The Mother of Adventure

The Suitcase

on June 17, 2013

CoffeeTealights flicker inside frosted-glass candle holders on the tables of the darkened café, throwing playful shadows over the coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking patrons of the Blue Moon. A song – smooth and muted – plays in the background; maybe it was jazz.

It’s 1995, and I’ve come to this downtown Ottawa café with a close girlfriend. I’ve come for cappuccino, conversation and a twist of adventure; tonight I’m spending $20 of my hard-earned money to have my palm read.

Memories…fleeting moments in time…moments that suddenly surface with vivid clarity so many years later. It was a whim, partly a joke. I’m skeptical; as a Christian I’ve never put much stock into astrology, horoscopes, fortune telling. It seemed more like entertainment than anything.

We sat at a table in the corner, by the window. As she examined my palm, she first commented that I was from quite a large family. Three kids…maybe four. I was the youngest of four, I admitted, thinking that was not bad for a first observation. But then again, perhaps I’d given something away; she could have gathered some information from something I’d said during our conversational preamble. Perhaps I’d been too open.

She moved on to relationships. “You’re in a romantic relationship right now,” she said. “No, I’m not,” I replied flatly, thinking of a long-distance relationship that had gone down in flames a year earlier. Silently, I started thinking that maybe I should have hung on to my $20. “Perhaps you’re about to meet someone significant soon,” she continued, undaunted. “You will have two or three great loves in your life.”

Leaning closer to look carefully at my palm, she added, “I see travel in your life.” My naïve, 20-year-old self took the bait. “Oh! I travelled here from Edmonton, to come to university,” I babbled. “Maybe that’s it!” But she didn’t seem to be hearing me. “There will be much travel in your life…you might as well get used to it.”

A short time later, my friend and I wrapped ourselves back up in scarves and woolly mitts – bracing against the late autumn wind that played amongst the leaves. Walking home, our laughter and chatter filled the air as we scrutinized the comments made by the palm reader. There will be much travel…what could it mean? Where would the future take me?

It would only be a handful of months till I met Ian; we had a university class together. He had a sort of irresistible, gravitational pull – that casual confidence and playfulness, that wicked sense of humour. And those eyes…those dark chocolate eyes that made my knees melt and my cheeks flush. My heart dropped; surely a guy like this has a girlfriend. But stunningly – no. So I set out to make him my own.

My first trip, then, was head over heels. We studied together, graduated from university together and, three years later, moved in together. Shortly thereafter, we were engaged. We married, bounced between downtown apartments, bought our first house in the ‘burbs. We grew up together.

Suitcase“You might as well get used to it…” is the turn of phrase that stands out in my mind now, nearly 20 years after that night at the Blue Moon. It comes back to me, suddenly, on this sunny spring day as my five-year-old daughter and I drop off my husband to the airport for yet another business trip.

“Bye Daddy!” she yells out the window, as we watch him wave and disappear into the airport doors. “Mom, how long will Daddy be away this time?” she asks in her little voice as we start our drive back home. “I’m not sure, sweetie…probably two weeks – maybe a little longer,” I say with forced cheeriness.

I swallow a lump in my throat. This is nothing new – my husband’s work as a sports reporter takes him on the road for at least a third of the year, every year. Across the country, the continent, even abroad.

It was very hard to get used to; the stints where I was home alone with a newborn and a toddler may have been the toughest. I hated the suitcase then, despised it. I didn’t want to see it; a trip was imminent when it reappeared on the bedroom floor. Likewise, I hated having it sit there for any length of time after a trip. I wanted to tuck it out of sight, so I didn’t have to think about the next time that I’d be solo for yet another long stretch.

It’s been over 10 years of intense work travel for Ian now; a blur of boarding passes, sleepy early-morning goodbyes, time changes, phone calls and sweet reunions. The kids are bigger and it’s much easier to manage long stretches on my own. But although it’s easier, it’s still never exactly easy…saying goodbye. Watching his suitcase – and half of who I am – roll away, again.

But this is the life we’ve built, for better or worse. The suitcase is a bit battered now – it will inevitably be replaced with a newer model soon. But it doesn’t matter like it used to; I don’t hate it anymore. For I’ve learned that it doesn’t symbolize a distance between us, like I once felt it did. I know now that you can be sitting next to each other – sleeping in the same bed – and be worlds apart.

These days, we might be in different time zones but our hearts remain closer than I ever thought possible, and I know that the suitcase will always find its way back home.

12 responses to “The Suitcase

  1. penny says:

    Ahhhh..the Blue Moon! The psychic’s name escapes me but she was pretty bang on with me as well. I love this post…a little window into your world that you’ve shared over coffee but this offers a slightly different perspective! XO

  2. Chris says:

    As a huge hockey fan, I began following Ian Mendes on Twitter mostly for hockey updates. It wasn’t until much later that I noticed his parenting articles. So this article was a real eye opener for me! As a stay at home mother with a husband who travels on business frequently, I can really relate. There are times I get angry or upset, and yes, I too, had to take care of a newborn while my husband was away! My son is a toddler now, and still too young to understand “where his daddy went”, but we cope the best we can, I try and keep busy until my husband comes home.

    I am still at the phase where I despise the suitcase, lol. I also read that you’re a talented writer who gave up her career to become a stay at home mom. Me too, I wasn’t a writer, but an CG artist, and Im struggling with giving up my career, though I don’t regret it. It has just been hard to accept.

    Anyway, Ian frequently mentions you in his articles and I find myself jumping at every one of his parenting articles more than hockey these days. Thank you for being such a great inspiration to women like me. There’s hope for me yet!

    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting – I really appreciate it. Sounds like you know the reality of being a “solo parent” pretty well yourself! Makes you wonder how single parents do it, right?? I was wondering – what is a ‘CG artist’? I don’t know that term.

  3. Doug McLean says:

    Hi Sonia,

    I’ll act as the blast from the past for today (or at least a representative of the St. Albert days!).

    This is a great post. Speaks very well to how you manage situations and see the best in things (something I don’t always do well!). I can only imagine the travel wears on the whole family but it sounds like you’re all managing it as well as can be imagined!

    Hope you’re doing well.


    • Doug!! So nice to hear from you! Thanks so much for reading, and for taking the time to comment! Yes, we’re doing well…it’s the home stretch of the NHL season before we get to enjoy some good family time. We’re back in AB in August – would be great to connect! I know Ian would love to chat sports with someone more knowledgeable than myself. 😉 I’ll be in touch!

  4. Heather says:

    Loved this post. Made me a bit teary eyed too. I could feel how much you love Ian and your kids!

  5. mljanzen says:

    Great post Sonia!

  6. Melissa says:

    So beautiful and inspiring; yours is a wonderful story together. I loved reading this, it choked me up a little bit too (in a good way!)

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