A Departure

A message from the other side of the world.

This departure hit me; I cried.

Our three kids were born in Switzerland. When they were little, we’d remind them they were US citizens. Over the years, we took them on trips to the States, visits to family in Oregon and Texas, my old school friends in Colorado and Minnesota, and my niece in San Francisco. New York City. We often flew into one part of the country and out another, making our trips between arrival and departure points long, scenic, and filled with as many national parks as possible. We saw places I’d never seen growing up, like the Grand Canyon. I’d never visited it, although I’d lived in Arizona as a child. We even showed the kids Las Vegas. As we drove through desert landscapes, I’d insist on turning off the air conditioning. Down came the car windows. “This is how I experienced these desert drives as a child,” I told them. “With tangled hair. Dry heat is not so miserable if the air’s flowing.” Up to a point.

Our point being 111° Fahrenheit, 43° Celsius.

The kids experienced storms in the deserts and saw fresh evidence of flash flooding—how destructive it can be. On one trip, we went from the savage heat of Death Valley to a surprisingly chilly coast shrouded in fog, the two zones separated by the golden rolling hills of California.

As the kids finished their studies, I suggested they experience the States for themselves. “Try working there.” Temporarily, I meant. “You each have a US passport. Take advantage of it. Any Swiss employer will jump at the chance to send a Swiss-trained employee to work in the US free from bureaucratic aggravation.” Spare a company the hassle and expense of sponsorship, the visa lottery, or a green card? What a dream!

Unless they lived in the States for a minimum of five years, they couldn’t pass their US citizenship to their children. Not that their kids needed to be US citizens. Or the obligation to file US tax returns even if they aren’t living in the US, never have, and maybe never will.

Our eldest said, “To me, the States is just vacationland.” She talked to her US cousins and discovered that US working conditions compared unfavorably to European conditions. Issues with vacation, health care, and maternal leave abound. General conditions don’t compare well, either. And what about quality of life, purchasing power, and education? Plus, explosive issues like climate and violence and divisions—political, racial, religious, social, gender, and justice—complicate any draw to living in the States.

Too, let’s be aware: We should all be traveling less, making as few flights as possible, long- or short-haul.

 As I’ve aged, I’ve realized that I don’t want the kids to live in the US—for personal reasons. I don’t want to be obliged to return there. And the time when my husband and I cannot make the trip is approaching sooner than we’d like to think. Should our kids start families, we want to be easily accessible. Helpful.

But now it’s happened. Our eldest grabbed an unexpected opportunity to make a career move within her company and relocate to Los Angeles. The City of Angels called to her readiness for adventure.

When I told a friend, another US citizen living in Europe, of my daughter’s decision to relocate, she said, “Why? Moving to the States now is like running into a burning house.” Ah, yes, but my husband and I saw perfection in this chance and the location. Los Angeles will suit our eldest—maybe a bit too well, but that’s another issue.

As she prepared to move, limiting herself to taking what she could pack into two suitcases and two carry-ons, I found myself nearly as excited as she was. When family and friends expressed concern for me—“How are you doing/taking/seeing this?”—I’d smile, shake my head, and wave away the question. This wasn’t about me. It’s about her. Contract signed; flight, rental car, and accommodations booked; possessions given away, sold, or stored with us; final meetings and outings with work colleagues, friends, and family; time for inner balance, dance courses, runs along the Rhine, and yoga: I watched her wrap up her affairs with pride. No tears. Never a tear. No reason to cry. This is what parenting is about, giving a child the confidence to be a Self. Her move has the stamp of success all over it. Right?

The morning of her departure. I’d shed no tears. But, in all honestly, wasn’t shedding a tear or two the right way to react? Worry set in. Of course, I’d moved so often growing up that I felt cured in departures. Dried out before I’d reached my eldest daughter’s age—when I’d moved from the States to Europe. Did all this make me immune to my own daughter’s departure?

We drove her to the airport and stayed with her to baggage drop-off—a thankfully long, long line—her enthusiasm keeping us laughing. Her sister showed up, and together we walked to the area restricted to passengers with boarding passes. She grabbed me in a joyful, enthusiastic hug. Let the adventures begin, I thought.

Then and there, my eyes welled.

Helena falls in love with LA’s winter sun on Manhattan Beach.

2 thoughts on “A Departure”

  1. Beautiful Meredith. And good for Helena. I will get out that way, hopefully sooner rather than later. Will be a riot to have another friendly face in the City of Angels.


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