Monday, September 25, 2006

Traveling Mercies

A fair bit of my life has been spent traveling. No doubt, that is either predictable (considering my parents were missionaries in Africa) or unavoidable (reference prior parenthetic comment).

Sometimes I enjoy traveling and sometimes dread it. I have been reflecting of late on several times when traveling was a somewhat terrifying experience.

When our son was born in January, I was teaching at a local college at the time. I had arranged to take off one month following his birth, and then planned to return to full time work to finish out the semester. So for one month, I was away from campus and had not picked up my mail. (Understand, this is in the days before email!) Not long before I was scheduled to return to work, my husband said “Let’s go over to the campus and get your mail.” A seemingly innocuous suggestion. BUT—(buts are always followed by music—dunh, dunh DUNH!) but it had snowed the night before. So now the roads between our house and campus were completely snowed covered, and in fact barely passable.

Anyway, I agreed. So we bundled up our son, put him in the back seat of the car in an infant bed (again, in the days before infant carriers) and off we went. Just as we approached the first intersection on the interstate route we were traveling, I had this flash—WE ARE ALL GOING TO BE KILLED! For the rest of the half hour journey, I was terrified. I should have relaxed; my husband is an excellent snow driver, having “practiced” doing donuts as a kid in the parking lot of his school. Suffice it to say, we all survived. And that trip, though vivid in memory, is now some 34 years ago.

Flash backward some eight years. When my parents returned to Africa for their final term as missionaries, I stayed behind to finish high school and begin college. We were apart for five years, so understandably I eagerly anticipated their return home. Just about the time they were due back, I was called into the office of the president of the college I was attending. He informed me that an unknown benefactor had paid for me to fly to London to meet my parents so we could be reunited more privately. That is the subject of this flashback.

I distinctly recall that journey. First, I took the train from Harrisburg to New York City. I had made plans to meet some local church workers there (who knew my parents) and they would transport me to JFK. Well, we were
meeting in Grand Central Station (I think) and somehow I waited at one kiosk while they waited at another. We never did link up. So I made a mad dash outside, corralled a taxi and in a panic asked him to drive me to JFK. He turned out to be a kindly (and VERY chatty) driver. By the time I got to the airport I had calmed down—some. Now for the flight. I was flying on then BOAC, at night. I recall looking out the plane window as we flew along, and it was full moon. The moon seemed to be right next to the plane. I kept thinking—if I die now, I will never see my parents again. Then, we landed, and my parents, siblings, and I were reunited. We spent several days in London, then flew to Amsterdam for a bit more sight-seeing. On that flight, I thought—now I have seen my parents, so whatever happens makes no difference.

So, why the reverie on traveling? Perhaps, because I am mid-process planning another trip. This time to Ghana. I am mostly through with all the
immunizations that are required, or suggested. I am booking a plane ticket, and making all the other plans that need to be in place. And this time, I will be visiting my daughter. I have no trepidation about this upcoming trip, although the list of required and recommended immunizations is intimidating.

It is no wonder that many writers have used the metaphor of a journey to describe a character’s moving through life transitions. My trips have not really marked passages from one stage of life to another, but I recall each and use them almost like a jeweler’s loupe to view closely a facet of my life.

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