teaching, learning and living around the world
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!
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!
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.