Adjusting to Long-distance Relationships

I have a billion photos of our weekend here at Williamsburg as I celebrated my son’s graduation from William & Mary—with Tracy and with Finn’s dad and his big family. My first blogging instinct is to narrate the weekend with all those photos; it has been bright and busy and full of pride for Finn and full family reconnections, together and in small ways.

During the Friends and Family Tour I keep reminding myself that this blog is about travel, and once I sift my tour experiences through that sieve, a different mix comes out. On this trip, pride remains the primary ingredient, but what also’s revealed are new ways of seeing my life and relationships now that my home is the road.

I’m going to illustrate this with some of my million photos with captions. I believe if you’re reading this on a small phone or tablet, the captions show up just like regular text, in which case this will read disjointedly. Maybe that will add artistically to my theme though. (Ha!)

Finn, Tracy, and Banjo bookmarked by Finn’s Gran, his dad, my niece and nephew, and one set of uncles and aunts, all in cabins at our campground for Finn’s graduation.
Finn’s dad and I gave him a riqq for graduation: it’s one of the instruments he learned to play in the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble he enjoyed so much year after year.

Parenting Remotely

This has been the trickiest part of the last year. I spend a lot of time alone walking in the woods or napping in the hammock or quietly with Tracy on the road, and during much of that time I’m thinking fondly of people I miss. These warm feelings are just a part of my make-up now.

However, when I get on the phone with those same people, I forget that they haven’t been in my head with me all this time. Instead, I go right for the jugular and blurt out my dicier questions and give advice as if I’m jotting off an office to-do list. It’s like I’ve been having the warm fuzzy conversations with them for so long in my head that I don’t realize I haven’t said those things to the very people I need to say them to.

Like, Finn, I’m proud of the years of hard work you’ve put into your dual degrees. I’m proud of the way you navigated your final year of college during Covid 19. I am fascinated by your final music project and your dedicated creativity. You’ve created art, while doing physics research and maintaining friends and being a leader on campus. These things should come out of my head through my mouth, as conversation starters. I’m relearning how to do this. (I’ve used Finn as my example, but darned if I haven’t done this over and over with friends, too.)

Mi Casa Es Tu Casa

You know how, when you have a new apartment or house, you want friends to come over so you can share with them how you live and make them feel at home so they’ll visit. We’d planned an open house party for before we hit the road: I sent out “Open Trailer” invitations and everything, but the pandemic struck seemingly that very weekend, so we canceled.

But having Finn over to the trailer this weekend has scratched that itch good. I cooked dinner for him in my own kitchen, he sat around inside imagining what it’s like to live here, and one night I made popcorn and we watched The Last Waltz together. It’s that kind of downtime you spend with someone that makes the reconnection solid. I love sitting on the couch with this person: we’ve shared cushions for 23 years.

This is a screenshot of Finn’s virtual physics school-specific graduation ceremony; he submitted this photo for an award recognition segment. I have an entire photo album (digital) of Finn and me sitting on couches together: knitting, playing ukulele, wearing a cheese hat.
Here we we are on the couch in one of the campground cabins with his dad, watching that physics ceremony on one computer while watching the music ceremony on another; they were inconveniently broadcast simultaneously. No prob though: each of us had our fingers on the volume buttons to mute one while we cranked the other during ceremony highlights.

You’re on Vacation; I’m at Home

Three close cousins: grad school, high school, and college-bound.

One aspect to visiting family at a campground is that they’re all vacationing whereas we’re actually at home. Throughout the weekend they were about to run to the grocery store for odds and ends, but guess what: I have these things with me in my home. I was able to supply: trash bags (we had a massive take-out celebration dinner with cake), tape and scissors (for wrapping graduation presents), tablecloths, outside chairs, drinks, you name it. They had brought a few things they had anticipated they might need, but we brought everything we own.

The flipside to that is campground etiquette, which you, regular readers, know I depend on for sanity. And here my very own peeps are walking around with beers in hand, sitting outside gabbing after quiet hours to celebrate graduation. I just had to roll with it. When in Rome … act like you’re also on vacation.

Heightened Emotions of a Nomad

You know I’ve had ups and downs over this past year. Hell, everyone has. I’ve especially missed people though—those I was traveling far from and those who died recently. Of course, Finn’s graduation brought out excitement for his future, but also grief for my friends and family who would have loved to have cheered him on as he walked across the stage.

His grandfather and everyone’s friend Marie both died while we were on the road. And, my goodness, my mother and my sister would have been bursting with delight at this young man whom they loved almost painfully from the minute he was born. My sister especially would have have squeezed the breath out of him in his cap and gown.

And then there is the family who were here. When will I see them again? This weekend I’ve had all the feels. I’ve felt like I’m living that Neil Young song once again, “This old world keeps spinning round; it’s a wonder tall trees ain’t laying down.”

What “Back to Normal” Means to Me

As everyone tiptoes back into life, some closer to the normal we had before and some working toward an improved system, my normal is going to be entirely new. The North of my internal compass (my son) is moving from Virginia to Michigan, which will be more accessible to us as we travel the country because it’s more central.

And now that we’re vaccinated (and let’s hope hope hope more people get vaccinated), in a pinch Finn and I can rent cars or fly to see each other between trailer trips to Michigan.

New Ending Segment: Quest for Ultimate Nachos

Here’s a new wrap-up section for ya that’s a bit of our new normal. A couple on our old trivia team used to search out and document the best buffalo wings when they traveled, and because they’re journalists they played with the idea of a manuscript. Across the country, one buffalo wing at a time. Something like that.

Tracy and I lean toward nachos, so one goal of life on the road was going to be sampling as many platters of nachos as possible and documenting them. We have indeed had some nachos this past year through take-out, but they’ve been miserable excuses. But here we had good ones, and thus I started my documentation.

They’re from a BBQ truck at a brewery in Williamsburg. Highlights: crumbled, grilled pork belly and pickled onion. Cons: the chips were not freshly made, and the cheese was what Tracy calls Kayso. Still, I give these a high mark. We’ll have to work out a scientific rating system soon. These were special as being the first good nachos we’ve had, plus we ate them at an outside bar, and some of you know how much I love sitting at bars. This was my first post-vaccination. And Finn joined us!

Okay, thanks again for hanging in there with me while we travel little and socialize a lot. We have one final week of this—next up: Maryland.