It comes as quite a big surprise to me that five months into this 180 day journey, I am able to look back and say that the overarching theme of this trip has been... Family.
Not Adventure, not Freedom, not Creativity, not even Service. Yes, these have all been a tremendous part of this chapter - and continue to be - but it seems that Family is #1.
NOT what I expected.
I was not raised to put a tremendous import on family - current, past or future. Instead, Independence and Individuality were the Essences around which I was raised.
I had never really thought about getting married until the day I did get married, barefoot on the side of the road. My oldest daughter was the first baby I held for more than a few minutes, even though I had much younger siblings (yet when my kids were born, my inner mom bubbled up to the surface effortlessly and I remember once feeling that the whole world existed right there, in that big bed with my three babies and their dad. I needed nothing else.)
So when I slipped on my backpack, last September 1st, a new relationship to Family was not what I expected to find.
I found it everywhere.
I found it in the hole in my heart during long days walking alone through olive groves by the Mediterranean, in Italy. I found it in the choking back of tears, listening to Christina tell me about her 97 year old mom and how she sees her everyday, no matter what. I found it in the complete peace I felt falling asleep under the same roof as my kids for a few nights, in France.
I found it when my heart burst instantly watching a man sing to his infant son while lounging on bench in a fancy Torino street.
I recognized it in the veiled women holding their daughters' hands in the streets of Marrakesh.
I found it when I read about Thessaloniki and the ways my family had come as refugees from Spain and made a new life in the Ottoman Empire. I felt it while walking the streets of that very city with my son, sister and nephew, all of us looking uncannily like everyone else there. I knew it in my belly when I heard the haunting sounds of rebetika music in a small Greek taverna, late on the night of my birthday. I remember the deep sense of belonging to that land, and I now feel the strong pull to return.
I heard it when giving rides to families of refugees on Lesvos island.
I reveled in it it while TV bingeing / recuperating on my sister's bed last week in Florida, and I lived it while sitting in my mom's living room, her apartment filled with the furniture she brought from France 35 years ago, as she invited me to please pick what I wanted - and asked me the heart-breaking question of what was going to happen to all her stuff when she was gone?
Again, I did not know.
As an adult, I had been doing a whole lot of running from my family of origin for as long as I remember. Fast and far.
I thought maybe this trip was another version of the running, and I was okay with that.
I did not know that the running would take me to this layered unveiling of my heart, to the place where family - past, present and future - sits on a thrown of love and kindly asks for the right to reign.
What this means and how this look, I sure don't know.
I am guessing that's the next gift.