South of the Border ~

I’m at LAX, on the runway, minutes from the announcement to power down all electronics, and I get a call from the kids’ school – My daughter Celeste (8) has been sent back to the nurse’s office by her teacher. Apparently, the school will not allow her to stay unless she has a note from the doctor saying that she has a clean bill of health. Apparently, the nurse called the doctor and the doctor refused to supply the necessary document on the grounds that they had not seen her this week to ascertain if she was better – what were they talking about!? It was Monday at 9am – how could they expect to have seen her this week!? I had now broken out into a hot and cold sweat – Casper was in Germany, there was to one to pick Celeste up, there was no one at home, the doctor had assured me last Thursday that she could return to school after her first day on antibiotics – which had been 4 days ago. Crap! The nurse sounded irritated, “Do you mean there is no one we can call in case of an emergency?”  I blabbered, “You can call my eldest daughter!” I rattled off the number, not at all confident that she could even pick up her sister. She had moved out a month ago. I felt so irresponsible. “What if I call the doctor’s office and see if I can get them to acquiesce?” I could feel my will steeling itself for battle. The flight attendant eyed me disapprovingly. I disappeared under a blanket. I called the doctor’s office and pleaded with them. I was a mother possessed – something takes over me under duress – a combo of desperation mixed with unyielding persuasiveness – I think it worked. I never got a final answer as the plane took off. Fingers crossed. I prayed I didn’t leave my little girl in a lurch. I had a knot in my stomach. I didn’t feel like a good parent right now.

The irony is that I was on my way to Mexico to do a workshop titled Family Values – and here I was abandoning my sick child – who seemed fully recovered over the weekend – Funny how that happens.

I had never been to Mexico City and I was a bit apprehensive. I had been advised not to wear any jewelry – I had heard horror stories of criminals chopping off a bauble-laden finger without any qualms, and ambushing weddings with machine guns in search of family heirlooms. This is the wild and scary land of the warring drug cartels. So, I stripped myself bare of any bling – even my wedding ring. I felt naked.

(This part is not so serious – I have to say this as I wish to avoid any misunderstandings!)

I always have a morbid thought every time I travel without my family. What if I die in a plane crash and I am wearing my jewelry? Then my children would have lost their mother and a chunk of their inheritance. The upside of not wearing my jewels this time – The jewels won’t be wasted in some ocean or lost amongst plane debris!

(More seriously) Truthfully, whenever I travel without my children, I go through a sort of reckoning – a mental checklist – to make sure everything is in order, in case of some type of terminal mishap. And right now, everything isn’t in order. Casper and I need to amend our will, making our eldest daughter, who turns 21 this week, our remaining children’s legal guardian. And, as we haven’t done it, I do feel a sort of limbo, a slight uneasiness – all adding fuel to the fire of the already clamoring mantra of the day “I’m a less than stellar parent!” Ugh!

(Deadly serious!) I pray that I learn something of value in this class and that I return I better parent. I hope that Celeste forgives me for not being there for her. I hope that my whole family benefits from this experience.

The last time that Casper and I left town, my eldest, who was supposed to be in charge of our brood while we were gone, was in a car crash, the morning of our departure. Drama, drama, drama!

Such is family! I always get tested, every time I leave my home. Plagued by the age-old refrain, “Should I stay or should I go!?”

Always feeling that pull on my heart. I honestly wish I could bring my children everywhere with me. That would be my dream.

I landed in Mexico City and, on my 1st day, I learned that women are allowed to go through red lights after 10pm! I’m evaluating the pros and cons of that. At first, that sounds like so much fun, and then, gory scenarios flash through my head of why the fly-by-night rule might have been enforced! It might be preferable to live in LA after all!

On the first day of the workshop, I am struggling with head splitting altitude sickness – Mexico City is at 7000 feet – A pressurized airplane feels like relief by comparison!

One of the women in our group is held up and robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight. We had been eating lunch at the same restaurant and she left barely 2 minutes before I did. I know it doesn’t sound very compassionate but I was so relieved that it had not been me – I probably would have had a heart attack. She, on the other hand, seemed relatively unscathed – probably because she was a local and had a rather relaxed attitude about being accosted by armed bandits – after all, they only wanted her watch!

