My mother married this extremely funny and sweet man named Max when I just turned 5 years old. They sadly divorced 2 years later, but were still quite in love. I was too young to know or see the sadness my mother felt when he would often visit or when we would visit him. For ten years, they would visit one another between San Francisco and Chicago. For ten years, he would call on every birthday and holiday. It was not until late in high school when I finally felt and saw the hurt too. I grew to be a bitter teenager about him. Max passed away a few years ago from being ill. Today, I am more aware of love and relationships and people, and after having to cope with Max’s death without closure, I feel like I would never replace those unique 12 years with him in my life.
We were visiting San Francisco again, but this time is was Christmas. Dad (Max) was not as prepared as I think Mom would have like him to have been. There was no tree. What was Christmas without a tree? My mother was one for tradition and improvisation. She is wonderful about refusing to be “without.” I am not sure where they came from, maybe Dad had them stored away, but she somehow got her hands on some Green Christmas Lights and some scotch tape. She then molded the strand of lights into the form of a Christmas tree on the mirror door of the closet. She stood back and looked at it…”There!” she exclaimed. She was pretty proud of herself. Tree accomplished. Dad looked at her and smiled and perhaps only I caught his glance of admiration. Perhaps he was embarrassed that he did not have a tree.
It is funny. I do not remember any of the gifts I received this Christmas. I don’t remember the exact year either. I remember what the apartment looked like and I remember that tree made of Christmas lights. In the morning the tape had started to peel off the mirror and I got up and rubbed it back on before my mom saw. There are plenty of different types of families out there. My Dad/Max was not there for very many. But, I remember them all. It was the only times I felt like my mom and my little family was attempting to become more full.
Check this out! Top Destinations of 2015 picked out by travel writers from an Australian Publisher! Both Ecuador and Ireland were on the list! Both were the places I went to in 2014.
This is great read for those who have places in mind to go to this coming year, but cannot seem to make a decision. My only comments are that:
Ecuador: Has so much more than the Galapagos Islands. I was so so
disappointed when I had to chop up my trip and had to give up going there this time. I had to use my time extremely wisely. I fell in love with the country though! I will go back to see the Galapagos someday, but there is plenty that Ecuador has to offer! For one thing: the Amazon is in desperate need of support so the oil mongers do not tear it down. Some of the tribes we met were under the impression that if they had more tourists perhaps the area would be valued more and not torn down. And visiting Puerto Lopez and the humpback whales was one of the most influential and best experiences I have ever had overseas.
Ireland: Many Irish folk told me “Relax. Don’t try to see too much. Have a pint” and while that advice is all well and good, there is SO much to see in Ireland. We spent 11 days driving the coast from Dublin, over to Cork, and up the Wild Atlantic Way to Connemara. If we didn’t keep moving like we had, we would’ve missed some of the
best sites I have ever seen. The country is beyond beautiful and the history overfloweth! My best advice is to push yourself a little bit. Not to the point of not having a good time, but try to keep at it. It is well worth the effort!
Today I mistakenly saw a sight that made me smile more than I have in a while. It wasn’t really what I thought it was. I mean I wasn’t having visions or anything, but for some reason my brain was in the right setting to incorrectly translate something I saw on my way to work. Today the skies are grey, but it is not too cold. It is a
temperature to wear a sweatshirt and jeans (maybe even a skirt with boots). I had sweat compiling at the seam of my hat by my fidora, because I was wearing too many layers in fact. No bright sunlight, but not uncomfortable. The wind was blowing just right for a December. I often have thoughts about England in the Chicago pre-winter conditions, but at this particular moment I was not consciously thinking about England.
I walked to the stoplight, but realized the light had just turned for the other direction, so I stopped. I checked my iphone for the time then looked down the street to see if there was a pause in the cars so I could skip across. That’s when my mind fooled me. I had a sudden jolt in my stomach. A pulse of butterflies filled me. It was a moment where I actually had to say to myself, “No Shannon, you are in Chicago.”
There, in the sky, was a steeple with a crown-like silhouette. It was
sight I had stared at everyday, 9 years ago, on my way to University. I had actually mistaken this Edgewater church for the Canterbury Cathedral. It must have been the right setting at the right time. I was on my way to work, like would have been on my way to school at this time of day years ago, the clouds were overcast, but it was warm and comfortable outside, so my mind triggered a thought that was completely fabricated. I think my jaw even dropped.
My stomach had jumped, but not in a way of shock or surprise. I had jumped in a surge of happiness and excitement. I stared at the Edgewater church for a while even after I realized the truth. I wanted it to be the Canterbury Cathedral so much. I have been having a rough time at home and in my everyday life lately, it was so wonderful to have this moment of pure happiness. Thoughts of Canterbury always make me smile. It was the only “real” time I was living overseas and made me feel special to called the sweet town Home.