Yesterday I dragged the big green suitcase, the one that is as big as I am, down from my attic.  It clattered down the ladder and startled the cat so much that I had to go and rescue her from an unfortunate hiding spot, deep in the insulation. 

After rescuing the cat, I laid the open suitcase out in my room and lovingly began to pack piece after piece of clothing that we would take with us to Ireland, humming all the while.

Nevermind that I am not going to Ireland for another 10 days.  Nevermind that I can’t remember the last trip I took that didn’t have me up to 3 in the morning the night before I left, furiously packing, dumping and repacking my bags.  Nevermind that I don’t BELIEVE in packing early–that is something that (note exaggerated eye-roll here) my MOTHER would do.

When I was a child, any trip we took was prefaced by what felt like weeks of my mother running around at a furious pace, making lists, doing laundry and packing bags.  I remember thinking (in my snarky teenage way) that Mom would fall apart if the bags weren’t properly prepared days before departure.  Packing became an event–complete with the stress, drama and excitement of international travel itself.  I promised myself (in the way all teenagers do) that I would NEVER let travel preparation take center stage.  I would NEVER obsess for weeks about what to wear and pack and what I would need to bring.  I would never stress about having the right shoes.  I would be sane about it.

So as an adult I took it to the other extreme.  I would consciously wait until the very last minute to even begin thinking about my trip.  Sure I might buy myself something special, but it would stay in the bag it came in in my front hall until–oh about 5 am when I remembered I had it and had to shove it in the bag, first  dumping out everything else to repack it more efficiently.  Carryon bags were emptied and repacked when I panicked–do I have my book?  A pen?  Lifesavers?  My tickets?  It didn’t matter what happened on my trip–nothing would be more stressful than the last 30 minutes before I would have to leave for the airport.  And strangely enough it worked for me on travels past.  Fun trip and only one crazy night to get ready.

Ireland has been calling me.  I need this trip like I need water.   Even though I have never been I have this haunting feeling I  am going home.  But I am scared.  This is the first time I have spent any significant time with my nutty but loveable family of origin since Juan and I separated.  In fact this is the first time I have traveled abroad (accept for work) without Juan in ten years.  The last time we took a trip like this Juan was with me and Max wasn’t even dreamt up.  My brother Sean had yet to become a policeofficer, let alone an Iraqi war veteran, husband and father.  So much has changed since then–I have changed, they have changed.  Two new children have been added to our clan. 

Yet, even as I fret, I know deep in my soul that I will find healing and rest in the green and mist.  And that knowing is pushing me on.  This journey is calling me home.

But this same knowing is telling me that this is an adventure I cannot simply tumble into.  I cannot take this journey lightly.  I must prepare–not only with the right clothes, but with the right open mind and easy going attitude.  I believe my packing has become a little meditation to that end.  As a gardener tills the soil, dreaming of tomatoes, I count pairs of jeans and dream of what I will see when I am wearing them next.  As I pack rainjackets and sensible shoes, I prepare my heart for the messy, imperfect, but genuine love that only families of origin can dish out.  As I make endless lists of the things I must take with me but cannot pack yet (camera, journal, book, knitting) I build a little fortress of things I love to protect and nourish me.

Today I ordered two new white long sleeve t-shirts.  When they arrive I will close the suitcase and set it by the door.  Tomorrow I will go to the library to pick out a second book to stash in case I finish my first one.  On Wednesday I will buy batteries for the cameras.  And so on.  I wonder if Max will remember these errands that disrupt our routine as stressful preparation or rather a grown woman making ready for a voyage of the heart?  In my ritual I suddenly recognize the sanity of my 40 something mother, making ready for the journeys she knew would take her home

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