Souvenirs

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Upon returning home from vacation, most of us unpack the souvenirs and download our photos that serve as physical reminders of our adventures, but the stories we bring home remain the mind’s delight. The memories make the planning, the budgeting, the packing and unpacking worth the effort. Not the “Let’s remember this moment” variety, but the spontaneous memories that pop up unexpectedly during life’s mundane tasks.
– Folding laundry yet remembering the taste of Chianti and homemade pasta served expectantly in an ancient Etruscan cave-turned-restaurant.
– Standing in a checkout line and taking a mental vacation back to Nice with its perfect weather, invigorating colors, and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.
– Washing dishes while pedaling a bicycle and laughing hysterically in pouring, soaking rain next to the Chateau at Versailles.

I have been fortunate to travel a good bit, though not as much as I’d like. Paris and Rome, Tuscany and the French Riviera, Poland, the Caribbean, the Baja coast of Mexico are all reflected in the pages of my passport. Thanks to many years of business travel and an adventurous husband, I have driven across the US and back, and visited 39 of the 50 states. I have enjoyed fabulous, pampering spa weekends and “we’ll laugh about this later” debacles that tested my character and my ability to truly laugh later.

I’ve flown with (and been vomited on by) my children and I have given thanks I was traveling without them because the plane I was on would surely go down. Due to a rough pregnancy, I have been sick coast to coast, and can rate airlines, hotels, and airports accordingly. I’ve been the passenger, driver, and caravan leader, even the trunk-popper when the brakes caught fire.

Among the varied travel-related emotions, there is no feeling quite like careening in a metal can seven miles above the earth, and feeling the desperate chasm between yourself and your children. Turbulence be damned, I have prayed and willed my way back to my daughters, sitting at the edge of my seat to be an inch closer and wondering if the trip was worth the ache in my soul.

Except when I left Honduras. I boarded a plane and left behind my children to return to my children. I couldn’t wait to get home, just to shorten the time until I can go again. My heart, now existing in two places, is left in a paradox; I both love and resent my life. I want to fully embrace all the blessings God has given me and my husband in our daughters – the ability to feed and clothe them, to provide them quality healthcare and excellent educations, to meet their needs and desires. Yet I despise our greed and consuming behaviors. I want to educate my family of the world’s ache, emptiness, and needs without burdening them with guilt.

The stories and memories that came home with me from Honduras are more precious to me than any treasure. I wear my inexpensive beaded bracelet and coconut earrings, not as a fashion statement, but as a connection to the love I found at the orphanage. I spent weeks creating my photo album, smiling back at each beautiful face, carefully crafting my words, and selecting Bible verses to bolster my aching heart. But now it sits, untouched, on my bookshelf. I don’t know how to crack it open to share the stories within the pages or within my heart.

Many weeks have passed since my return; the “How was your trip?” niceties have stopped. Unlike other travel memories that bring a smile to my face – walking along the Seine with my beloved, driving the wrong way through a one-way tunnel in Rome, watching the sun rise above the glaciers of Alaska or set past the beaches of Hawaii – the memories from Honduras bring joy, sadness, longing, and pain. It will take quite some time to sort through them, and to know where to put them, what to do with the memories and my changed, broken heart.

In the meantime, the trip replays in my head. I laugh, I well up with tears, I lash out at simple frustrations. I seek, desperately seek, a space where I feel comfortable, torn between two vastly different worlds. When it comes time to unpack my souvenir, my changed heart, I need to know where in the world to place it.

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One response »

  1. Beautiful post. I have felt the same way many, many times after returning from missions trips. I have loved and hated being American. It is so tough to negotiate your feelings – to reconcile our blessed life and their seemingly ‘unblessed’ life – why them? Why not us? I’ve been challenged, as best as I can, to use my blessings – for them, for others. To not waste it. To raise awareness in others. To be a voice, an advocate for them – to inspire others to take part in something like that. God led you there for a reason. It definitely was an immediate blessing for them – and for you – but, I know that God will reveal even deeper reasons and will use you. Praying for you as you work through it all. Hugs, friend.

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