Friday, March 16, 2012

JOANNE TEICHMAN: THE GIFT OF TRAVEL......AND THE WARMTH OF RETURNING HOME

My earliest memory of travel was bitter. I was 2 1/2, and remember going with my family to visit my Grandmother in Dallas. I was put down for a nap in the center of a big bed (yes, believe it or not I remember that bed!) and when I woke up, my family had vanished. My parents had taken my older sister to Mexico and left me stranded with Grandma, and needless to say, I was not a happy camper. 

Life got better, as my parents loved the long car trips, mostly to Colorado which was cool in the summer and West to New Mexico. We visited cousins in Cincinnati where we had pancake wars, and visited an aunt in Muskogee, Oklahoma, who had a very slick boat which made me feel like I was in a movie. The long car rides were a challenge, but the destinations were divine. My sister and I rode horses, took scenic trains, ate restaurant food and read books. I also remember one of our many trips to Miami where our hotel had live flamingos in the windows and a white sandy beach outside. My love of pink flamingos has stayed with me, whether they are real or plastic. Wish I could say the same for sand, my feet really prefer the tile by the pool. 

Mother took copious travel notes in my baby book, and I later learned that the Mexico trip was not the first where I was left behind. I had a lot of catching up to do! 


All I wanted for high school graduation was to join a modestly priced teacher led trip to Europe, and I got my wish along with my best friend Jeanette. My high school nickname was Twiggy, due to a pencil body, short cropped hair and short, cute tent dresses sewn by my Mom, so naturally, I inhaled Carnaby Street & the rest of London. Paris left me wide-eyed and we had fun buying long wigs and meeting kids who were traveling with other groups. Music is my life, and every time I hear a particular 'Moody Blues' or 'Rolling Stones' song, I remember where I was on that trip. Little did I know that it would be 12 more years to meet my future husband, Paris born and in the city the week of my first visit. 

During one visit to Dallas (age 10 at the time), I was playing in the exotic filled trunks in the attic of my favorite aunt. She was a world traveler many times over, and I asked her to take me with her someday. When asked where I wanted to go, I thought of the farthest place I could and said, China! 

Imagine my surprise that during my freshman year of college I received a note from her: "Happy Birthday and an invitation to join me and 8 other family members to Expo '70 in Kyoto." My memories of that trip where we skipped all over the Orient are with me today, and I still long to go back.  

Since college, there has never been a time where I wasn't working full time -- not even a relaxing gap between jobs -- and a chunk of the fruits of my labors went to buy bus, train and plane tickets or hit up Hertz for a rental car. 

Skip forward and travel still makes my toes curl, especially with Charles & the kids. It took a pre-wedding trip to a Dude Ranch in Colorado to learn that Charles had always wanted to barrel race on a white horse (named Abe), he was a natural! We have taken the kids to Paris again and again to visit family, to California, Canada and Mexico, to Wyoming & Florida, to Italy, Morocco & Turkey, to Tanzania, and this past holiday to Australia where we marveled over the New Year’s Eve fireworks over Sydney Harbour. 


At this point, you might label me as privileged, and I can't disagree. 

But we have also taken them to the Dallas Zoo, Farmer's Market, The Komen Race for the Cure, and driven to Ashdown, Arkansas where I was born. 

Travel doesn't have to be expensive or far, it is an adventure and experience which never fails to leave a deep imprint on my soul.  

In High School I attended a Summer Science Institute at the University of Kansas, and remember the black girls teaching us white girls how to dance in the halls of our dorms (Music: "Windy" by The Association). That couldn't happen in my Arkansas high school, where the town swimming pool was filled with cement rather than to be integrated. 

Several years ago, Charles and I joined a community service trip to Cuba, and along with the badly needed medications we packed for the pharmacy, I packed gifts of toothbrushes which were in short supply. On the streets of Havana, I gave a Mother and daughter a set complete with toothpaste, and remember they were frantic that I not move from my spot so that they could retrieve the Grandmother to ask for a third. Simple pleasures that we take for granted revealed through a trip. 

One of Alysa's most magical trips was sneaking into the hospital to be the first to hold baby Jake. The nurses were SO not letting me get any sleep (yes, 18 years ago, one was expected to stay awhile), so we just decided abandon ship in the middle of that same night and surprise her with Jake the next morning. 

