In August of ’08 as the Olympic Games were closing, my nephew embarked for Beijing on the adventure of his life. He was offered a teaching position by night and an international business opportunity by day. We didn’t know how long he would be away and my thoughts turned to remembering the life of an expat when I was even younger than he.
He has to have something of home, I thought. So I combed through all our photo albums and began to assemble a suitable scrapbook for him to take and have with him. It couldn’t be large as he could only take x number of kilos. I decided on a brown scrapbook, suede in texture, measuring about 10 x 8 inches. Just the right size to place in the bottom of his suitcase.
He was the first grandchild, the first grandson of my parents, my first nephew, the first child among my siblings. I remembered how excited we were when he was born in April back in the 80′s. I found pictures of him as an infant, toddler, good times at the lake, Christmas reunions and graduation.
We gathered at my brother’s home in August of ’08 to send him off. The family enjoyed going through the pages of the scrapbook and remembering. And then as things happen in families, there was a concern as to whether he could take it as his luggage would be limited. I had thought about that, but surely I thought, if I know my nephew, he will find a place to pack it.
“I have a gift for you,” I told him. We sat down together as he turned the pages, lingering on some longer than others. The last page listed all of us and our birthdays. “I’m not sure you have a memory for all these dates, so I included them on this last page.” “You’re right Aunt ‘gette, I’m not sure I would remember all these,” he laughed.
“Perhaps I should have asked you before working on it, if you would have room for this,” I apologized.
He grinned back at me and assured me, “This is going to China.”
He returned to the States in 2010 after two years. He told me how much he and visitors to his apartment enjoyed the book on his coffee table. “You know people always reach for it when they sit down,” he told me. And in a letter he wrote, “This album was a unique item which allowed people who regarded me as a foreigner in their land to see me as something more than a just a concept. In other words, prior to them perusing the album, I was an object to them and this allowed them to quickly realize I was a person who had a history and a family.”
This August, he will be getting married in Germany. Amazingly, the love of his life and he kept up during the China years. They are high school sweethearts and they are getting married this summer. It’s his birthday this month, and I wish him through this post another amazing year.
What would you pack if you were going to the other end of the world?
Sherry, at Travel Spirit, commented below and just posted “What’s in my backpack” as she prepares to leave for Africa at the end of the month. Look what she has packed.