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A Fleeting Goodbye, a Bag of Shoes, and a Bundle of Adventure: Our Family Travels!

Our daughter received a gift of gently used baby shoes from a close family friend. His wife is an airline stewardess. I never made the connection till later, after so many journeys.  These baby shoes proved to be traveling shoes! The bag of shoes became the inspiration for my story.

Our Plans…

When I sent out our engagement announcement to friends and family I included our intentions to manage backpacking and camping with babies and small children. We didn’t know for sure if I was pregnant the following summer on our backpacking trip in upper Michigan. A month later, we did know– and yet we hiked up a trail at Glacier National Park, and spent three weeks exploring Montana and Idaho. “All we need is a back pack like he’s got”, I said, slightly out of breath, pointing to a baby in a baby carrier headed up the trail, “and we can just keep doing stuff like this!”

Whirlwind:

The labor of birth was preceded closely by the labor of selling our condo. We sold in 2008, just as the housing market was tanking. The closing was postponed twice and the stress associated with it brought Sophia into the world two weeks early. Hello Baby! And when baby Sophia arrived, away went all the thoughts of camping and trailblazing. The first baby can blaze its own trail right through your life and heart! Future plans get tucked away and all revolves around the baby—in those first few days, the sun seems to stand still in the sky—and it may as well do that, for night and day blend into one. I had all the latest accessories for mommy-hood. Comfort was foremost. Thoughts of backpacking were far, far away.

Jolted by Grief

But sadly for us, six days into the journey of babyhood, my mother died of a massive heart attack. The tranquil recovery period ended abruptly with intense grief. I needed new resolve to face all of the visitors and help with the funeral arrangements. As for limiting baby’s exposure to germs, now with her gentle grandmother gone from our midst, Sophia was passed from one person to another. As a nursing mom who had planned a careful diet, now I was eating sweets brought by visitors. And there were many times I had to put my beloved baby down just to cry in my pillow or call a friend to talk on the phone. Naturally, for a while I just felt I couldn’t make it any further without my mom.

Horizons Broadened

But for Sophia, early exposure just showed her that so many people loved her! Sophia learned to love people, and followed conversations with her eyes and laughter early on. In the following months, we opened our home to people who needed help; and whenever we needed to just “get out,” we just did. Difficulty: I admit, as a new mother, that I had to make a checklist of baby items I needed just to get out the door to church. I was always forgetting something. But we got out. Cultural and social experiences abound in the Chicago area, and we were accustomed to them—though it meant a lot of driving. After all, Sophia often slept in the car. But once awake, she was eager to look from one person to another as they spoke. And seemed to laugh a hearty laugh at appropriate times, sensing a joke just as quickly as all of us.

Sophia_pioneerlady

Adventures Begin!

At age 4 months she was laughing in the rain (2 whole days of downpour), wearing a makeshift poncho crafted from a tarp, at a campground in Wisconsin. By the time Sophia was four, she had seen both the Atlantic and the Pacific ocean more than once, lived in two places—moved from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest– and back, inhabited an Amish cabin in Montana and in a hotel in heavily populated Mexico city, visited volcanoes in Costa Rica, and a dance-a-long Nutcracker ballet in Chicago—just to name some highlights!
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