There is nothing quite like sitting patiently on a river bank in Tanzania and being the only family watching tens of thousands of Wildebeest stop and start and stop and start and finally, one decides to cross the river (or is accidentally shoved) and every one of them follows. Makes you wonder about lemmings and life. 


And Jake catching his first fish at a friend's lake house, an hour from home, cost a lot less, but maybe made our spirits soar even more. 

Trips with friends are special times. While we were living in New York, we explored Bed & Breakfasts with best friends Melanie & Roger, and duked it out over who got the bigger of the tiny clapboard house bedrooms. My favorite Bed & Breakfast was the one which claimed: “fresh eggs from our chickens, bacon from our pigs, and honey from our bees”. Still tasting that breakfast -- and savoring our friendship -- now. 

In San Antonio, we floated down the lazy river with friends Helene & Joe & kids. We celebrated our kids winter birthdays at Mexican restaurants and talked about life over margaritas -- and our dreams, most of which have more than come true.  

Kidnapping our parents, all of blessed memory now and less impulsive than Charles & I were, was the most delicious fun, to thank them for a lifetime of love and education and instilling in us the love of travel. When we still lived in New York, we surprised them with tickets to Israel for the 6 of us. It was a challenge as my parents traveled from Arkansas while Charles' parents met us from France. There were major glitches in the trip, a rental car which wouldn't hold all of us, rooms which were wrong, and behind the scenes, Charles and I scrambled for 2 weeks and were personally fried, even giving up sleep to make the next day's plans flawless. But our parents had the times of their lives, and declared that it was the perfect trip and “we should do it again”. 

For many years we had my Mother living in Dallas (the last of the surviving grandparents), and we seized every opportunity to shake up her world. She had a lifelong battle with depression, and the last bout was when she collapsed under the weight of taking care of Daddy, and had to be moved to Dallas and eventually hospitalized. The first day she was discharged, the sweetest outing was to the Dallas Arboretum with the kids. The flowers held the promise of Spring and healing, and it was all uphill from there for my Mom. 

We dragged her to Hawaii & Mexico, and in later years when she was battling cancer, scooped her up on an impulsive 36 hour visit to New York to see the last day of "The Gates" by Christo. It was a crisp and chilly day, with snow still covering Central Park, and Mom was wide eyed over the whole event, more than keeping up with us. Another punctuation mark to her lifelong comment: “In my next life, I want to come back as a Teichman child.” 


At this point I'd like to comment that the only trip that you want to avoid is one to the Emergency room, which we had several of, but if you take your camera as I did, you can make it fun!! 

New York has been a destination for many reasons, we met and married there, we have friends and business there, and Alysa now lives there. When recovering from breast cancer, I received an unexpected invitation to attend a private lunch (which a friend won at a school auction) with Rudy Giuliani, America’s Mayor. A 24 hour trip to a city which was very windy that day was a challenge for my wig “Esmerelda” and me, but we triumphed, and I took inspiration from his personal story. On another visit, we visited the fallen towers of 9/11 less than three months after, which I have previously written about. The heartbreaking visits to the fire houses are still with me. 



When the kids were little, we gussied up outings ("Let's take a trip to McDonalds!" "Let's take a trip to the Museum!" "Let's go bowling!" "Let's take a trip to the Food Bank!"). "Trips" to neighborhood Fourth of July Parades, especially when the kids were in them were the most fun and remind me of all of our freedoms, especially the freedom to travel. 

And what of the "Warmth of Returning Home”? Sleeping in your own bed and under your own roof is highly underrated, and besides, whether it is travel to the grocery store, or back from a long vacation trip, our dogs Eddie & Tuey are the most amazing welcoming committee and remind us that there really is no place like home. 



A final note: Sometimes planning is not so perfect, like traveling to Australia and realizing at our final stop that there were no koalas there and that we totally missed them on the first stop! Time to take a trip to the Dallas Zoo, where the Koala Walkabout just opened!

3 comments:

Reba Messina said...

What a beautiful journey of your life and that of your family. Thanks for posting Joanne.

Adrienne Cornelsen said...

Insite has been honored and proud to be a part of the journey, Joanne! We look forward to seeing where we go next! Much love and light to you!

Adrienne Cornelsen said...

Insite has been honored and proud to be a part of the journey, Joanne! We look forward to seeing where it will take us next! Much love and light to you, Joanne!