Wanderlust

May 25,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

The other day Scott and I were watching House Hunters International (great to grade papers to) and some lucky older American couple wanted to buy a quaint small house in a country village in Italy--where they intended to live out their days. I told Scott that I was giving him advance warning that that was something I'd like to do myself, some day, and he agreed that the plan sounded like a good one. The couple annoyed me because in the end they agreed upon an expensive modernized apartment home with brand-new modern appliances, as their quaint, cottage-like home in a small Italian village, instead of picking the genuinely quaint, character-filled cottage home they could have chosen.

I had a lucky childhood in that we travelled quite a bit. Not just to Greece each summer to visit with my grandparents, but one summer (was I 7? 8?) my parents did a house exchange with a Canadian family and we spent three months in Winnipeg. We drove there, and on the way we kids all managed to come down with chicken pox. I remember both waking up one morning in the car and finding red dots on my stomach and being awakened another morning, still in the car--it was a long drive--by my father, who was driving. Look! A bear! He shouted excitedly and there, by the side of the road, in the early gray dawn, was a tall brown bear standing by the side of the road, his paws raised. He was the largest creature I'd ever seen and I was awed by him.

When I was 9 my father took a sabbatical and we spent six months in Enschede, Holland, and six months in Greece. My memories of Holland are just what you'd expect them to be: lots of snow, ice-skating on a frozen river, the gingery taste of the Christmas cookies, and piping hot french fries dipped in mayonnaise. Enschede was magical: filled with secret gardens and snowy trees, and a little farm not far from a house where we could walk, and feed sugar cubes to the miniature ponies who lived there. At school we had to cover our shoes with soft moccasins and P.E. was a swim class. Before the class we were ushered through a shower that rained down icy cold water on us whether we were prepared or not and then there was the quick dive into the warm chlorine of the pool. I remember the raisins my mother packed for us to eat after the pool lesson; they were sweet and chewy and I shivered and munched and waited for my mom to pick me up. It was hard to be a little kid in another country at a new school far away; hard but also magical and exciting.

Scott and I often discuss travel, and how we can get our kids overseas for some months, or a year. We talk about travel often, in the summer, when the wanderlust strikes hard. I grew up with the sense--the expectation, really, that there was always some adventure waiting to happen. I'm feeling restless again, and dreaming of new places; old places I want to see again through my children's eyes, and new places I have never seen before.