Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Pilgrimage

In a week's time, our family will embark on what has become an annual pilgrimage. Since the birth of my first child, I've returned to the USA once a year to visit family and friends. There was even one year when I went twice (a family wedding--couldn't miss that!). My first born is now just shy of turning 5 years old and this trip will count as her 6th visit to the USA. I sat down recently and did the math. She's spent a total of 27 weeks in the USA which is approximately 6 months and about 10% of her life thus far. These annual trips are adding up. We generally spend six weeks stateside when we go, but this year we'll spend 8 weeks. My children have many lovely memories of these trips. They get to spend time with their American grandparents, Aunties, Uncles and cousins. They get to eat food that we don't have in Australia or in some cases, food we don't let them have in Australia. They learn plenty of American words while we are there and even come back with slight American accents. The maturity and personal growth I've witnessed in both my children as a result of these trips is mind boggling, given their relative ages. It's such a truly rich experience for them. We are blessed to have the opportunity.

Of course these journeys have their down sides as well. The first being the distance. It takes so bloody long to get to the States. 14 hours on a plane is a really, really long time when you are a small child. It's a really, really, really, really long time when you are the parent of said small children. Of course the 14 hours just gets us to Los Angeles and then we have to connect to Texas. I'm not a real fan of Los Angeles, but sometimes I wish my whole family lived there. It would make the trip a little bit shorter each time.

As the children get older, making the trip is easier because they understand where we are going, what we are doing and who we will be seeing, but on the other hand they know what they will be missing from here while they are gone. Like any young preschoolers, they've got plenty of things they do each week--preschool, swimming lessons, dance lessons and play dates galore. All of these things must be organised before we depart. The list of people we need to notify and arrangements that we need to make before we go seems to get longer each time.

It's not just the activities the children miss, it's the people too. The neighbourhood we live in here in Australia is filled with children of similar ages and our children are in constant contact with many of them. I knew I was in trouble when my then 2 year old daughter burst into tears during one of our USA trips and began saying, "But Mommy I miss my friends!!" Was she serious? She was only two!! In hindsight, I think she was serious and she certainly does miss Australia when we are away. At the same time, she has a real fondness for America and often gets emotional about missing family members that live there (emotional attachments that she wouldn't have if we didn't make these trips).

I think the transition between the two countries is another element of these pilgrimages that is sometimes difficult. It's almost as if you have to put your life completely on hold in one place and then try and slot yourself in when you arrive at the other place (where you haven't actually been for an entire year). The same is true on the've got to remove yourself from your new found comfort zone and return to your "regular" routine (that you've been missing from for 2 months). It's enough to make your head spin.

Good and bad, we continue to make the journey. I can't imagine it any other way.


dsduffy said...

How exciting! 8 weeks back in the States...I can imagine the preparations though, packing, etc etc etc. And trying to fit everything in once you are there, making sure you keep a routine, etc. Have fun & can't wait to hear all about your pilgrimage :)

suzinoz said...

ds-Thanks. The prep has been sidetracked by an unwell 2 year old. Fingers crossed I get it all done. Hoping to blog more once I'm there. We'll see...

Nathalie said...

The positives certainly outweigh the negatives. I'm forever grateful that I know my family in Germany, as that connection is so important and enriching. I'm sure the long flights will get easier as the kids get older. Have fun and looking forward to hearing the news. I hope the gorgeous 2 year old is feeling better now too. Love to all.

Annelise said...

I am so happy that you come every year and that I get to know your kiddos. I truly am honored that I get to be a pitstop on your trek.

Anonymous said...

Hey Suz, hope you are enjoying your time with family! I felt 100% revitalized when I returned from my visit.


suzinoz said...

Nathalie--Thanks. Not sure about the flights getting easier. Read my next post.

Annelise--You must know it's not about you, it's about Milo. The girl LOVES him.

Still Life: Glad you had a great visit. Ours has only begun. Hopefully we'll have similar sentiments when we leave.