The Last Chautauqua

January 06, 2011 Bloggies by Steve Martin Edit

The shrieks and squeals are ear splitting. James and Emily are running wild through the San Francisco Airport while we wait to get on the plane. They've been this way all day. In fact they have been this way almost since we got to San Francisco. They know we are going home and after nine months on the road, all they want is to get the last bit of our journey completed. They are excited and impatient and they are starting to go just a little crazy with the waiting.

 

Our last few days have been spent on the coast in a city that is destined to become one of our favourites. San Francisco is beautiful. Like Sydney it has its harbour and like Sydney it has its iconic bridges spanning the bay. We walked the Golden Gate and we rode Cable Cars. We explored the City and Fisherman's Wharf. However I don’t feel like our hearts were really quite there with us. We all just want to get home. 

 

All James talks about is what he will do in Australia and what he’ll do at “Gran and Pop’s”. In fact what he’ll do to Gran and Pop!  My parents house in Sydney has become his aim in life.  Emily copies her big brother, unsure of just who Gran and Pop are, but equally determined.

Our time here is making me look back over our journey and remember all the places we have been. I’m having trouble remembering what order it came in. Where was that town? What did we do there? Who did we meet and what did we do? Europe feels like an age ago, the start of the USA leg feels like it was years rather than 2 months.

Our photos tell part of the story, but our computer orders the folders containing the pictures alphabetically. While it might have been novel to travel the world using the alphabet as a guide it looks just a little haphazard. Austria would have been our starting point and Vietnam the end. Second to last would be the Vatican just after the USA... I can’t even begin to imagine the logistics of travelling like that [although it would be a great TV series!].

In fact I’m so confused about where we have been and what we have done I have a rather skewed view of where home is. For the last nine months the closest thing we have had to a home base has been the cottage at La Lande d’Airou. For months when I think of home I have thought of going back there. I have thought of feeding the chooks and watering the gardens and having my daily chats with Vera. I became very fond of her.

Above all of our travels, and above all of the cities and towns and magnificent scenery, the cottage at La Lande d’Airou remains my favourite place and my favourite time. It comes down to how we operated as a family as much as the place.

No real TV, not a lot of toys for the kids, no internet connection, but plenty to do at both the house and in the surrounding towns. It was the sort of time spent together that I suspect few families get to experience these days. I’m luckier than many men who only get to see their kids for an hour at the beginning and end of the day. I have had the pleasure of watching my children grow 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the last 9 months. I feel like I am one of the luckiest men alive.

So as we sit in the departure lounge at SFO, and we let the children go berserk hoping they’ll run out of energy and sleep on the plane, I’m have no intention of trying to slow them down. Those passengers who look so annoyed now will thank us on the plane when both kids are sound asleep. Those passengers have no idea what we have done or how well we know our children by now.

Who would have thought when we first came up with this idea that we would actually make it? Who would have thought it was a good idea for two people, who had never travelled overseas as adults, to drag their infant children around the world? Who would have thought that you could make up a trip like this as you go along? 12 months ago I don’t think we actually believed we could do it, although we were determined to try.

Now it has worked. Now it is over. They are calling us for our flight and finally I have to rein the children in.

Nine months, fourteen countries, three continents.

 

*CHAUTAUQUA:

1. Merriam Webster: any of various traveling shows and local assemblies that flourished in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that provided popular education combined with entertainment in the form of lectures, concerts, and plays.

2. A kind of travelling tent-show which used to move across America featuring popular talks