My parents have never taken kindly to my travels. When I say “parents,” I mean my mom. My dad only cares that I’m financially secure. “Yes, Dad, I can afford this impromptu trip to Amsterdam, but I won’t decline your $20 for gas money.”
My parents’ apprehension does not surprise me. Until this year, they hadn’t been on a plane in 30 years or ever been abroad. On the other hand, I had talked of distant lands since third grade, so I don’t know why anyone was surprised when I hopped off to Denmark three years ago…and then Amsterdam…and then Qatar, Germany, Costa Rica, Italy, Portugal, Spain, etc.
After Italy, I stopped being so forthcoming. My mom had a hysterical fit the night I called her and announced I would be going to Italy in nine months. “How? What? By yourself? How dare you!”
Admittedly, her largest anxiety stems from my solitude on these journeys. Who will I be with if I get in trouble? Apparently, she finds it more comforting that I experience hypothetical international terrorist attacks in the company of friends rather than just on my own abroad.
When I went to Costa Rica, my mom guessed I was going after she met my friend who was living there.
“Are you going to visit her?” she asked.
“Actually, I’m going in May,” I replied.
I disclosed Germany in a similar vein.
“Are you coming home for spring break?” she asked.
“Actually… I should probably tell you…”
Then there was the time I booked a trip to Cuba. I absolutely could not and would not tell my mom I was headed to Havana. Though she never knew to be thankful, she should’ve been thankful when the trip got canceled by the airline. In the trip’s stead, I found a flight to San Diego. I had never been to California. California is domestic. A classmate accompanied me. I should have told her. I didn’t.
I remember she called me while I stood on the sandy shores of La Jolla smelling the reek of sea lions. “She knows I’m here,” I panicked to my friend.
“How’s it going?” my mom inquired when I picked up.
“Good,” I said. “I have a busy weekend ahead. I’ll be doing a lot of school work.”
Less than a month later, I bought a ticket to France for spring break. For four months, I knew about this trip. I planned everything down to the train ride from Paris to Nice. Five days before the flight, I found myself at lunch with my parents.
“Your brother is coming home next weekend,” my mom said over her club BLT. “Why don’t you come home with him?”
“Well, I’m going…to France. I’m visiting Meredith.”
My best friend Meredith lives in Belgium. She may be my one elixir. My parents love Meredith.
“You’re going to see Meredith?” my mom said. “When did you decide that?”
“In November.” Just kidding. I couldn’t be that honest. “A few weeks ago,” I lied. “There was a flight deal.” I thought I should downplay how long this white lie existed.
“Do you need any money?” my dad asked.
Truly a few weeks later, while home for Easter, a friend invited me to Montreal. Montreal had always been on my bucket list, but never a priority. I clicked purchase while holed up in my childhood bedroom with my mom seated some 20 feet away in her office. Six days later, I flew up to Quebec, my mom never the wiser. I purposefully did not turn on my cell phone data while there so Verizon couldn’t out me.
My parents learned of my trip shortly after when my dad’s coworkers saw my Facebook photo album. My parents aren’t active on Facebook, or at least my mom doesn’t understand how Facebook works. My dad’s coworkers are. Lesson learned.
Thankfully, my parents confused this trip to Canada with a future trip to Canada I had told them about, so I played into their confusion and said, “Yeah! And I get to go back to Vancouver in August.”
By a turn of events, I never made it to France. A snowstorm in Ireland canceled the trip. With a full reimbursement sitting in my bank account, I decided to revisit that trip to Cuba. This was still and always is a trip I could never tell my mom of. Visiting the communists? Is there anything more dangerous? Perhaps having dinner with Nancy Pelosi?
I blocked every extended relative and friend when I dropped my photos on social media. I am most regretful I can’t use some of those photos for a new profile picture because someone would surely comment, “Where was this taken?” and instead of saying, “Old Havana,” I’d be forced to say, “In Costa Rica. Last year. Duh!”
