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For the Record: Did Christopher Columbus have a phone card?

by Sheila Gardner

The women in my family like to think we put the “pro” in “procrastinate.”

When it comes to putting things off, we are world class. Our babies – when we get around to having them – are way overdue; our life expectancies are off the charts.

Therefore, it’s with a bittersweet mixture of motherly pride and longing that I share random glimpses of my daughter Kate as she prepared this past week for a 10-month stay in Spain for her junior year in college.

It proves, dear reader, that the acorn does not fall far from the tree.

– Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Gardnerville. We are leaving for Reno in 90 minutes for Kate’s flight back to Portland from where she will embark for Spain. I swear the first sock has yet to hit the suitcase.

The night before, she told me to wake her at 9 a.m. so she could work out at the gym one last time. “Fine,” I said.

Some mothers might suggest, “Wait a minute, you’re going to Spain. Don’t you think you should start packing?”

Not me. I put on another pot of coffee and spent precious moments pondering such mysteries as whether Spain has electricity after thousands of years of civilization or if Queen Isabella equipped Christopher Columbus with a phone card before he set sail for the New World.

“The longer I wait, the less I’ll take” was the day’s mantra. Finally, even I had to nudge a little. “Don’t you think you ought to get started?” I asked.

– Wednesday, 11 a.m., Gardnerville. As long as I am going to Portland to see her off, I agree to schlepp another suitcase full of clothing and miscellaneous items to exchange with similar clothing and items she has decided not to take.

– Wednesday, 8 p.m., Portland, Howard Johnson’s. We are staying near the airport because she is to check in two hours before her 7:45 a.m. flight. Not even seasoned procrastinators like us dare to fool around with international airplane schedules. She bids farewell to her school friends and we are left with precious few hours to sleep before the 4 a.m. wake-up call.

– Portland, midnight. “Move over,” she says as she crawls into bed with me.

“Are you nervous?” I ask.

“Yes.”

“Me, too.”

“What would you like to talk about?”

“Tell me about the day I was born.”

“Well,” I begin, “You were two days late …”

– Thursday, 4 a.m. The wakeup call is startling. I must admit I am not eager to begin this day that will end with us worlds apart. We race around getting ready for the 5 a.m. shuttle, foregoing such conveniences as hairdryers and mouth wash.

– Thursday, 5:15 a.m., Portland International Airport. This is a busy place for such an ungodly hour. We are tired and anxious.

All morning, I have been wracking my brain for a “good” good-bye. What can I say that would comfort and carry her (and me) over these next few months so far from home?

She beats me to it. “My hair’s wet and I have bad breath,” she says. “I am going to Spain with wet hair and bad breath. I can’t believe it.”

It’s time to board. We laugh about hugging because she is so loaded down with carry-ons. I tell myself I won’t cry if she doesn’t turn around. She turns around twice to wave, losing her place in line. That’s my girl.

– Thursday, 1-5 p.m. Gardnerville/4-8 p.m. Newark. She calls me three times (thank you, R-C WATS line) to keep me updated on her layover. Finally, it’s time to head out over the ocean, in the dark. I tell her to leave the phone off the hook so I can hear the final boarding call.

n Friday, 8 a.m. Gardnerville; 5 p.m. Malaga, Spain. “Hi, mom, I made it. I can’t figure out the lights in my room. I think I gave the taxi driver too much money. I’m taller than everybody. I miss you.”

(Sheila Gardner is editor of The Record-Courier.)