I spent 5 days in San Diego for work, and by the end, I was miserably homesick for Hugh. When I got home, he was already asleep, and I laid awake half the night waiting for him to wake up. I finally got to look into his eyes in the morning, and when he saw me, his face lit up and he made a little squawking sound and swatted my chest. That’s a hug in Hugh-lingo.
Speaking of Hugh-lingo, I really did have every intention of learning baby sign language. I figured that by the time he was this age, he’d be communicating with me about food and sleep and cats and balls. Instead, I’ve learned his signs. Swatting the chest is a hug. Pounding his hand on the table means more. Wiggling his body back and forth means hello. Twisting his torso means, “I got my eye on something, and I want it now.”
Hugh teaches me, and I teach him. But I want the world to teach him as well. A friend I know is spending 10 months traveling the world with his family, including a 10 year-old and an 18 year-old. They’re in Bali right now. I yearn to make international travel a part of Hugh’s life as well. It will require saving money, saving vacation time, making hard choices, and lots of planning, but the payoff is a kind of aliveness that is hard to experience in any other way.
I’ll never forget the first summer I spent in Japan. I was 16 years old, riding a train with a bunch of other teenagers and a few unmemorable chaperones. I got off at my stop in Sendai and met my host family who greeted me with a red rose, a lot of giggles (which I found out later was because my chart said I was 6’2” instead of 5’2”), and not a word of English. Seven weeks later, I cried when I had to leave and knew how to say, “I’ll miss you” in Japanese.
Dowell is talking about traveling next summer after he graduates from high school, and I’m already thinking of ways to encourage him. I can imagine him with a heavy backpack, a guidebook, and a group of friends trying to figure out where to the spend the night. I can’t wait for him to experience that moment of aliveness in the adventure of the smallest details: finding a cool hostel; eating unidentifiable roadside food; hiking to a breathtaking view; buying a balloon from a child on the street.
Maybe one day we’ll get our ages and timelines in order and travel together as a family. Bali might not be a bad place to start.