Far From Family

Family: The time and the people who are REALLY worth the extra effort

Growing up far from family wasn’t always easy. This much, I remember well.

Long before Skype, FaceTime and Instant Messaging, there was the U.S. Postal Service and long distance phone calls. Calls that, assuming you played your cards oh just right and called after 9pm and on a weekend night, which fell within a month that didn’t include a Friday the 13th, wouldn’t require your taking out a small loan to pay the resulting bill.

Yes, those were the days. The days when you knew how much you were loved…literally.

And then there was ‘the commute’.

http://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Summer-1980.jpgWhile the vast majority of my friends growing up had grandparents which lived an hour or two away at the most, the Suthin’ Buas would annually make the 12 to 15 hour journey from North Carolina up to New York City and Boston in order to visit our grandparents and cousins. Nearly every summer, with little league baseball complete, came the ordeal of loading up our immense ’74 Plymouth van with three weeks’ worth of luggage, coolers and, of course, each other.

Six in all, each destined to spend the next six hundred miles confined within lethal striking distance. Such was my inauguration into the concept that the East Coast and, for all intents and purposes, the world, was a big, big place. Year after year, as the hours seemed to multiply exponentially (as did the size of the coolers), this summertime pilgrimage only served to reinforce this idea.

Along the arduous, Yellow Brick Road of Interstate 95, Richmond, Virginia was always the first sign of any real northerly progress. A six hour slog that brought with it a steady increase of traffic that banished the relative sanity of home and set the tone for so much to follow.

This being bustling roadside rest stops swarming with weary, bladder filled strangers, the maze of connecting and diverging interstate highways skirting and dissecting Washington DC and Baltimore before the never ending stop and go mayhem of the New Jersey Turnpike and its voracious coin eating toll booths.

And not too long before deliverance in the form of the George Washington Bridge (where mom’s parents anxiously awaited our arrival a mile beyond, there in the shadow of the Throgs Neck Bridge), a grey smudged, eye and throat burning skyline that boggled my young imagination’s definition of hell on earth.

Things have changed since then. Those days…those waypoints of my childhood family memories are, like my grandparents themselves, gone now. Gone, but, of course, hardly forgotten. Powerful reminders that, as the saying goes, good things come to those who persevere.

I guess it’s now my job to see to it this becomes Kaia’s perspective as well, since her own commute to bridge the ‘Far from Family’ gap is an even more arduous one.

Perhaps for Kaia, the process of making it up to Brisbane will be her Richmond and a first sign of progress having been made. Customs, immigration, boarding, pushing back and taxiing to take off position, her own congestion filled maze of DC and Baltimore. Sprawling, smog cloaked L.A., possibly her ‘hell on earth’. The 20 hours en route, her own NJ Turnpike with the final five hour jaunt across the US full of insatiable ‘tolls’ in the form of extra baggage and extortionists ahttp://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/3N2A7089.jpgirport food prices.

But then, I may be wrong. Kaia may come to love the entire process. If her first time home was anything to go on, it seems we could be off to a good start. But, maybe such is the pleasure of travel at the age of 17 months.

One way or another, however, the journey will be a requirement…

And as it always managed to do for me, I just hope she comes to learn that sometimes the means do, in fact, justify the end.


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