Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

My mother’s tales: having a daughter full of surprises

Over a year ago I was so moved by Mama Congo‘s guest post on what it’s like to be a Mama Congo Mama.  I think a collection of essays from mothers of children who fly far, far away from the nest would make a phenomenal book.

I’ve lived all kinds of distances from the nest, and never fully considered what kind of toll this must’ve taken on my mom. One evening someone asked her what it was like having a daughter who had lived in Congo.  She laughed and said with some combination of sadness and sass, “I had plenty of sleepless nights, that’s for sure.”

I was surprised at how surprised I was to hear that.  So without further ado, here is a short series written by my mom, Sally Reams!

Screen shot 2015-02-21 at 11.33.15 AM

I feel honored to be the mother of Sara. I continually learn from her and she probably doesn’t even think of herself as one of my teachers. She asked me recently what it is like to be her mom. So I will share some stories about being the mom of my child who is dedicated to teaching, learning and living around the world. What you can’t see from this blog of hers is what I call her “pied piper aura”. Unintentionally, she even sucks her mother into her great adventures!

Part 1. The Initial Shock of “Mom, I’m moving to Congo”

It was August 2007, the clock said 3 a.m., I got out of bed to check my email and my thoughts swirled…. did Sara arrive safely at the school in Kinshasa – was she able to navigate through an airport which had a reputation for blackmail, and no telling what else – it’s been almost 2 days, why haven’t I heard from her – how long should I wait before I contact someone – if she didn’t make it to the school what on earth am I to do, hop on the next flight to Kinshasa to investigate – a scary thought. Worn out by thoughts of terrifying situations Sara might be facing on the other side of the world, and my own devastation if anything were to happen, I called the school later that day and found that Sara had arrived on time. Had she already forgotten her family? What a relief it was to know she was there. I slept that night for the first time in 3 days.


I raised her to reach for the moon, to be the confident, strong, bold and independent woman she is, but I never dreamed she would pack her bags and move across the world – it was not what I envisioned when she told me she wanted to be a teacher. What’s a mother to do when her 23 year-old single daughter decides to move to the Congo, of all places? Maybe have a drink or two?! I asked myself at the time, why do I feel so fearful?


I sucked it up.   She was an adult and filled with excitement! How can a mother not cheer for her bright, sensible, adventurous daughter who is over the moon about her first teaching job!   We would not see her much, she would have no mail service for us to send her a holiday package, she would experience frequent power outages and water outages, but it would be okay.   She would be living in an apartment on the K-12 American school compound, located in a 42 acre rainforest surrounded by a high wall.


Her surprises have always been part of her fabric. The first hint that she had not forgotten her family came about six weeks after she moved to Kinshasa when she unexpectedly walked into her brother’s wedding rehearsal dinner in Virginia! Not a one of us knew she was coming; before she moved to Kinshasa, she had given her regrets that she could not be at the wedding. When she walked into the restaurant, I heard someone scream “SARA” and there she stood! It took my breath away and all of our eyes were filled with tears, that she loved her brother so much she had travel for 30 hours to be there for the weekend and attend his wedding. She had just arrived in town and explained she was not there just to see the wedding, she had a bridesmaid dress and she was ready to be IN the wedding (as they had originally invited her to do). REALLY?? Whoever heard of such a surprise; of course it put her brother’s very gracious bride into a tailspin, having to order an extra bouquet the morning of the wedding and arrange for an extra seat at the reception (you know how weddings are). But she pulled it off.   It was a whirlwind two-day visit, with jet lag and no sleep.


But surely I am not the only mother who has anguished over the unexpected and daring adventures of a grown daughter.


12 comments on “My mother’s tales: having a daughter full of surprises

  1. MG
    February 23, 2015

    What a moving story. That all parents understand.

    And like most parents, you are proud of your kid. But it’s hard to know if your kid is actually really good at what she does. And in your case, Sally Reams, the answer is: yes.

    • Sally (Mom)
      February 24, 2015

      Thanks, what a nice thing to say!

  2. Sally (mom)
    February 23, 2015

    Thanks for inviting me to write for your blog!

  3. Carey Durham
    February 23, 2015

    your make your mother very proud and many of her friends envious…you clearly share many fine traits with your mother and you both have a great back for writing…thanks for sharing all of the above with us…Carey Durham

  4. Glenda Young Clark
    February 23, 2015

    I feel your pain, my daughter is only 5 hours away. We talk almost everyday. She is expecting her third child. I just want to be with her, I can not imagine if any of my children went to the Congo, my heart would ache, bit good for Sara. An adventure to be sure. Better to go before the husband and babies come. Enjoyed your article, Sally. I know when Sara left and you did not best from her for three days, I would be just like you, ready to board a plane to the Congo. Still a mother’s heart.

  5. bevwalls
    February 23, 2015

    Great writing, Sally. I can’t wait until episode two.

    When I was 30 in 1979, I headed to South America, catching the train at the Texas border and traveling all the way to Bolivia over the course of 15 months. After I gathered enough money, I traveled through Europe, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal for another 11 months. I can’t even imagine what my Mother went through when she might not hear from me for weeks, and by that time, I was already off into another country. It took all day to try to get a phone call through, and, of course, there was no internet, blogs, Facebook, or twitter.

    When my 21-year-old daughter decided to work in a biological reserve in Ecuador for three months, I finally realized the agony that I must have put my mother through. If we didn’t hear from her for even a week, we panicked. However, these adventures change lives, open eyes to other cultures and new kinds of beauty, and develop compassion and awareness that we can never acquire sitting comfortably in our small and pasteurized world. I encourage boldness and a sense of adventure in all of you.

    And I can’t wait to hear more of Sally’s responses.

  6. Sally(mom)
    February 23, 2015

    Thanks everyone! Bev, I have thought about you and your mom so many times. You sent me post cards from all over the world. You were sooo brave and I always thought what you did was just amazing. Little did I know at the time my own daughter would have traveling shoes too.

  7. Stephie @
    February 23, 2015

    I love hearing Momma Sally’s perspective- this is great! I’m also very honored to have been one of the insiders for Operation: Help Sara Surprise her Family at her Brother’s Wedding. I was so relieved the dress I found for her worked out, too!

    • Sally
      February 24, 2015

      Stephie, it was so amazing that the dress you got for her to wear was the perfect color! Thank you also for picking her up at the airport and shuttling her to us that day!

  8. Lonnie Rich (Dad)
    February 25, 2015

    As the Dad in this story, I had a little different take. Starting from two long-held, personal views that everything is the same everywhere and that I don’t worry about what I can’t control, I was able to have only have pure enjoyment over Sara’s adventures in Congo.

    I knew that something bad could happen, but I also knew that something bad could happen if Sara stayed in Alexandria, VA. I also had the huge advantage of being now married to a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Congo (Kibututu, near Goma).

    My sense was that if one is reasonable careful (wherever they are), and if you treat people nice (with honesty, respect and genuine interest), then you will be fine. I felt confident that Sara was going to have a grand adventure.

  9. Pingback: The Softball Story | Beans & Rice for the Soul

  10. Sally
    March 23, 2015

    Reblogged this on Flying Far From the Nest and commented:
    Having a daughter full of surprises!

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2015 by in life, travel.
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