I attended a backyard barbecue with good friends last weekend. It was to welcome home (for 6weeks) their daughter and her kids. They have been living in The Caymans for a few years and will return to the islands again when the fall school term begins. Fortunately, they have many relatives and friends here and in the Toronto area with whom they can stay. When the daughter listed off the number of places they’d be staying and the activities to which they are committed, I was dizzy trying to grasp the confusion of it all. One week with grandparents, one week with one sister, another week with the other sister, a week at their communal cottage, a week renting a house, back to the sisters’ houses. And the kids are booked in various camps, all meant to co-ordinate perfectly with the parents’ plans.
It occurred to me that the younger generation never sits still. And they think nothing of flitting around the world, kids in tow, passports always at the ready. Sure, I’ve travelled a fair bit but I get tired just thinking of their adventures. Gill is currently spending a week in the French countryside with friends and recently returned from her birthday celebration in Scotland. She will, of course, point the finger of blame at me and say that it’s all a result of schlepping her and Crazy D and L’il Sis around the world when they were young. Perhaps. But I never had it down to the art form it is with this younger generation. And it is true that it is easier to arrange rentals, plane tickets, accommodations, camps, etc. via the Internet. A click, a Google map and photos, and you’re done.
I recall a trip to Germany for an entire summer with Gill and Crazy D, before L’il Sis was born. It was anything but organized, it bordered on the chaotic, and I still haven’t recovered from it. The best thing about the adventure was that I learned to swear in German.
The trip was undertaken so their father, the professor, could work on a math book with a German colleague. This colleague promised to arrange a place to stay for us. He kept promising and promising and promising. We weren’t actually assured of a place until a week before our departure — having already rented our own house, abandoned the dog( her interpretation), explained to the kids that they were leaving their friends and everything they held dear, learned how to buy Pampers for toddlers in German. My fingernails were bitten down to nubs by the time word came that we wouldn’t be homeless in a foreign country with two toddlers.
There were no pictures or Google maps to let us know what we had signed up for. There were a few caveats, however…caveats we didn’t discover until our arrival.
Caveat#1: The rental was only for the first month of three. It was a small two-bedroom apartment. After the month, we would be evicted to move into a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the same building.
Caveat#2: The building was above a small store and butcher shop…as in, a place where they murdered and filleted animals. I suspect that seeing dead animals hanging spread-eagled though the open door may have hurried Gill along the road to vegetarianism.
Caveat#3: The ‘laundry facilities’ were in a dungeon-like basement, the machines relics of the prehistoric era. By the time I filtered the German instructions from the landlady through my brain, swatted away the spiders in the cobwebs and tried to aim my flashlight at the behemoth of a machine, I didn’t really care if we wore dirty clothes for the duration. After all, with dead animals in our building, what was a little dirt? We had bigger problems. I hightailed it out of the cave dwelling before the great creature of the deep got us.
Caveat #4: The apartments came free with the stench of salami (or more precisely, since it was Germany, summer sausage.) After the animals were killed downstairs, they were made into meats that had to be smoked. Along with the meat, our apartment was smoked. We went to parties, not knowing our clothes reeked of meat. It is disconcerting when people assumed you were the h’ors d’oeuvres course.
And unlike our organized friends, I recall running at top speed through more than one airport, including LAX, trying desperately to make a plane. And of course, who can forget the time my ex-hubby sat in the middle of the airport in Luxembourg, cutting up a cardboard bicycle case with a Swiss army knife to pack some souvenirs he’d bought? Oh, the innocent old days when security was lax and crazy people did crazy (but funny, harmless) things in airports.
I still, try as I might, can’t be as organized as I’d like to be when traveling. The recent trip to Australia verified that. But compared to some people with gigantic suitcases and oddly-shaped items that could have been kangaroos in bubble wrap, I didn’t do too badly. I suspect I’m better to leave the vagabond life to the young, strong, flexible and calm of demeanor. The less flapping around I do in airports, the better for all concerned.