We grow up just accepting the paths and choices our parents take. Never questioning. For us it’s just the norm. Then we go on to have relationships and families and gradually we come to understand how being a grown up isn’t that straightforward, alas it’s a complicated web of wonder.
Recently I travelled to Doha. I didn’t give it much thought before I left. A work trip, short and sweet, with the promise of four peaceful days for me and most importantly food provided. Landing at dusk though I was transported back to my younger years. That smell, the dust, the palm trees. That sense of old, the history, the culture so contrasted to ours.
It made me think of my mum. How she upped sticks and left the UK several times with dad to live a different life. The trailing spouse. They lived in Tripoli, Baghdad, Kuwait….oh and Limerick! I never appreciated until recently how adventurous her and dad were. How difficult it must have been adjusting, leaving behind family and setting up afresh. She always seemed so relaxed about their travels – taking it in her stride. Now I’m left wishing I had asked more.
My dad loves to tell anyone and everyone about his adventures. The best one – the time he was shot at in the desert. I love these anecdotes. Myself, I remember the smell of French bread being baked in the centre of Baghdad, the tortoise we had in our school pond, the ferocious camp “wolves” which turned out to be just wild dogs, my cheeks being pinched, the red hot sand.
Mum had been eight months pregnant with me when she left Tripoli for home, I arrived 10 days later and luckily not mid flight. I remember her telling me of how she’d swim in the Med most days and how she’d never been more tanned. I’d listen thinking how exiting I’d nearly been born across the lands. In Kuwait mum homeschooled me for several months and dad taught me to oil paint. I remember crates of 7up (not milk) being delivered to the door, dad brewing beer behind secret curtains, lifting the grates with my newly found friends to release the cockroaches, dad chasing said cockroaches around the lounge with a giant broom! Trips to stunning beaches every Friday. Again, the red hot sand.
I wish I’d asked her more about these travels for my memories are rather random and patchy.
Now I have a family I can’t imagine not living under the same roof. Eventually Mum chose to move home to Yorkshire and no longer travel along with dad as I got older. Without the wonders of modern technology they had a weekly call, that was often tense I recall. Off in places like Japan or the US sometimes we saw dad just twice a year. What was that like for mum?
I never really asked.
I know it must been ridiculously hard work always being the disciplinarian, the problem solver and to witness dad arrive like Father Christmas bearing gifts every few months. Forever the hero. Then mop up the tears when he left again. I wish I’d been a bit more understanding.
But mum and dad definitely instilled me a sense of adventure, to try the new and not be afraid to make mistakes. So in Doha I ventured to the souq, ate delicious kebabs with the locals, took a trip on a disco boat and marvelled at the exotic delight of it all.
Wondering where to next. What’s the next adventure? And of all the things I never asked.