyo. It’s not even Santa Fe. Florida is Florida and you’ve been there like, 18 times in the past five years. Don’t you think it’s time to try somewhere new?
Or maybe you’re frightened because you know how much you’ll enjoy traveling the world, and you’ll want to do it more. It can seem like such a dream when there’s a house to take care of, and dead-end jobs to push through before retirement sets in. I know it’s unfamiliar for you, but I also know you’ll be okay.
I am sick of traveling to places with wishy-washy friends. I want to travel with a strong woman who can see how capable I am of learning to speak French, or hiking on a glacier, or eating something as disgusting-smelling as a durian. I want you to see how much I thrive while abroad — I’m a different person, Mom. And I know you’d be different too. I want to come home with inside jokes about weird old Greek dudes who hit on you, and know that someone has shared a similar burst of emotion while snorkeling Australia’s Great Barrier Reef for the first time.
So what do you say, Mom? Will you join me on my next trip? Will you throw caution and responsibility to the wind, and just let yourself go? Will you show me how much fun I am going to have exploring the world when I get to be your age?
Think about it. We’ve still got lots of time. But always remember this: You watch Dancing with the Stars with flashy, Hollywood hosts; I watch Costa Rican soap operas and try to pick out the Spanglish. You sip on wine from the Pindar vineyards of Long Island; I shoot back mysterious brown liquid handed to me by a Cambodian. When we Skype, the sun is rising by you, and setting by me. But despite our different locations and surrounding cultures, the place I’m in will never affect the amount of love and admiration I feel for you every day.
Happy Mothers Day,