When the kids were young, life moved so quickly that my time for self-contemplation and reflection only lasted as long as a child’s nap, an unaccompanied birthday party or a swim lesson. Then I’d hear, “Momma, momma!” and I once again was embracing a little one and my role as a young mother.
Standing in the checkout line with a cart full of groceries at Pacific Ocean Marketplace, my 5-year-old daughter Madison tugged at my shirt. Pointing at the grey-haired couple chatting in front of us, she asked, “Mom, what are they saying?” I told her they were speaking Vietnamese and thought they were from Vietnam, a country halfway around the world where I was born.
Was my life a total failure? This question blindsided me in a high school gymnasium during a graduation ceremony. My niece, Caitlin, was up on stage about to make her salutatory address. That’s when it hit me.
Fourteen years ago, on June 23, 1996, my husband and I got married under a Jewish wedding canopy, known as a huppah, surrounded by friends and family in the hills above Berkeley, Calif. It was a perfect day of singing and celebration.
In high school I used to say I was going to lead a revolution in education, although I didn’t know what exactly it would look like. As a senior in high school I didn’t even know how to apply for college or what the SAT was. No one in my family had ever attended college.
A Hermes knockoff in shades of navy, gold and orange. It was that last hue, its brilliant carroty oranginess, that stirred my memory, taking me back to spring of 1987 when I was 21, finishing up a semester abroad in Paris and about to embark on a three-week trip with my mother and sister.
Kent Zimmerman and his wife Christine report from their international wanderings.