Buo San Valentine mi amore daughter. I am sending you my heartfelt greeting from New Jersey across the ocean to Italy—Florence to be exact. During all our college visits study abroad was never a program that we were ever on board with, until Daddy’s little girl sweet talked her father, and it wasn’t even Valentine’s Day! Our only girl had a way of going where her four brothers had never gone before-the topic of studying abroad. I played deaf, dumb, and blind, but no avail. What Daddy’s girl wants, Daddy’s girl gets. I found this out when the letter came in the mail in October informing me about insurance for her trip abroad. Did I want to hear the details of the trip I dreamed about going on but my daughter was boarding the plane and taking? Nope! So I played the delay game hoping the plans would just fall apart. Of course they just firmed up and I was the one having the meltdown.
Like Custard I took a stand. I refused to help with this school of travel. Thus, my husband, who is already overworked and underpaid taking care of the kids, his mother, his sister, and his job, now took on Project Lufthansa. He stepped up to the check point and reviewed documents, euros, and credit cards. I simply became the unwilling silent partner during this spring semester that is supposed to cost the same, but in reality doesn’t. The bill totals more than standard tuition when you add in weekend soirees, dining, groceries, entertainment, and, oh yes, books.
Seeing red I did the out of the blue thing. I contacted my old high school friend whom I haven’t spoken to in 37 years. I knew that she lived in Rome because, while I am not on Facebook another friend is, and filled me in. She was willing to give my daughter her email and cell phone information, so at least I felt better knowing that someone was only two hours away from my daughter in case of an emergency. My Italian connection extolled the great learning experience Italy would be, as well as exposure to the culture and the arts. I do tend to agree with that because my daughter believes that Italian is just like the Spanish she is fluent in. She is definitely in for some language lessons!
I declined to help her pack and on the day of departure I was told when to get in the car. We drove to Newark International Airport without hearing about the delays due to drones in the airspace. This was no dump and run. We parked the car and walked her to the security. I had been crying all day and as the floodgates broke open I climbed into my gondola to navigate through the airport. Meanwhile, my daughter was bubbling over with excitement. I’m just going back to school she said. No matter that it was in another country and I wouldn’t see her for spring break. That was all good by her. After rounds of kisses and hugs she turned in a flash and was gone. But the woman who had taken in our parting family scene was not.
She sidled over and asked where my daughter was going, then proceeded to tell me how wonderful the experience would be. If I only had a penny for every person who repeated that line I might actually be able to afford a ticket for myself! She went on and on about the convenience of FaceTime, Facebook, and texting, of which I utilize none, when she heard that I am not visiting her. This caring stranger shared with me that she is a crier, too. It turned out that while she was being nice she was also trying to pass the time, because she came to the airport with the wrong passport. Her husband went back home to get the right one before their flight left in an hour. The other two couples that they were traveling with were already waiting at the gate. She sighed with relief when she saw her better half waving in the distance.
My daughter has literally flown the coop and landed in a nest that is 4,300 miles away. Her luggage didn’t make it to the connecting flight and roommate issues abound. Less than a week into the journey her internship actually expected her to WORK and she was sick with a cold. The countdown on my calendar shows 84 days left until I can start breathing normally again with her safe return.
Back in the day a broad meant a female. Today’a translation means paying the price for travel with stress, in addition to extra monetary road trips, for your offspring. Going abroad is yet more growing pains for parent and child as they share another degree of separation. When my daughter returns she will be more self sufficient than when she left. The curse of this double edged sword is the sharp point of more independence. As we lovingly duel it out I must remember that I raised her with this in mind. And while I wish I could have clipped her wings I will have to settle for cutting her hair and letting her fly like an eagle.