My house had been unusually quiet this past week.
Two of my daughters are spending the summer in the South of France with my parents. My third daughter is busy writing a book and illustrating a children’s story book for a client so she spends many hours quietly working in her room…
I can’t say I don’t enjoy the focussed time I now have as this has been a particularly busy summer for me. I am getting ready for the launch of my new book, co-authored with my good friend and business partner Anne Newsome. We are also launching a new website in support of the book so there have been plenty of details to attend to .
But I miss the chatter and laughter that normally fills my home…
My girls are no strangers to traveling and I’ve said far too many goodbyes already. This year those goodbyes were just a bit harder.
Getting the girls off was quite an ordeal. A few weeks before their departure I realized that one of the girl’s passport had expired. I didn’t panic as I knew it is possible to get a passport renewed fairly quickly. When I was a senior in college I spent my Christmas break in Texas with my older brother. I was attending Middlebury College in Vermont. One of the things I loved about Middlebury was our “J” term. “J” stands for January. And in January we have a 1 month term where we can dive intensely into a subject that has nothing to do with our major. I was a Chinese and Political science major and I was going to Egypt for my last “J” term!
I was looking forward to spending a few weeks with my brother before going on to my adventure. After picking me up from the airport my brother suggested we stop for a quick bite and a drink. When we came out of the restaurant we saw that his car had been broken into… And in one of the missing bags was my passport with my visa to Egypt… Why on earth did I leave my bag with such important things in the car? I can only blame sleep deprivation for that stupid mistake. Finals had meant I’d gotten little to no sleep for over a week.
Long story short I was able to get a new passport issued within 24 hours, despite the holidays, on time for my departure to Egypt.
Fast forward to today and my daughter’s expired passport. We had just about 2 weeks within which to get her passport… Counting 2 weekends and a national holiday that really meant less than 8 business days. So I decided to call the state passport agency directly to make an appointment. As it turned out the agencies nation wide were flooded with last mint requests and I could not get an appointment until the day after my daughters’ departure! Yikes!
Trying not to panic I asked what my options were as the clerk confirmed that I would not get the new passport on time through regular channels. He gave me two options:
The first — Go to San Francisco — a 6 hour drive at best. San Francisco is the only office in the region that allows “walk-ins” so I would be able to get her passport the same day, though we would probably wait 6 to 8 hours to get it.
The second option was to make an appointment in San Diego (a 2 hour drive without traffic) at 8:30 in the morning the day of her departure! We would get her passport within 2 to 4 hours… Her flight was leaving from LA at 4:55… It would be a mad dash but I had faith we would all work out. I booked the appointment.
We left the house at 5:30 that morning and arrived in San Diego at 7:45. The agency opened at 8… Things were looking good… Until we got out of the elevator and discovered there was already a long line of more than 50 people waiting. We passed security at 8:35 only to get into yet another line. I had been warned that if you showed up late you lost your appointment…
By 8:43 we had our ticket…
As we sat down to wait our turn, I overheard a man tell another woman that if she was lucky she would wait 1 hour with an appointment, 2 hours without.
My heart was racing a little faster. Every minute that passed made our window that much smaller.
9:40 – At last our number was called!
As we turned in the paperwork the clerk did a double take. “What time is her flight?”
“4:55 today.” I replied.
He looked at the clock.
I looked at him. “Will it be ready on time?”
“It’s going to be tight but we’ll make it,” he smiled. “Come back in two hours.”
I let out a big sigh of relief as I thanked him. We decided to find a place where we could eat breakfast and get a little fresh air.
We returned just before 11:30. Since we were picking up we cleared security right away and got in line oce more time. Miracle of miracles her passport was ready! I looked it over several times to make sure everything was as it should be and we were off!
We encountered a lot more traffic on the way to the airport but we made it by 2:35! My husband was waiting with my other daughter.
As I hugged my girls goodbye I could not hold back my tears. This goodbye seemed so much harder than the last one.
“Don’t cry, Maman,” said my Alexandra sweetly.
I only cried harder. But as much as I knew I would miss my girls dearly those tears were a lot more selfish. As I healed on to my daughter and watched people make their way to security I realized how long it had been since I was the one leaving!
“I haven’t been home in 5 years!” I said to Alexandra.
My dad turned eighty this past year, and suddenly time seemed more precious than ever. When the girls were smaller I would take them over the France, spend a few weeks soaking up all the wonderful things that come with being home. But as they’ve grown older and flying has become a lot more expensive, I’ve sent them and stayed behind.
And it suddenly was too much!
The tears just kept pouring out. Alexandra held me a little tighter.. “Poor Maman, you do so much for us. You need to go see your parents. Next year I’m sending you to France!”
I smiled at my precious daugher “Okay.”
And I vowed that no matter what, I will make my way home within the year to spend some much needed time with two of the most extraordinary people in the world, my parents.
As I always tell my clients and friends, life is too precious to wait… Don’t you think it’s time I followed my own advice?