“No one to tell us no, or where to go, or say we’re only dreaming.”
Soon after being reunited with my mum in Florence last week she commented that I had grown up. I immediately responded, “you mean aged”, thinking of my new-fangled wrinkles, my sun worn skin, unkempt hair. Not to mention my newfound appreciation for sparkling mineral water – a sure sign you’re getting old, Guy and I joke. “No,” she said, “you’ve grown.”
As I lie here in bed in Rome, my body tired while it fights a little virus and my mind aflutter with thoughts and memories about our trip, I understand her sentiment. I’ve started to imagine our homecoming – seeing friends, being in Sydney, walking around our old neighbourhood – and I do feel different. My body feels changed, my bones feel stretched, my mind has been filled and my heart, my dear precious heart, has been further opened and deepened and expanded beyond all expectation.
It was only ten days ago that we packed up Danke Van and returned her to Frankfurt, Germany. Those final 24 hours with her were, dare I say, epic (a word I most probably have overused on this trip but always seems to have fitted the moment). Like many departures and endings it registered the full emotional spectrum. On a practical level we had to pack up a life and squeeze it all back into our bags. There was the girls’ artwork to consider, their worn out clothes and new clothes, all the new toys and bits and bobs we had collected – shells, stones, PlayMobil, scooter bikes … it all had to fit somewhere. We had decided a few weeks before that we would certainly need to send a box or two back to Australia and even though this was all planned and googled – on the day it was incredibly stressful. We had to find the right boxes, find the post office (in Frankfurt, no sim card, no language), pack, weigh, eat, nap time, argue about what to keep what to throw, what to send. Then the Post Office closed for siesta 10 minutes before we arrived leaving us a few hours to return Danke Van and get to our train to Florence. Mixed in with the practical was the underlying sadness that we were farewelling our little home and edging closer to the end of our travels. But, perhaps a blessing in disguise, there was little time to address this sadness as life just kept getting in the way.
On that final Sunday night I wrote my weekly _fourlines_ plus another four …
We’ve come to the end of the road / A full moon has been lighting the way / Bitter sweet as are all departures / And then we will begin once again
And just like that it is all in the past / vacuum packed memories for a rainy day / feelings, smells and scenes fading fast / We glide onwards
I don’t think we will ever experience anything quite like these past few months – you never really can repeat living and certainly not with young growing children. We knew embarking on this trip that it was and still is the trip of a lifetime. But as someone who has travelled a lot and learned a lot, I know that your life is all one big adventure and that you can’t rely on having holidays to fulfil that duty. We also knew that there were great times ahead and sweetness to follow in reuniting with our parents in magical Firenze and grand old Roma. The girls were especially excited to see their grandparents and on days leading up to this reunion, Noa would wake early and ask immediately if today was the day.
I have been thinking about that transition from Frankfurt to Florence, from the four of us to the seven of us, from van to apartment. In many ways it was such a seamless shift. Our apartment in Florence was a ‘queen’s castle’ according to Noa. It was a huge three bedroom, three bathroom apartment overlooking the Ponte Vecchio and Arno River. It had herringbone wooden floors, antique furniture and lamps and bed heads and curtains and paintings on the walls. It was striking. For the first few hours we felt merrily lost in the big spaces, the girls running around screeching their joy at this newfound galaxy. I loved it too, especially the floors. And of course having a kitchen, running water, and a toilet that connected to god knows where but I didn’t have to empty it. We were in the middle of a bustling city with all amenities on our doorstep. Slowly but surely, Danke Van drove further back into our memory cells and we quietly let her go there as we stood in our new abode.
The bigger adjustment was inviting other people, especially our family, into our life. When we were in Danke Van it was just the four of us. We met friends, made friends, stayed with friends and even saw family along the way, including Guy’s mum. But in all that time we really just relied on each other, our four persons, our four leaf clove. We ate, slept, showered, cried, laughed and solved all our challenges together. I feel like we were moving as an homogenous force, moulded together with no openings in a sense, and on seeing our families we let open a little trap door and we could relax a little, anchor ourselves in their unconditional love for awhile.
This relaxation was especially apparent with the kids. Guy and I have been 24/7 with Noa and Lina aside from one of us going off for a short while to do something alone. Having our parents around expanded our circle of security for them. It enabled them to settle into other people’s care and accept it on face value. No questions, no considerations, no alarms and no surprises. The familiar in the unfamiliar. Though we have had friends everywhere (aside from France), these were all new friends for Noa and Lina, many speaking a different language. And even for us, these friendships required rekindling and tenderness for us to find our way back to each other, which we did, time and time again.
So have we grown up? Guy doesn’t like the term ‘grow up’ as he feels we are grown-ups already. We talked a lot about this and have come to agree that it’s more about expansion – that growing up or rather growing, evolving – is about expanding your awareness and the way you perceive the world. We are always growing, it is an ongoing rite of passage that has no ceiling or end point. Part of this growth through traveling has been realising our sense of wonder in our every moment and has definitely impressed upon us to live with less attachments. Like Aladdin and Jasmine on their magic carpet ride, a song that is definitely on our trip soundtrack, we have been discovering a whole new world and it is crystal clear that it’s a dazzling place.