I’m driving my daughter to LAX, bound for Oaxaca, Mexico. She’s 19, taking a semester off from college to catch her breath, get off the beaten path, volunteer on an organic farm, and dig deeper for something she cannot find in her textbooks.
When she was 15-years-old, the year my estranged mother died, a grandmother she’d never known, I took her to Mexico to meet the land that held my heart and housed my soul. The place I’d once called home, and returned to alone ten years before after her father and I divorced, where I found solace in the moon.
What she also knows: I lived in Mexico when I was 22, studied Spanish for two months in a language school, traveled around the country for a month by bus and train, roamed the ruins in the Yucatan, slept in a hammock on Isla Mujeres, meandered through the mercado in Oaxaca, ran out of money in Mazatlan, took a long bus ride to the border and home, then turned around and went back for three more months. It was one of the most transformative times in my life.
And still, “Are you nervous?” I ask, willing myself to keep the worries out of my voice. “About what?” she inquires. “Traveling alone for the first time,” I reply, “living in Mexico for the next four months?” “What do you mean?” she says, “In our family it’s normal.” Oh dear.
A month later an email arrives: “Leaving tonight for Guatemala and Belize by bus for two weeks with two friends, then flying back to Mexico alone, staying the night in El Salvador…”
My heart stops there. I hear her words. “In our family it’s normal.” What’s a mother to do?
Two weeks later I write: “Life is astonishing sometimes, so full of wonder, like tonight. The moon is so big and bright, and I know you can see it too…She watches over you.”
A few days later she writes: “I'm back safe and sound in Oaxaca. I left San Salvador this morning, flew to Mexico City, took a bus to Puebla then another to Oaxaca … Thank you for introducing me to this beautiful country.”
And I give thanks to my mother, the moon.