I think I am pretty straightforward about the fact that I adore my parents. THEY ARE AWESOME, as those of you who have met them can definitely testify. I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to combine two of my favorite things last week: 1) spending time with my parents and 2) exploring a new city. The whole thing came about because I suddenly missed them something terrible and became fixated on the idea of helping my mom organize her craft room and spending a week drinking coffee, reading books, and making things. The timing wasn’t going to work, but then this Seattle trip worked out instead. Hurrah! I have been thinking a lot lately about being a child and about how wonderful it is to enjoy this stage of our relationship. Eric and I don’t have kids yet, but I am much closer in time to the experience of having my own children than the experience of being a child myself. I’ve been thinking about how every single one of us starts out as a tiny baby, and how we always will be the baby of the two people who nursed and nurtured us, who guided us into adulthood. It was both fun and funny to hold this in my mind as we were out exploring together last week. (This picture is blurry and not wide enough due to my short arms, but it captures well our glee at all landing in the same place).
One of the great joys of being an adult child, and, I imagine, of having adult children, is that you get to know each other as people. I am sure that when we are little, we can’t imagine what kind of books our dad likes or what mom would like to do on a quiet Saturday morning. Our parents love us and feed us and enjoy our enjoyment of life, but I am not sure we can see much beyond that at a young age. In those bratty teenage years (confession: I was a brat), I think our parents become even more two-dimensional–it is absurd to think of them having lives and ideas of their own, of the days when they were teenagers themselves. But it is so much fun to get to know your parents after you pass through that little purgatory. You might have an idea that your dad likes planes and your mom likes knitting, but it’s so incredible to have conversations with them about their memories and experiences, about their hopes and goals, about the things they treasure most in life. My parents both have blogs (mom here, dad here), and I have loved getting to read stories I never heard there, getting to hear their voices in a new way, laughing until I cry, smiling until my face hurts. This trip was so much fun in that regard. My dad had planned a few things for our trip that he really wanted to do, and it was *so much fun* watching him enjoy them. We went on a tour of the Boeing factory north of Seattle, which was legitimately awesome, but the most fun part was seeing my dad smile so much and have such a great time. I have so many pictures of him smiling, and it just makes my heart sing. (NB: They will not let you take photos inside the factory, and they are super adamant about that, but that is a gigantic plane designed to transport other airplane parts, and it was seriously impressive).
Inside the museum, they had a map for marking where you were from. I noticed that there were no pins at all on Memphis, so mom and I called dad over to put his pin in. Adorable.
The next day, my dad got us tickets to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which was also amazing. So many bright colors and gorgeous shapes, and just the sheer imagination of one man was enough to knock you off your feet. But the best part was seeing my dad enjoy it so much.
Seattle is a great city for beer as well as coffee, so we went to lots of tap houses and brew pubs. One of them, unbeknownst to us, was having an IPA week, with an extra 40 really rare IPAs on tap. That happens to be my dad’s favorite kind of beer, and I loved seeing him so excited about it. On our way out of the restaurant, the manager saw me taking a picture of dad in front of their IPA Week sign, and he invited us to come back to the keg room. You can just imagine what a 200-keg tap room looks like. Daddy was so excited, and I loved it.
On the other two days of the trip, my mom and I took the reins, and we wandered through four neighborhoods in one day, and then covered a whole island the next. My mom made friends with this gorgeous St. Bernard outside a shop, and I loved it.
My mom and I are so alike and share so many of the same interests that it would be impossible not to have fun with her, even if we were just folding laundry. But when we stumbled upon this gem of a thrift store on the island, we both knew we’d hit a gold mine, and it was so much fun.
My mom is game for anything, including making friends with a statue, and it was a delight to watch her take everything in, from the ridiculous bounty of the markets to the seal we spotted from the ferry and the sheer deliciousness of Delancey pizza. It’s amazing to me how much this joy runs both ways. My parents put in the work of sleepless nights and diaper changes and inane cartoons and whining teenagers, and now they get to know us as adults. And we get to know them. When Eric and I look forward to having children, it’s hard to see past those initial joys: holding your children, watching them learn to speak and walk, laughing about the hilarious and adorable things they will undoubtedly do and say. That time is a treasure, for sure. But this trip made me also look forward to the time when we will know our children as adults, and they will know us too, as individuals.
