Friday, November 14, 2014

Cool Parents

Last month, while dining at my favorite Georgian restaurant, my friends and I started chatting with the Dutch-Canadian couple at the table next to us. They were spending three weeks in Russia, and visit about three new countries a year.  They were in their 60s, but looked a good decade younger—possibly because they travel far and wide and had a sense of adventure that was inspiring. The woman said that her advice was to live life without fear and to marry a Dutchman.  So Russia might be the wrong place for me on both counts.

I was thinking about how cool this Canadian couple was when I realized that my parents are actually pretty cool too—even if I didn’t realize it until recently. Growing up, my parents were not “cool parents.” Or at least not by any pre-teen definition of the term. My dad’s “beard art” phase was not one I would like to revisit, no one wants their parent playing a banjo at their sleepovers, and his bike spandex are still renowned among my childhood social circle. His antics bothered my mother less, even though she was the parent who laid down rules and doled out punishments. Pop, white bread, and television were strictly forbidden, and I even had a curfew when I was home for the holidays my freshman year of college. Years later, my mom learned that I had still managed to get away with a little teenage fun in high school and she was not amused. I swear she almost retroactively grounded me.

Harmonicas are even worse than banjos

My first memory of parental embarrassment occurred on my first day of kindergarten. One of the items on our school supply list was a blanket to sleep on at nap time. Instead, my mom burrowed into the depths of her closet and produced a woven rug she and my father had picked up in South America. When it came time for our mid-morning lie down, everyone rolled out snuggly, fleecy things emblazoned with princesses and dinosaurs. I hid behind the cubbies with my brightly colored Inca art and hoped no one would ask about my musty sleeping mat.

In retrospect, I’m not sure why I was so embarrassed by the rug, which actually has a pretty interesting back story.  In the 70s, my parents took a few belongings and their fairly terrible Spanish and headed down to South America for nine months. Between my dad (allegedly) getting bit by piranhas in Brazil and nearly getting arrested for public urination in Bolivia, it’s a wonder they made it back to America to get married. 

The parents before they were parents

Now that they’re retired, they’ve returned to their gallivanting ways.  They just finished the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain, and are now in the Canary Islands visiting one of my dad’s best friends from high school.  I was Skyping with one of my best friends from college last weekend, and I mentioned that I’d just talked to my whole family. Stephie had dialed in from Seattle while my parents and Melissa had called in from a riad in Morocco. Lindsay was impressed by our global reach.

“I thought my parents were cool,” said Lindsay. “They just got back from two weeks in Turkey and two weeks in Sicily, and that included a stay at a pistachio farm.

“My parents just spent a week in Menorca visiting some Spanish hippies my dad caravanned across the Moroccan desert with two years ago,” I countered.

“Yeah, your parents might be cooler.”

And she doesn’t even know about my dad’s boxcar adventures or my mom’s visit to the Soviet Union, complete with a Communist Party convention in Leningrad.  But that might require an entire blog post of its own.

My parents in Finisterre, Spain after completing the Camino

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