The airport felt a little different this time. I have to say arrivals are a little easier on the heart than departures.
She’s back. Relief is an understatement.
My first-born has returned from her 3-week trip to the Philippines.
At around 10pm last night, we were reunited at the airport. She had just had “breakfast” on the plane a few hours before landing yesterday evening and it seemed like she had the energy to spend the rest of the “day” telling stories and re-connecting with us. We were all ready to go to bed but we missed this girl so much that we stifled the yawns and munched on fresh Filipino goodies she bought at a bakery right before she boarded the plane. The kids were excited about their little gifts and we were all happy to see her photos and hear her recount the details of her trip. At around 4am, after many hugs and kisses and talks, I went to bed. She woke up at 8am and we are now engaging in “Project: Keep Awake” so that she doesn’t go back to sleep and wake up in the evening.
Her days and nights are reversed. Her sunsets are her sunrises and her sunrises are her sunsets.
This reminds me of when I first gave birth to her – she would be wide awake at night and sleep soundly all day. She’d feed and would be wide awake in the middle of the night. In the beginning, I couldn’t resist playing with her and taking advantage of the time in the day to do things while she slept. I was young and could get by on a couple of hours of sleep a night for weeks. I’d nap during the day with her and it would be party time at night. Eventually, I gradually got her back on schedule as the lack of sleep caught up with me. Staying up last night with her to talk and re-connect reminded me of those nights I spent playing with my wide awake baby.
We all sat at breakfast today and I felt complete again – the 7 of us – our first meal together again. After the meal, Ever-Patient and I had an amazing 2-hour conversation with our oldest daughter. Her days and nights aren’t the only things that are switched around. Her priorities and life plans have also changed. Her views of the world and the true meaning of happiness also changed. We sat there and listened. Her voice sounded like the same voice I have heard over the phone for the last 3 weeks – impassioned and full of vitality. She was alive and buzzing. Buzzing with purpose, clarity, and determination. Buzzing with excitement and empathy. Buzzing with compassion and gratitude. Buzzing with human connection. Because that’s what happened. She connected to people on the most basic human level – we are all the same, we all need the same things.
She is at the sunrise of her young adult life. She is starting a new adventure, slowly awakened to her true calling – she has discovered a part of her soul and its purpose. She is just seeing the light of the rising sun within her and she is ready to share it. I am proud and I also have not been more nervous in my life – the fact that I can’t be there with her all the time. I must admit that although I enjoyed hearing her stories, inside I secretly lamented that I wasn’t there to share those experiences with her. Those were hers and they never will be mine. I have to admit that I grieved for a moment – I felt grief that there are moments where I can’t be there (and shouldn’t be there); I felt grief that she didn’t need me to protect her or tell her what to do in those 3 weeks she was away. I didn’t know what it was until I found myself feeling like an outsider as she spoke of people she met and the places she has seen.
After acknowledging those feelings, I was able to really sit in the moment and watch this unfold. “This” being the sounds and movements of a confident young person ready to make a stand in this world.
The light bulb moments could be seen in her pictures. They progressed from a series of beautiful vistas and scenic panoramas to pictures and pictures of people that touched her life – strangers, new friends, and family she had met for the first time. By the end of trip, the Philippines wasn’t just a place with people that looked like her or even a place where the people needed her help. Through visiting the towns of her ancestors, hearing childhood stories from her grandparents, and staying in the home that her grandmother grew up in, she connected with the land, the country of her people. Extended family welcomed and embraced her as if they had known her all her life.
“Culture shock” turned into “culture wonder” which led to “culture inheritance.” These cultural memories were stored in her genes and she didn’t know it until she got there. She wondered why the funeral procession through the street that woke her up one morning was so beautiful to her – the people in white, the music, the singing, the flowers. By the third procession she witnessed in her time there, she knew why. It was a celebration of life and she was so proud to be part of this culture that celebrated life in death. Although she definitely looked and sounded differently than the people that were born there, she was able to notice subtle cultural nuances as if recalling a faint memory.
As the sun went down today, I finally permitted her to go to bed. We helped her stay awake during daylight hours and took her outside so her body would adjust to the time change. She passed out within minutes of going to bed and for the first time in a very very long time, I pulled her quilt over her warm duvet blanket and tucked her in. I missed her so much. I missed my child. But as we talked and caught up over the last 24 hours, I realized something. Yes I love her because she is my child and I am her mother, just like I love all my children. Yes, during her time abroad, she has discovered, learned and experienced so many things without me by her side. But as I watched her make inferences about her observations and attach emotions to places and speak with zeal about her future plans, I realized that I love this person that she is outside of me, separate from me, distinct from me, and without me. Even if she weren’t my child, she is a person that I would love to get to know and connect with.
I will always remember the time she had her days and nights reversed as a baby and I will remember today as we all worked as a team to help her reverse her days and nights once again. I will remember how her (first) departure abroad threw me for a loop and how her return shifted my world right side up. And I will remember our conversation today, the moment I saw her sun begin to rise brightly like I knew it always would.
Full of emotion and inspired to write today with writealm: