To Moms from Marrakech to Music City Post-Holiday

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Thank you to Kate, an Australian expat mom I met through InterNations who moved to Marrakech last fall, too.  Her son visited and returned home before my children came, and she set up lunch for last Sunday before I left for London knowing I’d need a friend after the holidays who understands the joy of sharing this life with family, then sadly saying goodbye again.  To all moms who spent quality time during the holidays with your children–adult ones who live elsewhere and little ones you could stay in pjs with you till noon, is there any gift greater?

January 1 as my daughter and son disappeared through Heathrow’s security gate I felt the ground I’d gained shake.

Before meeting them in London, I’d left school for winter break thrilled that I was almost there…Christmas Eve…when I’d hug Taylor and Cole at the airport.  I also felt peace because I was there–my first big marker since moving– as students hugged bye and called across campus, “Have a nice holiday, Miss!”  A coworker reminded me that our dance class would resume in January, and I looked forward to working with Model UN students in the spring, then traveling with them to St. Petersburg, Russia.  I was excited for a colleague who had been hired by a school in Brazil next fall and wondered if I’d apply for South America or Europe one day.  I’d met her and two other new friends for lunch at our favorite restaurant, and we all celebrated soon seeing family and friends in Italy, Austria, the US, and England.

Despite fall’s challenges, fears, tears, I’d made new relationships on amazing adventures, discovering beauty without and strength within. I realized I’d survived my first continent teaching/living on a new continent, and In 2015, I thought, I will thrive.

Spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve with Taylor and Cole in London and bringing them to Marrakesh were some of the happiest days of my life.  Taylor said it was her favorite vacation we three have spent together.  Cole loved his first trip abroad, and we all said we could not have had more fun.

On the plane to meet them I’d read a travel article called “How to Escape Your Family for the Holidays.” I was so glad I’d be traveling with mine.  Seeing the two loves of my life–who are my home–and spending nine days with them was an even bigger blessing than I anticipated while planning our reunion for months.  Knowing how short this life is, I am forever grateful for that time.

Even if the low that followed when they left was hard, the high of being together again was worth it. Even more… the bond that remains.

January 1st–too soon– we again hugged at the airport.  I didn’t think I’d be able to let go.  I ached and tears flowed as I boarded a bus for Gatwick, waited there till my flight, then prayed I’d sleep on the plane so I wouldn’t feel the physical pain.

When I’d moved to Morocco I used all the packing and planning to postpone the full impact of saying goodbye to them–the hardest part of this decision.  My daughter, unable to handle an airport farewell, hugged and kissed me on a hot, August night in my sister’s driveway the night before my flight.  As she drove away crying, I walked behind the house and fell on my knees from the hurt.  My son, who tried to keep things light, hugged me and smiled the next morning at the airport.  I cried but wouldn’t allow myself to feel the full impact.  I was determined to grieve later– away.  And I did.  The sadness at times in early fall was so terrible only God, who I knew had brought me here and Skype calls from my mom; sister, Penny; and best friend, Kim,  kept me from depression.  I thought I’d paid the pain price for this life change then in full. I was wrong.

But this time my recovery came faster.  Penny reminded me that when we all live under the same roof we don’t always make or value the quality time. She said this move has been life changing.  Our time together now is more intentional, and we recognize it as precious.  She reminded me the holidays always have to end, when we all return to school and work.  My mom, like Penny and her family who I missed seeing at Christmas for the first time in our lives but who has always wanted to see me happy, reminded me that I have a “traveling soul” and this opportunity is who I am and what I’ve wanted for a long time.  January 2nd I began work on a project that kept me busy till I returned to school January 6.   Seeing students and colleagues was nice.

Again I remember that even if I still lived in Nashville, Taylor and Cole would not be living with me on Jenry Court.  As families do after Christmas together, we go back to the “real world” to begin a new year.  But what we experienced was REAL.  The sweetest thing in life is relationship. Being together body and soul 24/7–no phones and computers (other than to check in briefly with family and friends in the US) — for over a week made us even closer.

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First day in the Medina and rooftop sunset
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School Visit
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Rooftop lunch at Chez Joel

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Thankfully the Taj Palace reopened; it is now the Sahara Palace.

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Through Taylor’s Eyes

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After initial culture shock, Taylor wrote this:  “Marrakech has brought so much peace to my life. This has truly been a life changing experience! Today we heard the call to prayer for the first time. I saw the oldest mosque in the city with snow capped mountains in the distance.  Now I know why my mom fell in love with this place. This adventure has been my favorite one yet! Marrakech has captured my heart!”  Last night on Skype she said she feels so much better about my safety.  That everyone she met here was so nice to us.  That Morocco was not what she expected.

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Both of them loved the warm weather and snow-capped mountains in the distance.  Cole said when he first stepped out on my balcony the city looked and felt like Florida.  After the cold of London, both loved the warm weather and mountains that surround the city.

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Though we’ve always been together in spirit, having them physically here has meant more than I expected.  I can share stories now they better understand.  Now when I go to the souks or grocery, I remember them there. When  I eat at our Indian restaurant,  on Chez Joel’s rooftop, or hear Casanova’s piano man, I remember them there.

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When I watch a movie or see Queen Elizabeth dance in my apartment, I remember them here–and Cole hiding his Bluetooth speaker and Dancing Queen with a note for me to find when they were gone.  A surprise gift that made me laugh and cry.

We laughed a lot.  We appreciate each other more.  For the privilege of being the mother of two amazing human beings, I am forever grateful.

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Before I left Nashville and told Kim how hard it was to leave, she reminded me of a quote by Winnie the Pooh, a favorite friend who lived stuffed in my son’s room when he was little.  It’s true.  I am.

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Cindy McCain

A Southern Girl Gone Global, I flew from my empty Nashville nest in 2014 to land in Africa where I lived two years in magical Marrakesh, Morocco. Now I live in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and continue sharing my journey--so far across 27 countries on 4 continents and the Caribbean. This travel/lifestyle blog is about letting go of fear, clinging to faith, and following your heart's desires. It's a celebration of beauty, adventure, relationship...roots and wings.

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