traveling with my mother presents challenges and lessons in patience. she is a person of very particular and finicky desires. she is a person whose physical body limits her to a very slow pace. she is a person who latches on to disappointments and vocalizes them.
these things are all true whether traveling or not, and in the voyages we share, overcoming these challenges is handsomely rewarded. between the griping over habitual expectations unmet, there are great highs when her spirit soars more childlike and light than ever on an ordinary day. she spends time elated, and especially by the indulgent thrill of a mother having her geographically furthest and youngest daughter all to herself.
i am a rational and well-behaved adult now, but surely i wasn't always so, in the years she spent waiting on me (though my memory finds me always an angelic child--sorry, choosing honesty over modesty here). so i work on my patience.
one way that i do that is by deriving great amusement from observing her--the mother specimen. she expresses her reactions dramatically across her face. if ever you saw a face twist and contort in such a manner...well, i just bet you haven't. sometimes it appears as if she's just eaten ground up bullfrog warts. but no, you realize, it's just that particular loaf of bread she had hand-checked in the grocery aisle wasn't quite pillowy soft enough.
today we survived many atrocies--all broadcast across that expressive face. it's tough being on vacation. especially a free one. a side note, i'd like to meet whoever it was that came up with the notion of frequent whatever rewards, and much like the docile stingrays we visited, i'd like to kiss them. because a few nights ago i hustled through the cold streets of brooklyn, my face actively aching and stinging--i mean really hurting from the cold. and tonight i sit by a turtle lagoon under stars and palm trees in shorts, flipflops and a zebra striped bikini top.
oh, but back to the atrocities. we survived being seated on the airplane in the vicinity of a toddler. oh young mothers, beware the death rays coming from these eyes to your nevertheless adorably puma leisure-suited toddler. just beware.
on it was to the great black jean fiasco--the mystery misplacement. of course we left brooklyn in snow and ended up in balmy miami. wouldn't you change into shorts in the terminal? biker shorts? so the jeans ended up slung over the shoulder, naturally. personal item, check. as i deplaned at grand cayman island to the cheerful strains of synthesized kettle drums, feeling like jackie o climbing down that outdoor staircase to the runway, the woman behind me was falling apart. it started with a low muttering and turned into all out panic. MY JEANS! I LEFT MY JEANS! KITTY! WHERE ARE MY JEANS?! THEY'RE GONE!
oops, that would be my mother. i jest, yet this leaving behind of possessions is something i seemed to have picked up from her like a case of never ending dark circles. but no time to reflect, because the great jean fiasco was picking up momentum. there was a flight attendant check of the aircraft. there was the bemoaning how well they had fit. there was the declaration of a BAD MOOD. in short, the kettle drums turned from festive and chipper to shrill and abrasive.
but jeans must be forgotten because even more heinous and despicable actions were underfoot as our heroine grappled with the moral consequences of her evil daughter convincing her to dare lie and not to declare the three florida grapefruits we'd soon walk through customs concealing.
the mom: i don't want to lie
evil daughter: mom. it's just fruit.
honest mother: so was the apple.
evil daughter: that's a fairytale.
honest mother: it is NOT!
and into this little island country we burst forth with our contaminated fruit. bully.
i have sudden memories of crossing the california/orgeon border with a camper shell full of sisters, cousins and exchange students and forgetting to mention the stray apple left in the cooler. would the highway patrol chase us down and arrest us? would a storm of out-of-state locusts plague california flying in tell-tale formations spelling out K-I-T-T-Y?
ah, but the customs fiasco came only after the 'fear of crushing' crisis.
worried mother: what if the grapefruits burst in my suitcase, soaking my clothes in juice?
unconcerned daughter: well, it would smell really good....?
worried mother: what if my bags are lost!? what if we don't get to the airport on time and we can't get through security and WHAT IF THE GRAPEFRUITS BURST?!!
unconcerned daughter: (sigh).
hmm. maybe i should be worrying more. i'm starting to feel like a pretty laid back person. her fears, on the other hand are pacing. she can't even keep up with her quick, pessimistic mind.
the face does, though. it gave away the trauma of someone bringing you a complimentary glass of fruit punch as you check in at the resort that you MIGHT NOT LIKE!
it showcased the horror of not understanding the taxi driver's thick island accent.
it screamed the injustice of the inadequate air conditioning the lovely free hotel room had to offer.
frantic mother: "i'll die! i'll just die. it's too hot. this is just the shits. and we're on the top floor. top floors are the hottest! well they are just going to come up here and fix this RIGHT NOW!"
the great thing about the atrocities, the fiascos, the injustices, the horrors? realizing (yet not preventatively) that it's not so bad. the flight attendant giving us extra empty rows to stretch out on and escape the (quiet) toddler. the hotel room a/c fixed in five minutes. the grapefruits (and suitcases) arriving intact with the evil daughter taking on the fruit-concealing web of lies. and best of all, the JEANS, the beloved black jeans showing up in the carry-on after all.
as it turns out, life is pretty good. and vacation, um, it's really great.