Far, far away…
by Debbie Carini
The first time my father left his home state of New Jersey to travel outside the New York metro area was courtesy of the United States government. In 1958, Uncle Sam was shipping him to Aberdeen, Maryland.
He was then transported to Fort Polk in Shreveport, Louisiana (on a train that was stopped a short distance into the journey south so that passengers could segregate—despite the fact that the US Supreme Court outlawed segregation in interstate transportation in 1946); and finally to Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, where he would serve his country in the US Army.
The first time my mother went any great distance from her native Garden State, I was there, too. It was 1959, and we were flying in a piston-engine prop plane to the Lone Star State to be with my dad. I was only six months old but lucky for me, and unfortunately for the hapless viewers who would later sit through them, my mom took 8 mm home movies for most of the ride. When I watch them now, I think she must have been awestruck by the sensation of being up in the clouds.
When I was eight years old, my parents moved from New Jersey to California. It might as well have been a galaxy, far, far away to the friends and family we were leaving behind. Air travel was still the domain of the upper middle class: men wore suits and hats, and women donned stockings and high heels to fly. The democratization of air travel, ushered in by PEOPLExpress’ low fares in the early 1980s, was still a few years off.
I distinctly remember my Aunt Rosemarie, crying and clinging to the open window as we shoved off on our adventure in 1967. We were like the Pilgrims leaving Plymouth, England—and not just because we were driving a Plymouth. With plane tickets and even phone calls at a premium, who knew when we would hear from or see her or the other folks we were leaving behind ever again?
I’ve been revisiting those long-ago memories because my son will soon be embarking on a journey that is matter-of-course now, but still feels epic to me:?a trip to Shanghai, China to study abroad for a semester. A commonplace phrase of futility from my childhood involved “digging” one’s way to China (a feat that could actually only be accomplished in the Americas from Argentina). China was a closed society for most of my childhood. My only connection to China was the Bing Crosby-Bob Hope 1962 feature, The Road to Hong Kong.
My children have had passports since they were young enough not to have any other form of ID and they have trekked to Scotland, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Israel and even to the site of another Crosby-Hope classic, Morocco. My daughter studied abroad in Italy.
When my son is in China, he will be 6,500 miles (10,500 kilometers) away. But when we want to hear his voice, we won’t have to grab every extension in the house, as we did in 1968 when Grandma Edna called long distance to see how we were faring. Through WeChat and other apps, we’ll not only hear our son, but see his face and surroundings. I’m looking forward to this next adventure—I only wish we could taste everything, too!