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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

what you do comes back to you

imageRight after we married — literally a couple of days later — my husband & I left for his new job. In Algiers. Or Alger, as the French call it. My mother-in-law bore this with the fortitude of prairie pioneers, although she did take us to see her cousin, who had lived in North Africa. Well, her cousin remarked, it’s not as bad as some places. They won’t eat you in Algeria. Mom didn’t look that reassured. This all comes to mind because my younger son is off, next month. Committed to places w/ names like Mumbai, Goa. Hanoi and Chieng Mai. Some names I recognised, although I’ve visited none myself. Others (I’m talking to you, Goa) I had to look up. I’m grateful to all my friends who thought Goa was in China. :) When our sons left for Portland, we were happy for them. These days Oklahoma is not a good place for young men wanting to start careers. There aren’t many jobs, unless you’re in very specific industries. Musicians, computer engineers, and teachers need not apply. A colleague left his job teaching in June. He’s accepted a job in Columbia, MO because that’s what he could find. This a man with an established teaching resumé, not a recent grad. So we understood completely, and knew we’d be using our  Southwest miles to go to Portland.

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But going around the world, w/ only a backpack and a daypack? Wow. That’s mother-terrifying. Yes, he’s a grown man. Yes, he’s responsible, thoughtful, and planning well. And yes, I trust his judgment. I do NOT trust the folks he may encounter. And then I remember — really revisit — the Hotel Djemila Palace, where we lived for several months when we first arrived in Alger. How the maître d’ watched over me, scolding me when I didn’t empty my plate, functioning as an odd (French-speaking) uncle. How the ladies who ran the laundry (the only one in the country, they told me with pride) giggled when I said I couldn’t afford to pay anyone else to do our laundry; that’s what wives were for, right? How I made friends in the apartment house we moved into eventually — dear Saliha w/ her 10 living children and 14 pregnancies. Almost 1/2 my husband’s age today…

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Noah will make friends too, I understand. But like Mom, what I see instead of the friends he will make, and the wondrous experiences and memories he’ll create, is the distance between Oklahoma and Sweden. Oklahoma and Mumbai. Oklahoma and Việt Nam and Oklahoma and Thailand and Oklahoma and Goa… All so very far away. Beginner’s heart is harder sometimes than others. To let go of our fears for ourselves is difficult enough. But to open our hearts like windows, and let our love fly out with even adult children, is harder still. My sons sometimes read my blog, so I won’t get mushy. I will miss him terribly, but technology makes it a bit easier: there’s Skype, of course. We already FaceTime my grandson, son, & DIL weekly. But it’s not the same as going to tea together just to catch up, as we did yesterday. It’s not the same as a weekend call. He won’t even have a cell phone (unheard of these days!). And he will be gone for many months — perhaps well over a year. The point to this for my beginner’s heart is not to cling, I know. To live in this perfect weekend, when even the Virginia weather has cooperated to give us grilling weather.  Deck weather, instead of the 98 degrees it will be in Tulsa. We’re off to lunch momentarily. Thai food, which is comfort food for me. I need it.

  • luhoka

    This reminds me of when my brother went to Thailand for what was going to be a few weeks and turned into 6 months. My mom was definitely freaking out, but seemed to find comfort (as you’re doing) in remembering her life/choices when she was his age and focused on “letting love fly out.” Great piece, thanks for sharing!

    • Britton Gildersleeve

      It’s a hard kind of love to hold, Luke. I’m trying, but it’s good to hear that it worked for your mother (and brother, I assume

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