There have been many times on this trip that I have joked with Guy that we could be on that show The Amazing Race. “Imagine this was The Amazing Race,” I tell him. “What would we do if we were on The Amazing Race?” I question. We used to be avid viewers of the show when it first came out. I remember us staying home for the finale (even with ads in those days) curled up on the couch, cheering on our favourite team and complaining about the awful people who shouldn’t be on the show. It was incredibly engaging and we often wondered how we would size up in the whole performance – would we travel well together under pressure? Would we argue a lot? Who would be best at navigating? When would we be able to go the toilet? (they never showed that part!). Who would drive? Who could get up early without complaining?
As we near the end of our time in Danke Van (10 sleeps more and counting) I feel a lot of things surfacing and in a sense I feel that end of the game gravity. We have also had a very full on first six days in France so that, together with a few other niggles, has definitely challenged me this past week. Let me backtrack. We arrived from England on Saturday after driving across from Wales the previous day. We nearly squeezed in seeing Guy’s cousins in Portsmouth as well which would have added another 2-3 hours to our trip to Dover but it didn’t work out with timings and work and kids’ schooling so we skipped the trek south and fast tracked to Dover.
Merrily we ferried over to France midday Saturday only to discover on our first night that we had run out of gas. This translates to no heating and no eating – well no cooked food. And worst of all, no cups of tea. We didn’t panic as we assumed we would find gas at a bigger service station or supermarket. We didn’t. Nor did we find gas at any our next campsite or supermarket or servo. In short, we weren’t given the right adaptors to fit French gas bottles and the cost to buy new ones, which we didn’t feel all that safe trying out, seemed risky and expensive. After much deliberation and many raw food meals and cold nights (in amidst the most wonderful Rosh Hashanah night with new friends – see Facebook for details) we decided our best move was to drive to the closest German border town and exchange our two gas cans for new ones.
We achieved this at 5.30pm on Tuesday night. End of the working day, end of a very long driving day with two children and a not so happy mama but just in time to get our much sought after gas. We then found a camping spot for the night, albeit a very bizarre place where we and possibly one other couple were the only inhabitants (even the owners didn’t live there). It turned out to be quite beautiful and silent there and reminded me how it can take time to settle in to a place. As a child I found it very hard to do sleep overs, hard to be in new surroundings. I loved the comfort of my home and the familiarity of my family. This all changed in my late teens and once I started traveling at 19 I was hooked on seeking out new places, new smells and sights and new earth to dig my feet in to. When I now arrive at a new place and feel a little anxious or off kilter I have to check in if it is my intuition about a place (sometimes it is just that) or just me needing that extra time to relax in. It’s a fine balance like everything.
Wednesday morning we crossed over the border back in to France and I must admit I was relieved to be back on French soil. It felt wrong to be in Germany and as I have mentioned numerous times, Germany is so very loaded for me and I wasn’t mentally prepared for being there again. As we had just traversed the whole Northern breadth of France and we knew we had just over a week left in France, as Danke Van needs to be returned back to Germany mid October, it seemed silly to backpedal even more. So here we are in Alsace and it has taken me and all of us days to recover and just be here.
I think one of the tougher parts of parenting, especially mothering, is how reliant the kids are on your mood to determine the happiness of the whole family. They say you are as happy as your saddest child and this too is very true. But this trip has really brought to my attention how much the kids are still so very dependent on me for their emotional wellbeing. If I wake up grumpy, you can pretty much bet on that grumpiness bleeding out to the kids and even Guy. And though I can feel it on an energetic level and I know it to be so true, there have been times, especially in these last few days, where I really couldn’t keep it together and shaking off my bad mood felt colossal.
What has brought me back to myself and to my equilibrium has been time of course, the greatest healer, but also I have a few lifelines up my sleeve that I know from experience. Nature and all things earthly have always given me perspective. Looking out at the just harvested vineyards literally outside our window most certainly lifted my spirit as did sitting in a grand old church in a little village called Eguisheim. I have cried in many a church. I am not religious and not Christian but often when I enter these sacred spaces, be it a church, synagogue, temple, I am lost for words, and the intentions of others, the sorrow or mercy of those before me becomes almost tangible. I am immediately humbled by the shared journey of all human beings.
Which reminds me of something a wise woman once said to Guy and I in regard to nourishing a relationship – do random acts of kindness for each other. I have witnessed these moments between us, making the bed for Guy when he is out late with a friend, he emptying the toilet for me when it’s my turn because I have just had a shower. These small moments are grand in the scheme of things.
And with the kids, I know that getting down low with them and playing or rumbling or having a good old-fashioned hug is transformational. I have often spoken about my feelings about parenting and how I still feel Noa and Lina are coming out of me. This metaphysical connection binds us and I am so very aware of the length and breadth of this encircled love. Sometimes I just need to be in it with them – really dive in and just be in their presence, on their level, in their love, and put everything else aside.
Traveling together in this small space in this big world with little people has had its low downs. Not surprising to read I’m sure. It’s not all smooth-sailing as nothing ever is but sharing about this stuff is much harder for me than sharing all the great stuff. I have seen the best and worst of my parenting on this adventure. I contemplated just letting this past week fade away in the ether but decided it was so much a part of our journey and it needed to be written.
So as far as amazing races go I feel we have done spectacularly so far especially because we are not racing and I haven’t added hidden camera videos to the blog. Would we have been kicked off the show for swearing? Possibly. Would we have had way too many toilet stops to work in with the editing process? Definitely. Would we have gotten lost a few times and subsequently lost our cool? 100 per cent. Would audiences have loved us and cheered us on? What’s not to love.