I have a great excuse for being incommunicado:
The twins and I in front of of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
I accompanied their Latin class on a tour of Italy in early June. Wow -- or, rather, "Mamma Mia!!" You can imagine the challenges that arise herding over 40 7th and 8th graders through things like customs and foreign public transportation, but they did very well. I fell in love with Italy, and hope to go back one day with Ray.
Abbie was always in my heart, wherever each day happened to find us. One day early in the tour we traveled to Siena, within whose walls development stopped in the 1500s. Visiting the cathedral there was one of the highlights of the entire trip for me. It is stunning, and humbling to realize it was constructed in the 1300s.
As our time in the cathedral was coming to a close I caught a glimpse of another class mom and her daughter kneeling in prayer. I waited until they were done, and then asked whether I, as a non-Catholic, could also light a candle and pray. When they said "yes", I almost started to cry. I found my way to the rows of candles and chose one for Abbie. I could barely see to light it, so once I accomplished that I quickly went to kneeling and closed my eyes. I wept in a place that I know many mothers long ago also wept and begged, as the bubonic plague ravaged Siena.
As peace finally descended, I opened my eyes to find that I was kneeling before an enormous painting depicting the Bible story of the woman who needed healing reaching out to grasp the hem of Christ's robe. I felt again the warm laughter of God, reminding me that He knows....He knows.
That afternoon, in Florence, another mom, Caroline and I hiked to the top of the dome of the cathedral. Stunned by the view, I was feeling very far away from home. Caroline and I chatted briefly, and for some reason we said the words "Outrigger Club". Just then, from behind us, a couple asked "Are you from Hawaii??"
The woman looked at me and said, "You look so familiar! Do you have soccer players?"
"No," I answered. "I have a football player, a wrestler, and a water polo player...and general rascals, but no soccer stars.'
She looked stumped, so for some reason I said, "Hawaii Kai Church?"
Her face lit up and she said, "Yes! You are Abbie's mom!!"
I caught my breath. Twelve time zones away from my girl, I was "Abbie's mom". What a privilege.
We chatted for a while, and then as we walked away, Caroline said, "You've gotta tell Abbie that she has a fan club all over the world."
Towards the end of our journey, we visited a church in Rome called "St. Peter in Chains." Compared the the elaborate cathedrals and enormous structures found elsewhere, this church is relatively simple. Our tour guides explained the name of the church before we went in. Apparently, sometime during the 1300s there were two sets of chains inside the church. One night, somehow the chains became linked. No one could explain or understand how this had happened.
The set of chains is on display at the front of the sanctuary. The boys and I approached, paid 1 Euro for a candle to continue our "Candles Across Italy" tradition begun in Siena, and then turned toward the chains. I heard so insistently, "I am the Lord. I knit together what man cannot understand. I am the Lord. I knit together what man cannot." I froze. I pictured Abbie's brain, and prayed with thanksgiving to the Lord who knits together what I will never comprehend. This moment was so overwhelming that I can barely type about it now.
The longest leg of our return flight was from Frankfurt to San Francisco. Our group was spread out throughout the plane, and I was almost at the back. As I approached, and spotted my row-mates, the thought, "no, no, no" screamed through my brain. My seat was on the aisle. Next to that sat a young boy. Next to him was his father, holding a toddler. In front of him was the mother, sitting next to a young girl. This was going to be a nightmare!!
They were the sweetest family from Finland, with the most well-behaved children. Lauri, the five-year-old boy next to me colored, ate a few sweets, and spoke rarely and quietly. Elin, the 18-month-old girl slept for 4 hours and then became my buddy. After she would press the buttons on the armrest we would both say "Yay!". A very non-Finnish thing to say, laughed her father, Matti.
As we talked about the blessings of children, Abbie came up. When Matti found out how Abbie had been injured, he became very interested, remarking that his father is a neurologist/neuroscientist in Finland. He has mostly studied Soviet/Eastern European research, which I think is terrific. For all the evils of Communism, those Soviet scientists were able to get funding for the wackiest studies - which often turned out not to be wacky at all. He asked permission to share Abbie's story with his father, just in case he would have any insight. He also asked me to tell Abbie that a family in Finland would be thinking of and rooting for her. Yes, she really does have a fan club all over the world. Abbie grinned when she heard this.
Our girl looked fantastic when I arrived home. I owe so much to Ray, Genevieve, Alicia, Rae, and Madeleine for making it possible for me to go so far away for so long. I think Abbie relished extra time with her Daddy, and I can tell that it meant a lot to him, too.
Now, it is back to work, and back to rehab from the surgery. But, we did bring some Italia home with us. Abbie defines the phrase on the T-shirt I brought her from Venice. "Ciao Bella" has never been more appropriate! We also went to the library on Thursday and checked out a bunch of books from Italy so she could learn about where we went. She soaked up a selection about Pompeii, and is enjoying music by Andrea Boccelli. I pray that one day Abbie and I will kneel together in Siena's cathedral, and offer a few bars of our unending song of thanks and praise.