The crux of this story happened last week when my mom learned of my most recent trip abroad. I think my mom had begun to pick up on my lying ways (duh, she has; she’s my mom) because a month prior, while I resolved a quarter-life crisis, she suggested I go to Disneyworld.
“Wait,” I interrupted her. “How do you know?!”
“Know what, Cazey?”
“I’m going to Disneyworld tomorrow. To see James!”
“You’re what?” she said.
“How did you know?!”
“It’s a figure of speech!”
“Cazey,” she leveled with me. “I want you to tell me when you’re traveling. Don’t hide it from me.”
“I’m not, I mean, I’m not trying to. I will tell you. I didn’t think of the Disneyworld thing. It just happened.” In actuality, I booked the trip in June. “Anyway, I’m visiting James.”
At the forefront of this conversation in my mind was my upcoming trip to St. Martin. I left three weeks after I returned from Disneyworld. Should I tell her now? I feel like I’d already shell-shocked her that I’d be in Orlando tomorrow. I’d tell her later.
I never told her.
On the sandy beach of St. Martin, on our first day there, I phoned my mom and told her I was in Philadelphia visiting some friends. “I’ll be back in Richmond Wednesday,” I said.
I had turned on cellular data while in St. Martin because we couldn’t find our Airbnb and I needed Google Maps to work. I never turned it off. Our trip happened to straddle the end of September and beginning of October.
A week after returning, alive and body intact, my mom texted: “I have a charge for international data in Guadeloupe ?”
My eyes bulged. I ignored the text. Apparently, Guadeloupe is the cellular data hub for the West Indies because I hadn’t been in Guadeloupe. I considered saying, “No idea, haven’t been there.” Which would be technically truthful…
Five minutes later, my phone rang. It was my mom.
I ignored the call. I texted, “In a meeting, sorry.”
As I predicted (though anxiety pounded through my veins), my mom forgot the charge. Except the charge would reappear next month on the October bill. FML.
Actually, my prediction wasn’t entirely true. Two weeks later, she brought it up again. “Do u know about Guadeloupe intl data charge?” she sent.
“Pay it. I’ll explain this weekend. I have strep throat so I can’t talk on the phone.”
“Go to the dr. Get some ibuprofen.”
Maybe she’d forget before I saw her that weekend? A friend suggested I blame a friend who was abroad and called collect. “I accepted the international charges, I’m so sorry,” I acted this scenario in my head.
For several months before this, my mom had complained that I seemed more distant than usual. I called home less. I seemed more irritable. I had rightfully attributed this to a breakup I did not want to discuss (which did not stop my mom from trying to discuss it) and also secretly to all my hidden trips. What is there to talk about with my parents if I’m not willing to be transparent about my love life and international travels? Who wants to hear about my dissertation? Not me!
On a walk around the block, my mom broached my secrecy. “I feel like you’re hiding something from me. You’ve been so withdrawn lately. You know you can tell me anything, and your dad and I will still love you.”
“Actually,” I began, “I got a girl pregnant.”
“WHAT! For how long? Seriously?”
“Gosh, no! I’m joking!”
“Are you sure? You know we’ll support you…”
“Mom, no, I’m joking! No one’s pregnant.”
“But you’ve been so…”
“I told you, Mom, I’ve just been working on my dissertation, and I did have a breakup, and I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Well, don’t hide from me when you go out of the country.”
There it was! The dagger in the cloak!
I cackled. “I was going to tell you, it just came up so fast, and then it was too late to tell you. I was leaving the next day…and then I was there.”
“I don’t want you to hide things like that from me.”
“Okay, I’ll try better.” I paused. “And just so you know, I was there for three days so you’re going to see two more charges on the bill next month.”
My mom almost rolled her eyes. “You know when I first saw the charge, I thought it was mistake,” she replied. “And then I thought, maybe my son did go to South America and didn’t tell me.”
You guessed right, Mom. You guessed right. So last week I told my mom I’m going to Belgium for Christmas.
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