In a hotel room outside of Vienna, I discovered that Amazon Prime has the family TV show, This Is Us. Having heard so much about it, I was delighted to watch a few episodes on my laptop with my son. And with every show, I shed a tear.
It is not just the excellent writing and the lovable, relatable characters that moved me. I cry at every family TV drama now because I miss my own family (okay, maybe not the drama part). Years ago I made a quiet exit from the United States (and if you believe the stories they tell, my family believes it was not so quiet really). After spending quality time with them all this past weekend in Italy, I am aware of the trade-offs I have made in my life. The price has been high and as I motored along the highway over the five days, four countries and nearly 1500 miles, I had time to weigh in about whether it has been worth it after all.
My children grew up in Europe, a great place to learn manners and food appreciation and a healthy sense of self. They both agree it was a good choice to live here, but both also enjoyed being surrounded by family members for the first time in years.
I saw it in their eyes.
We strolled along the Italian castle grounds, mingling amongst well-dressed relatives, celebrating bride and groom on that first perfect day in May. We bathed in love and great cheer, so happy to see one another although we live multiple time zones apart. My love was not there, as he was preparing to go to Greece with his children, but my heart was filled with my American family, that missing piece I carry with me wherever I travel. Amidst the celebration, I realized the here and now is the only time we truly have. We count on our personal bank account of time to fill up another day, but one never knows. We hope we will see one another again.
As my son and I entered the final stretch of our marathon drive, my daughter, who currently lives in Austria, called with some disappointing news. We chat about life options and what is next for her. And although her sadness rested deep within her, I knew she had a solid base to pull herself out of it again. Her international experience, travel and language abilities would make her a strong candidate somewhere else. And she had filled her well this weekend too for an extra-strong basis of resilience.
The Black Forest smiled at us as we wound our way down the hilly road toward Freiburg, our excitement mounting as we neared our apartment building. The chandelier glistened a welcoming hello, the warm wooden floors glowed with a gleaming embrace. My son and I cheered as we each flopped in our own beds. Home at last.
As the room darkened, I peered at the high ceiling of my wonderful home, the scent of my covers telling me everything will be alright. Yes, indeed, I thought, choices have been made in this life.
And it has been worth it.