I never would have thought that a big box store could be a source of comfort. But Little Dude and I took a trip to Ikea yesterday, and it felt like coming home.
Those clean Swedish lines, so yellow and blue, transport me across the miles and years. I walk in the door and am no longer in China. Each step takes me further back in time.
Suddenly we’re home in San Diego, buying a kitchen faucet for our new house, which Wifey and I are determined to install ourselves (with some help from YouTube). I take a step into the model bedrooms, and I’m once again brimming with joy and selecting baby goods for the tiny extra room in our Ocean Beach bungalow. Another foot forward, and Wifey and I are back in Brooklyn, furnishing our first apartment together.
Deeper into the store, and I’m 22 years old again. It’s a couple of months after NYU graduation, and my buddy Dan and I have driven to Long Island in the station wagon that I borrowed from my folks. We’re buying my first new bed, to replace the hand-me-down that I’m in turn handing down to Dan. He doesn’t quite believe me when I tell him how the slats tend to fall out at the most inopportune moments. And we have no idea how to affix the mattress to the roof of the car.
Back here in the future, we reach the check out line and exit the store. I stuff my big blue bag, full of the comforts of home, into the trunk of a Shenzhen taxi. As usual, it’s a struggle to explain to the driver where we’re headed. And I’m thinking, maybe globalization isn’t so bad after all.
Without a doubt, the opportunity to explore Asia as a family is the most rewarding thing about living here in China. Shenzhen is a perfect jumping off point for this part of the world, and in the almost six months that we’ve been here, we’ve covered a lot of ground and created priceless memories.
But that’s not to say that the going isn’t often tough. Traveling with a two year old can be rough, man. (Hell, just living with one is difficult.) I think back on those peaceful trips that Wifey and I took in the days before we needed a crib in our hotel room, and I’m not sure if what I actually miss most is sleeping, having sex, or being able to eat whatever and whenever I wanted.
Every time we hit a snag – or a toddler hissy fit – Wifey and I take turns reminding each other that we’ll only live once. And we also refer regularly to a quote that she dug up before we left San Diego, from the totally apropos Suitcases & Sippy Cups:
Let’s face it. Traveling with children is hard, sometimes really hard. Kids get sick on the airplane, or have a meltdown in customs, or stay up all night with jet lag. And that’s just the first 24 hours! But, we decided long ago that we wanted to experience all the world has to offer and we wanted to do it with our kids, making lifelong memories along the way. Sure, I can tell you “horror” stories of moments on trips that will go down in family lore. But, I can also list memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything. In fact, if you asked me to list my top ten memories of all time, they would all involve my kids and traveling. So, despite the difficulties we will keep saving our airline miles, making our itineraries, and making family memories.
I concur. Yes, I could write about delayed flights, hellish airport layovers, disastrous meals, and the inappropriate places that we’ve changed diapers (or more recently, the nasty spots where we set up our kid’s travel potty). But instead, I try to focus on the joy of watching my toddler slurp ramen at a noodle bar in Osaka, and the pride I feel when he asks, “Daddy-O, what’s that big Buddha [statue] doing?”
So, even as we desperately attempt to catch up on sleep after our last “vacation,” we find ourselves already working to plan the next one.