My mother’s childhood took her across continents, countries, and states. Unlike mine.
Her adult life (and therefore my childhood) saw our family firmly planted in the small radius of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I was never, aside from my infancy, on a plane with her. We rarely left our town, and if we did, it was a family vacation camping within the borders of our state, a few hours away.. or if we were venturing quite far – a few hours’ drive away to visit to family in neighboring Illinois.
It is only now, in my own adult life, that I travel with her.
In my heart.
I know this now – She is in my heart.
And she has met a million strangers, and they have met her.
And it is through the kindness that she taught to me, showed to me, gave to me every day of her life.. that I try (and fail, fail miserably and more often than she did in her 45 years combined) to give to the world however and wherever I can. And I try to see the world, through eyes of love.
In this way, she is never gone.
In this way, she will continue to touch the world.
It was my mother who first planted the love of travel in my heart. Not the wanderlust, the seeking of new, unfamiliar, and extraordinary places (my mother was one of the few and blessed who could see beauty and find wonder in even the most everyday ordinary things)… but in the deep and resolute kindness that she possessed, and lived her life touching all around her. My mother was kind to everyone, and (almost) everyone was kind in return to her.
What does this have to do with my love for travel?
From watching my beautiful, compassionate mother, the way she treated people, and the way they reacted in turn, I gained a belief in the innate kindness and goodness of people, all people. And an even deeper belief that all people deserve and desire kindness and compassion and respect.
The love of people – that is what travel REALLY means to me, at its most deepest. I want to see beauty, not in isolation, but in a way that links me to all others who have ever glimpsed it as well. I want to experience cities and villages, to feel a tiny grasping of what it feels like to truly be of that place. And the same for new music, new dance, new food.
Experiencing a culture brings you closer to people, a small and fleeting moment to step into the shoes and behind the eyes of someone different from yourself.. from which you return with a better understanding that the things that make us different are oh so small and interesting and not scary and subjective – all based upon the place and chance in which we were born.. and the things that make us the same are so much more powerful and unifying and beautiful and true.
It is not the sunny bays and glassy oceans and sunsets over the river and temples made of gold that I most cherish in my memories of travel. It is the grandfather holding my elbow to help me cross the street, the family of women taking photos with the first blonde girl they had ever met, the children running after my bike screaming the one word in English that they have learned, the man at the grocer showing me how to choose the best avocado. The small moments that mean nothing to anyone but me. The moments of sincere and genuine interest and kindness between complete strangers with more outward differences than similarities.
When I miss my mother, like a hunger that will never be fed, I go back to these memories. It is with these moments, that I see my mother and her kindness and love again, throughout the world in different permutations but the same spirit. Love is but one word in one language that exists endlessly throughout humanity and links us all regardless of how we say it or show it or write it.
One only has to notice.
It’s all about love.
June 16, 1958 – March 16, 2004
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