We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. - T.S. Eliot


Friday, August 5, 2011

Final Goodbyes

Placing Chrysanthemum petals in drinking glasses

Going-Away Party

Grandma's House (couldn't figure out how to make it scratch-n-sniff)

I’ve been told the olfactory sense, the sense of smell, is the most potent in regards to memory. Nonetheless, my grandmother’s house smells like childhood, Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas compressed into a single odor. My husband’s flared nostrils announced the pure enjoyment he experienced upon entry through the front doorway. I should have foreseen, from the moment we entered her home, that the night would be an emotional rollercoaster. It was the second of two going-away parties my grandmother had hosted for us Indiana.

My grandmother, a women I haven’t decided if I should thank or blame for my crazy notions that life should be experienced, has inspired me in more than one way. The second of which, I will explain later. This vibrant, red-haired, 73 year old still travels outside the country on a regular basis. Turkey, Germany, France, New Zealand, Greece, Australia… You name it, she’s visited it! She travels for pleasure and enjoys exploring different locations.
Thanks to grandma, I’ve also indulged in another extra-curricular activity… Facebook.

Yes, it’s official I now have a Facebook account. I vowed not to give in, but Zuckerberg, ultimately, succeeded in sucking me in. You might be wondering what the link is between my grandmother and Facebook. Well, not only is grandma a world traveller, but she is also a proud owner of her very own Facebook page. As I was speaking these very words aloud to my husband, it dawned on me “Why not?” I mean I didn’t protest Apple products because of Steve Jobs and let’s face it he’s not exactly a completely moral entrepreneur. Nor did I quit using Microsoft products because Bill Gates set out to monopolize the computer software industry. Honestly, I suppose my objections to Facebook permitted me the ability to retain my anonymity. I’ve never been very good at “friend maintenance.” Whatever the case, be it grandma’s influence or my own selfish reasons, I bit the bullet and did it! I’m afraid social networking has now, effectively, taken over my life. Between Twitter, Google+, and Facebook, who has time for going-away parties? Well, WE have successfully survived two!

The first, held the night before our 15th wedding anniversary, was very endearing. My husband, a man with the soul of a poet, never refrains from completely taking me by surprise with some kind of a wild, over-the-top, declaration of love. His endearments surpass every characteristic little girls imagine their prince-like husbands to possess. My prince charming arranged, with the help of my sister, for a single, red, Chrysanthemum to be placed at the end of the table in a clear box. Near the conclusion of dinner, he stood, removed the flower, and pledged his love and commitment to me, our new adventure, and my family. Quoting Aristotle, and making reference to various endearing moments in our lives, he eloquently delivered a beautiful, heartfelt monologue. He explained that the Chrysanthemum was a flower we would encounter quite frequently in our travels throughout China. The Chrysanthemum is a flower of great symbolic meaning in ancient China that conveys luck and happiness. He then removed petals from the flower and as he placed a single one in my parent’s, sister’s, grandmother’s, aunt’s, uncle’s and cousins’ drinks, he explained that, according to the Chinese, if you drink from a glass with a Chrysanthemum petal at the bottom, it would bring you luck. He is truly a beautiful man!

The second began on a much lighter note. We laughed, talked and reminisced with cousins, aunts, uncles, my parents, sister, and grandmother. I had so much fun and indulged in all the wonderful foods my mother, father and grandmother had prepared. Hamburgers, chicken and dumplings, chess and pumpkin pies, blueberry cheesecake… As the evening ended, the tears began to flow. What started with a tearful goodbye from my aunt left my sister and I sobbing in each other’s arms. People say to me all the time, “I would never be brave enough to move to China.” It’s not the move itself or China that frightens me, it’s leaving my family. While, my heart broke as I embraced my sister, I knew that saying goodbye to my parents would be one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I realize I will see them in a year, but that’s a far cry from monthly weekend visits and multiple phone conversations with my mother that can last hours a day. I was right! I still have a knot in the pit of my stomach. My mother cried and my father tightly embraced me expressing his pride.

Although I knew goodbyes would be the most difficult part of our journey, the opportunity to delight in my family was wonderful! Bittersweet, yes, but wonderful!

We are back home in Tennessee spending the last couple of days before departure with our family. My mother-in-law flew in from Charleston and we are sneaking as much time in as possible with my sister-in-laws and brother-in-law. It’s obvious from recent somber moments, Marisa’s excessive picture-taking, and the look in my mother-in-law's eyes that the next two days will be heartbreaking.

Tomorrow we will continue goodbyes with Casey’s family during a family reunion and Sunday we board a plane and begin the adventure of a lifetime.

"Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk."
— Dalai Lama XIV


  1. The goodbyes were definitely the hardest part for me too. Enjoy the last couple days. The excitement you've had in anticipation of your trip will kick back in the moment you get on the plane :-)

  2. We have definitely experienced a large range of emotions. Especially after yesterday! I guess it's all part of the adventure! We are very excited begin another phase of life.