It’s kind of a given, at least in our family, that parents will never let you pay for things. They take pleasure in being generous with us, and we give them joy in receiving their gifts, even when we’re in our third decade. When we are small, we don’t know how to thank our parents. Our minds don’t have the capacity to comprehend the sacrifices they have made for us, and the fact that we are the center of their world. We thank them with our spaghetti-stained smiles and our hugs and kisses and our soft breath on their necks when we fall asleep in their arms. Even when we gain the ability to speak, it doesn’t occur to us to thank them for the most mundane of things, like dropping us off at swim practice or doing our laundry or feeding us dinner every night. And then there are those horrible teenage years, in which we not only do not thank our parents, but blame them for everything. We don’t see the light until we’re adults or even parents ourselves, and that’s just how it is. Every parent knows that when they hold their newborn, and they wouldn’t have it any other way (well, maybe they would settle for a little less teenage entitlement, but that’s about it). And so, having grown up and seen the light myself, and having seen some of my dearest friends become parents themselves, I make it a point to thank my parents for everything. They’d do it all anyway, even if I didn’t thank them, but I want them to know that I appreciate everything they do for me. I want to them to hear thank yous for all those years when I couldn’t or wouldn’t say it.
And so it was pretty funny when we were having coffee at the Chihuly Museum and my dad didn’t have the right change. He asked my mom for a ten-dollar bill, and she didn’t have one, so I reached into my wallet and grabbed one. As we were getting up to leave, I thanked my dad for the coffee, and he said, “But you paid for it!” My mom and I looked at each other and burst into laughter, and I said (pardon my French here), “Yeah! It’s about damn time!” We laughed all the way out into the garden.
My parents paid for the meals, but I brought my own money for souvenirs and such, and I did manage to buy my dad a chocolate bar. I used my card for some things, but I also ran out of cash quickly because I just hadn’t thought to bring much. On our last day of the trip, we were strolling around Whidbey Island, and I inhaled the unmistakable scent of fresh waffle cones. Ice cream. I needed some. I was still kind of full from lunch, and the line was long, so I kept putting off going over to the shop. Finally I decided to go, and my parents said they’d wait for me outside, since it was crowded in there, and they were too prudent to eat ice cream after a decadent quiche for lunch. My mom was going to take some pictures, and my dad was going to read his book. “But wait!” I said, “I don’t have any money!” And then we all laughed again, and I became a grinning five-year-old, ecstatic that my mom had given me money for the ice cream truck.
I know that my parents would move heaven and earth for me, and I hope they know that I would do the same for them. They’re my treasures. And even though I’m out here thousands of miles away making my own way in the world, I’ll never tire of the comfort of my mom pressing a twenty-dollar bill into my hand on an airport shuttle bus, so I’ll have money to buy myself breakfast. It’s not about the money: it’s that this is the last parting gesture of care and nurturing she can give me before I fly back off to my own little family. I understand that, and so instead of protesting that I can just use my credit card, I hug her and say, “Thank you.”
My parents and I were flying back on separate airlines, and we knew we’d have to get off the airport shuttle bus at different stops. We got to mine, and I had to get down with my suitcase, but my parents came down too to kiss me goodbye. A sweet, sweet woman who must have children of her own told us, “You know, the terminals are all connected, if you want to stay with her. I don’t want you to have to say goodbye to her out here!” And so we all grasped at this reprieve and went through security together, which was especially great, since my dad’s pre-screened status bumped my mom and I up to the first class line. Saying goodbye is never easy. I pretty much always cry, and I am pretty sure they might too. It’s never fun to be apart from the people you love, the people who are your home. But I was so thankful for the sweet time we shared. And so I trudged off to my gate and bought myself breakfast and coffee on the way, and I carried it, and them, back on the plane with me.