On second thoughts, maybe I should have hired bodyguards. Literally, the only women who I witnessed wearing any jewelry had bodyguards joined at the hip. What a strange way to live. I guess they’re use to it. It made me feel so grateful for the freedom I enjoy in Malibu.

Day 3, I get a call from Casper that his son has been suspended from college – when it rains it pours! And, on top of that, he was not too pleased with me for the fiasco I had left in my wake. Not only the drama with Celeste, which I clocked up as a failure on my part, but the plan for the girls to carpool back home that afternoon, felt apart – a slight glitch in communication to say the least (my mistake for relying on our 15 year-old) – and they had been stranded at school. This I clocked up as failure number 2. Ugh again! Some other parent had driven back to school to rescue them. For sure, our reputation as deadbeat parents must be spreading like wildfire – good thing I’m down here learning about family values (joke). The next time I am at school, I may have to wear a disguise!

A couple of days later, I Skype my family. My daughter Maya seems awfully sullen – she is back from Wolf Camp. I am surprised, as she had been looking forward to this event for months. “Why the long face?” I ask.

“A girl peed on me. I had to carry her on my back and when she got off, my shirt was soaking wet.” I tried not to laugh. “That is terrible!” Now, I happened to know the girl she was talking about, and she was twice as big as my daughter. How the heck had she picked her up in the first place?

“Mom, you forgot to pack a towel, so I had to borrow one – it was SO embarrassing. And the mom who said she was bringing shampoo and soap, forgot – so I couldn’t wash. I am covered with cuts and bruises, and the girls in my cabin must think I am a spoiled brat ‘cause I told them all to shut up, ‘cause they wouldn’t let me sleep.” This was Maya’s first camp experience and sadly it was an abysmal failure.

I am glad to report that my camp experience fared better. My workshop was a success, a true treasure trove of valuable information. My parental toolbox is newly filled to the brim.

I almost missed my flight home, when I tried to board the wrong plane. I couldn’t understand why the boarding card kept flashing invalid in the scanner.  The attendant kindly notified me that it wasn’t even the same airline. Luckily the other gate was in the same terminal and I made it just in time. Embarrassing! Especially, as I had pushed my way to the front of the line, citing priority boarding!

I am looking forward to groveling apologetically to my family, in the hopes that they will forgive me. I missed them.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Harley Jane
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 02:54:00

    Oh, Catherine, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am not alone. I will never forget the horror of The Phone Call From Preschool, the director asking me, “Are you coming to pick up Audrey anytime soon?” and me crying, “No! I’m in New York!” (preschool was in California). Even if you were a perfect parent (and I’m quite sure you are) you cannot predict/control/alter the events that happen in your absence. But that’s no comfort.

    The “should I stay or should I go?” is one of the top ten dilemmas of motherhood, and because I have no answers, I am pathetically grateful to at least have company. Thank you.

    Reply

  2. Stormie
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 03:06:37

    Glad u r home safe and I hope all the drama has settled so you can rest up for the next round (LOL)

    Reply

  3. Andrew Young
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 10:54:11

    Thank you for telling the story – and so beautifully. Thanks for reminding us not to visit Mexico City. USA (Florida and occasionally California) is looking good.

    Not having kids, we can’t really comment on your parenting worries. We suspect parenting is one of those thing where the worst people never imagine they can do anything wrong – so you can’t be that bad.

    Reply

    • catherineoxenberg
      Jun 03, 2012 @ 20:11:51

      Andrew, for those of you who have not experienced parenting – it has been both incredibly humbling and rewarding! Having children has challenged me to grow in ways i never imaged were possible and to experience love more deeply for another human being in ways that i never imagined possible. And, in the process i have had to discover and embrace more of my humanity – warts and all!That about sums it up!

      Reply

  4. Anine Ferreira
    Jun 06, 2012 @ 04:59:45

    Hi Catherine, imagine how boring and uneventful our lives would be without drama, but at times, I think “time out” is in order! Sometimes it feels like too many dramas attack us all at once!

    Your story made me smile, thank you!

    Warm greetings from a chilly Johannesburg, South Africa
    Anine

    Reply

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