It was a beautiful, arduous, anxious, prayerful and exhausting 12 days abroad. Mostly it was wonderful, but there were definite moments of “what were we thinking” and “please let me lose consciousness soon.”
Mostly to do with air travel, which, I am convinced, will somehow factor into my experience of Purgatory. I actually told Dave whilst sprinting through Newark in hot pursuit of a ridiculously tight connecting flight, pushing a double stroller with a two-year-old strapped to my back in the Ergo, fastened tightly across my floppy mom gut in just the right accentuating way, that if I end up there (in Purgatory, not in New Jersey. Although…) it would somehow involved extreme heat, an airport, public nudity and many, many TSA agents.
I briefly altercated with a particularly inanimate specimen of said agency after my hands were wiped for bomb resin and then wiped again, 15 seconds later, after being pushed through the metal detector with babies falling off my back and front and with my stroller being inexplicably held hostage for 6 long minutes while two of the fine men in black discussed Call of Duty or online poker or something. I felt my blood pressure spiking as the sweat poured down my back and the minutes till our flight began boarding ticked away. As we were re-entering the US, we still had to reclaim our bags, check them again, and then go back through security before we could take a bus to our departing terminal.
Anyway, I didn’t get arrested, or even detained, and the brilliant individual in the shiny badge did eventually finish polishing the stroller with a bomb-detecting diaper wipe. Twice. But I am never less Christian or less ladylike than when the TSA is involved. End rant.
Oh, and they only lost 2 out of 3 suitcases en route back to Denver, so I’d say our international travel record is only improving.
But back to international travel with children, which I know is the real reason you read this blog. Even if it isn’t, indulge me, because I’m ignoring at least 7 loads of nasty European-scented laundry to accomplish this post.
The kids were moderately well behaved the entire trip, even during the 8+ hours we spent in the Square itself for the Canonization, thanks to a combination of YOUR prayers (I have no doubt), carefully administered melatonin to ensure speedy circadian adjustment to new timezones, and an absolute lowering of standards in my “acceptable behavior” handbook. Some examples: days and days without naps, gelato on demand, tv whenever available, and pretty much anything food-shaped for major meals. We were after calories, not balance.
Gelato at 4 months. Completely responsible.
We also tried to remember (I think Dave may have tried harder than me) that we were traveling with little, little kids with short fuses. Even our kids who are well-accustomed to travel are still small people with short fuses and limited supplies of patience and endurance. Though I’d like to think after these past two weeks they’re in a lot better shape, minus the hours of free-airplane-cable-programming, that is.
We tried to include burn-off time in our daily itineraries, like laps around piazzas and visits to fountains that may be capable of producing a cooling mist of spray, however disgusting that is when one thinks too long and hard on the water quality…
Absolutely enthralled by the Trevi Fountain.
We aslo availed ourselves of the several playgrounds we knew of around town, even though it meant trading out time from more enjoyable (to the adults, anyway) sightseeing ventures. And finally, and perhaps most painfully, we spent some nights (and parts of some days) simply sitting in our apartment decompressing and allowing the kids to be, well, kids. It was especially painful on the solitary night we spent in Florence to sit in our beautiful bed and breakfast mere steps from the Duomo from 8 pm on, listening to the city come to life below our window while our exhausted children slept off the train ride and the touristing of the day. But, c’est la vie with little ones, especially on the go.
8 hours in the Square? I’m done. I will lie here in filth, and I shall not be moved.
Would I have traded it for a childless trip abroad? Aside from the one night in Florence…not at all. It was hard, it was messy at times, and it was definitely a level of stress one does not generally associate with vacation, but it was so precious to me to think that we were sharing this moment of tremendous import and historical significance with our children.
I thought frequently about the seeds of vocation this trip might be planting in little hearts (in no way am I saying you have to take your kids on globe-crossing pilgrimages to inspire vocations, just that it struck me as really amazing that they were experiencing the beauty of the Universal Church at such tender ages). I wondered if someday, 20 years from now, one of my sons might be studying at the NAC a few miles away from St. Peter’s, and whether they might somehow recognize this experience as formative to their call to serve the Church as priests.
Then again, they might just want to go back for the gelato, the nutella, and the cornetti.
I wanted to let you know how very grateful I was to have all your prayers to take along with us. It felt immensely important to somehow leave them there, in Rome, with St. John Paul, so you know what I did?
After drinking over them, that is.
I waited in line to get into the Basilica to visit my main man’s tomb, now freshly inscribed with “Santus” and no longer “Beatus,” and, waving Dave over to block me from view of the Basilica guards, I crouched down and slid the little book under a divider in front of his altar. (Where, consequently, a Polish priest was saying Mass over his tomb.)
So there you have it: your prayers and intentions are safely in the hands of St. John Paul the Great, so to speak. I hope it’s a long time before somebody discovers and removes my little leave-behind, but either way, you’ve been entrusted to his paternal care.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have bills to pay and laundry to cycle. Back to reality…