Friday, January 27, 2012

Au Revoir, Les Enfants

The French have it right when they kiss and say au revoir -- not simply “goodbye,” but “until we see each other again.” And so that’s what we said to Chris and Caroline after their two-week visit to Italy. We’d capped off their trip with a couple days in Verona where we stayed in the Hotel Giulietta e Romeo, dined at a trattoria with the same name and took pictures at the mythical home of Juliet with its romantic balcony and cobblestoned courtyard. But it was time to say, “Until we see you again,” so off they went, through security and back home to the states. In particular because it was just four days before Christmas, a big part of us yearned to board the plane with them in Milan, to remain in their company and head back to our familiar United States. But we quickly busied ourselves with our own departure details and were soon involved in the mechanics of getting to another terminal to catch our EasyJet flight to London a few hours later. The decision to leave for England on the heels of the kids’ departure was a perfect foil for our sincere sense of loss; distraction can often be an indispensible and highly effective antidote.

We settled in at our departure gate, I pulled out my Kindle and did my best to lose myself in a book. But with the multitude of chattering, holiday travelers passing by came the detachment I sometimes feel when in the middle of an unfamiliar crowd. I physically felt the absence of the grown-up Chris and Caroline I had just hugged au revoir so keenly that finally the tears spilled over. Not only did I miss my adult kids, I began to miss who they were when they were children and all the years gone by. As happy as we are to see our children grow, share the joy of their successes, help them accept the disappointments along the way, and then beam as they become young adults we’re so proud of, it’s difficult to say goodbye to them as children. Sitting on a plastic chair at a sterile airport gate, I got nostalgic about my children; I love who they are now but I added to my melancholy by missing their little selves -- like friends I no longer see – and I felt a fleeting but unmistakable sense of loss.

My wistful reverie was interrupted by the announcement of our flight to Gatwick. I shook myself out of my funk, strapped on my backpack and we were on our way to London...stiff upper lip and all that. It was time to move on to a new adventure sans children – we were back to being two for the road.

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