August 13, 2010

Travels with Sam

Posted in Children, Family, Travel tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:47 am by Liliana

Sam - taking a break in Boston

Sam - taking a break in Boston

Sam and I spent a lot of time together this past week as we drove to Boston to help Mike and Karen move. I was taken aback by how much he has grown and changed this past summer.

I thought I knew everything about my youngest son. But in the tireless activity that has been our lifestyle the past year, I have missed the delicate signs of maturation that take time and close attention to recognize.

Sam drove most of the long way to Boston. Sometimes we listened to music that he loves. He told me stories about old rappers like Tupac and 50 Cent. Sometimes I told him family stories about people he never met. Sometimes we talked about history, war, the Russians, Napoleon, Stalin, Pat Tillman. Sometimes we drove in silence.

Sam worked hard helping with the move. Together with Mike he carried heavy furniture, boxes of books, kitchen paraphernalia, computers, suitcases. He spent hours helping Karen assemble IKEA furniture and I watched in wonder as he figured out how those complicated schematics fit together in three dimensional space. He worked with Karen to refinish a desk that has been her grandmothers, and that Mike will be using to work on.

I didn’t know Sam could do all that.

We didn’t just work. We spent hours walking, exploring the city, visiting colleges, eating.

Eating! These are some of the foods we ate: Southern Barbecue, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian. One night Sam ordered two lobsters, ate them both, and then finished Mike’s leftover cheeseburger. He is a growing boy all right.

But what impressed me most is Sam’s generosity. For his birthday last year, Sam got a present he dearly prized – a droid cell phone. He loved that thing, but when Mike asked if he’d be willing to trade with him for his (ordinary) phone, Sam did. He gave it some thought, he struggled to decide, but in the end, he not only gave the phone to Mike, he taught him how to use it.

On the way back to Michigan, Sam and I got stuck in terrible traffic, got lost in Buffalo, experienced rain and bad weather. We argued and got mad at each other because he wanted to drive straight through and I wanted to spend the night at a hotel.

But after we stopped, ate, rested and talked, we were on good terms again. We spent the evening at a tiny movie theater across the street from our hotel – watching Inception for the second time. We both loved it more (and understood it better) than the first time.

We slept through the night, woke up refreshed, had breakfast and got back on the road. Sam drove most of the way home.

June 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Natalia!

Posted in Children, Family tagged , , , , at 7:41 am by Liliana

the Birthday Girl

The Birthday Girl

Today is my daughter’s birthday. Nena is twenty two years old.

When we left home for the hospital that June day twenty two years ago, Jeff and I were very much hoping for a girl. We already had an energetic little boy, Mike was three at the time.

Jeff had grown up in a family of three brothers and wanted a little girl of his own.

I wanted a daughter. I wanted a daughter named Natalia. I had picked the name Natalia when I read War and Peace as a ten year old in Serbia. Natasha (nickname for Natalia) Rostova was my favorite character in the novel. I wanted a girl like her.

We wanted a girl so much that I worried that if we had a boy, he might feel unwelcome. So, to even out the odds, I took all blue baby clothes to the hospital. Just in case.

Well, I will never forget the look of pure joy on Jeff’s face when he leaned over me and said, “We have a little girl!” I don’t think I have ever seen him happier.

And when I held my little Natalia for the first time, fragile and delicate as a flower petal, I understood that my love for her had no beginning and no end. She was the girl I had been waiting for.

Happy birthday, dearest angel!

March 3, 2010

Mothers are Strong

Posted in Children, Family, Travel, Women tagged , , , , , , , at 8:10 am by Liliana

Mother and Child

Mother and Child

I have always looked at my role as a mother as one of mentor and guide. From the moment my  first child was born, I was in awe of the honor and responsibility bestowed upon me. I wanted to be worthy of the mission that I was entrusted with.

I have not been a perfect mother, far from it.  There are many, many moments that I look back upon and wish I had acted differently, more maturely, with greater patience and deliberation. But one thing I know – my love for each one of my children is limitless, and my loyalty to them equally beyond measure.

The most difficult part of motherhood, for me, is letting go and allowing my children the freedom to make their own mistakes, to experience their own pain. My instinct is to hide them from the harshness of the world, to cherish and protect them.

Mothering for me means forever balancing on that beam of protectiveness and championing. I do the best I can. I encourage my children to travel. I gently push them out of the nest. I trust them to do what is right and good.

Still, I worry. Mike is in Argentina now, far away from my reach. He is about to travel to Chile, which is still reeling from the recent huge earthquake. Just before they left on their trip to South America, Mike’s girlfriend, Karen, and I talked about traveling children and worrying mothers. I told her then what I have always believed. It is the nature of youth to be fearless and to want to explore. And it is the nature of mothers to worry. And I also said – mothers are strong. We can handle it.