Thursday, June 29, 2017

More Family News

What with our youngest graduating from high school and going away to school, and becoming bona fide empty nesters, this is a summer of change. Another big change is that my daughter Brigid is moving to New Orleans! She's been in Richmond since graduating from the art school at VCU, teaching at a community art center and also working in a thrift store. Now she has sold her belongings and is moving down there on the train with two suitcases and a bicycle. She has a place to live - a shotgun house in Mid City, with a friend who needed another roommate - but she'll need to find a job.

I had concerns, but Brigid has used her previous semester abroad to shut them down.

Me: But, I think New Orleans has a lot of crime.
Brigid: Mom, I lived in Cape Town.
Me: But it's so hot!
Brigid: Mom, I lived in Africa.
Me: But it's a 24-hour train ride!
Brigid: Mom, it was an 18-hour flight to Cape Town

And if you'll bear with me for sharing past trauma once again, imagine, if you will, sending your daughter across the world by herself. You use an app to track her long flight down the length of the globe from Amsterdam to Cape Town and you know the moment she has landed. And then, imagine that your first contact with your daughter, shortly after landing, is a photo sent via Instagram, of a swollen and slightly bloody arm with the caption, "I threw up nearly 30 times and had to get an IV on the plane." And then RADIO SILENCE FOR HOURS.

I emailed the director of the study abroad program at University of Cape Town, and he responded to say that Brigid had arrived at the school safely, but was very unwell and they were taking her to the hospital. This was my worst fear - something I'd been obsessing over for months prior to departure - that Brigid would get sick in Cape Town and need to be hospitalized. And now, on the very first day, my worst fear was realized!

Slowly, via email, the full story came out. Brigid had gotten ill on the flight. It was one of those situations where the flight crew have to ask if there is a doctor on the plane. There was a passenger who happened to be a pediatrician and he started an IV on Brigid. (I don't know his identity, but I thank him from the bottom of my heart.) I learned that planes are stocked with IV fluids but the crew isn't trained to administer them, so they have to rely on passenger help. After spending a day in a Cape Town ER, getting more IV fluids, Brigid recovered. Incidentally, I had been worried about the cost of healthcare, although we had purchased a travel health insurance plan. In the end, a day in the ER with IV fluids and nursing care cost about $110. Brigid was able to pay for the visit with cash. When I traveled to Cape Town myself, to visit, I packed my suitcase with a veritable pharmacy of anti-nausea meds for Brigid's flight home.

So the point of telling you all this is that compared to Cape Town (and her other solo trip overseas, to work in Switzerland for a summer) the move to NOLA isn't nearly as scary. I'm quite excited for her, actually. And now, New Orleans has moved up the travel bucket list, from "a place I'd like to visit someday" to "must visit ASAP."

The whole family. The extra boy in the middle is Grace's boyfriend.

On Sunday, we all went to Richmond for a good-bye gathering. It's uncommon for all six of us to be together and we had a really lovely evening. We hung out at Brigid's house, where she and her roommate were finishing up their yard sale and then we went out for dinner and walked to the Oregon Hill overlook to take pictures.


  1. I haven't been to New Orleans in over 20 years but I loved it. I'd move there in a second if it weren't so humid.

    You think when kids are little and close by that there is so much to worry about, and then they grow up and the worry doesn't stop when they're far away. Both of mine are traveling in different countries so I'm dividing but not conquering my fears.

  2. I always have to practice the "out of sight, out of mind" thing or I would go CRAZY worrying about the far-flung older kids.

  3. I absolutely love this shot of your family.

    New Orleans is one of my favorite places on this earth. I spent oodles of time there in college and flirted with the idea of moving there several times - (I told Jon all about it at market one morning recently when he told me the news) - in fact, right before we moved here, we turned down an offer to move to New Orleans and came to Charlottesville instead. It's a beautiful, beautiful city. I have no doubt she'll love it and thrive there. And get yourself down for a visit! Just not in summer - the mugginess is almost unbearable. And avoid Mardi Gras - loads of drunk tourists, particularly college kids. Jazzfest is a great time though.

  4. My dad and stepmom live in New Orleans part of the year (generally in winter) and my best friend is there as well. If she needs any local help I'm happy to scare one of them up for you.

  5. That is such a great family photo!

    Those are big changes. I hope you are able to go to Nawleans for a fun visit! I do better at not worrying about my kids who aren't living at home anymore if I at least get to see where they are living. But they (the older two) live in a city that is only 2 hours' drive away, so it's not the same as having a kid living in a different country like Louisiana.

    1. Ha ha! NOLA does seem to be like its own country.

  6. What a fun place to move! I mean, the humidity is wretched, but so much history, food and culture! Good for her to take the adventure!