Our family trip to France and Italy looms on the horizon, and the children are by turns excited and nervous.
Our 8yo daughter woke us in the middle of the night, sobbing with fear. "I'm so worried that I'll get lost from you and I won't be able to speak the language," she told us. "I'm looking forward to seeing new things and trying new foods, but I can't stop thinking about the airplane crashing or falling off the mountain or getting lost and not being able to find you."
"We will make a plan each day," I said into the darkness from my spot in the bed. "We'll give you a card to carry that has our names and phone numbers."
"And will it say, 'Please help me,' in French?" she asked. "Because I didn't learn as much French as I was supposed to. I wish I had now. I hardly know anything," she said ruefully.
"It's all right," I said. "We didn't expect you to learn enough to really get by. Just enough to try it a little, and to be polite."
+ + +
Our 4yo wanted to light a candle and say a prayer before Mass on Sunday, so I gave him a quarter to put in the box for the votive. He knelt down in the Divine Mercy chapel and prayed, "Please God and Saint Leo, let the barbarians not come to Rome while we are there. Amen."
Previously he has asked us if there is a king of France and if he will be the boss of us while we are in France, and whether anyone will throw him out of a window if he does not know how to speak the local language politely.
I get where the king thing comes from, but I confess that when it comes to linguistic defenestration, I'm stumped. Mark thinks it's because this particular 4yo is intensely interested in being part of society; he walks right up to people, introduces himself, compliments them on their earrings (no, really; that's what he switched to after Mark explained to him that it wasn't nice just to tell people "You're pretty"), asks questions, chats about the weather. Without a common language, maybe he feels completely at sea. I'll have to do a lot of coaching.
+ + +
I spent my summer practicing French and learning Italian; I thought I might be up to the challenge. My oldest son did the most work, cramming Italian with Duolingo.com .
We filled a composition book with ideas, notes, words and phrases to use, tips we got from other travelers. We got a new set of luggage. Mark brought home cash in euros from his last business trip. Passports were prepared.
I froze several meals for the week we get back. We arranged for someone to watch the house, and for a friend to come open it up the day we return, turn on the heat if necessary, put milk in the fridge. I set up the first week of schoolwork so it would be ready as soon as we return.
+ + +
I feel in-between now: literally, in between excavating the freezer and cleaning out the fridge, but also in between living at home and being on vacation. The suitcases are packed in the front hall; the kitchen is a shambles. For tea snack I'll make strawberry sauce out of some ancient, freezer-burned berries I found at the bottom of the freezer, and we'll have vanilla ice cream sundaes with the last of the opened cartons. I don't know what we're eating for dinner tonight or tomorrow.
A few days ago I went shopping, carefully. Thinking of the chaotic first few days of returning from any long trip, I bought frozen pizzas. It didn't occur to me until I was tossing them into my chest freezer that the cheap frozen Pepperoni Deluxe might possibly look a bit unappetizing, even to the four-year-old two days after grabbing lunch just off the Campo dei Fiori.
I hope so. Keep 'em hungry for more.