Stretching beyond my borders

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk

In four months I will be the age that my mother was when she died. I was 35, and she was 65. While I am convinced that you never completely get over the loss of a parent, it does become easier as time passes.

But when I have the chance to go somewhere exciting, somewhere I would have never dreamed I would go, I miss my mother as if the loss was yesterday. I think about her journey from her small hometown, the town where I would later grow up. When she moved with her first husband to Alabama, it was the farthest away from home she had ever been. I think about her decision to stay in Alabama and go back to work when her husband died.

Her adventures really began when she fell in love with an Air Force lieutenant. They were in Alabama for a while, and I was born there, then moved to Oklahoma City. Our next move, however, took my mother across the ocean to Berlin, Germany.

I remember her stories of taking me, at age 3, on a ship across the ocean from New York. It took nine days before we reached Germany and joined my father for the trip inland to Berlin. She told me about the plane rides home three years later with me and my year-old brother, while my father had to stay behind in Berlin for six more months.

Mother loved to tell me about the trips we took out of Berlin to Munich, Frankfurt and Strasbourg, Austria. I was 5 when we left Berlin, so I remember very little, but she described everything from Mozart’s house to the Glockenspiel clock.

She had no dreams of traveling to faraway places, she would say, but always marveled at her good luck when she stood on foreign soil or saw something she never thought she would see.

I share that awe, and I long to tell her. Those I travel with find me a fairly uncomplicated, easy-to-please companion because I am just so amazed to be in places like Prague, Barcelona and Amsterdam. What we actually “do” while there is icing on the cake.

I just returned from a cruise that included two days in Havana. How amazed would my mother be to see me riding around Cuba in a 1950s hot-pink Chevy! I had a hard time believing I was in Havana, buying cigars for friends and talking to our guide about his country. I stood in the lobby of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba and thought about all those gangster movies I have seen and their casino-based plans for Havana, about Hemingway’s home and his inspiration for writing “The Old Man and the Sea” as he gazed out his windows.

If things go according to plan, I will go back to traveling this spring and visit places like Venice and Croatia, then go with a dear friend in the fall to immerse ourselves in the areas near Nice, France.

Mother would truly be as amazed as I am, and she would love it. She was an interesting woman who held tightly to her roots but stretched her branches as far as fate would allow.

She taught me to do the same. I am grateful, and I miss her on every new adventure.

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