There is no question that I am the unadventurous sibling. I’ve mentioned my sister? The one who is living in Jerusalem for the year, with her two daughters, ages 5 and 3? Yes, that one. Apparently many boarding school teachers spend their sabbaticals reading books in a hammock at their lake house. Not so my brother-in-law and my sister. Instead they moved their small children halfway across the world to the Middle East. And whoa, am I proud of her.
On the other hand, I have lived in the same house for 11 years. A house that is a mile from where my children go to school and less than a mile from the house my sister and I were born in.
Hilary and I grew up in the same world; we are from the same terroir. In fact she’s the only person in the world who was by my side during those formative early years with me. It is she who was bundled under the seat in front of me (and my mother) on a transatlantic flight when we were 1 and 3. It is she who’s standing next to me in so many pictures across Europe, with Another Damn Cathedral (ADC) soaring behind us (you can see that I did not inherit my father’s photography skills: in the photo above we’re standing before the Dome of the Rock. But I chose a less-than-optimal spot for capturing the moment. Classic.).
Coming as we do from the same particular soil, one that was intense, challenging, and rich, Hilary and I have a great many things in common. I’ve always thought we look very much alike, a fact that I think is apparent in the photograph above (which redeems it, in my view, from its lack of excellence in the touristy-shot category).
But there are some big differences, and today it’s this one – the appetite for adventure and risk – that’s on my mind.
I’ve long believed that people are more a product of nature than nurture, so who knows how much of Hilary’s and my differences are innate and how much of them come about through our different reactions to the same circumstances. But regardless, I look at her and T, and think of the extraordinary experiences they are engraving n their daughters’ early memories, and I wonder why it is that I went so thoroughly the other way.
My father has long held that an international adventure is critical for proper family life. I know I’m a bit of a disappointment, at least on that dimension. It’s true that my own personal experience of our transatlantic childhood was not unequivocally positive. I would never do it differently, but for me the back-and-forth across the Atlantic rhythm had some difficult repercussions. But of course there were tremendous riches, too. And when I visit Hilary in Jerusalem, and witness all that they are exploring and learning, I recall only the horizon-expanding moments.
I’ll never know why it is that I responded in such an unadventurous way to my childhood. I regret it, in some ways, but in others I’m doing just what I said I’d do: stay put. What I find myself thinking now, in the aftermath of our life-changing trip, is of how I can introduce adventure, particularly of the international sort, into our life without fundamentally changing its structure. Whit’s godmother, one of my oldest friends, is moving to China this month. I am dreaming of a visit to Beijing. Stay tuned.
And Hilary, thank you, as always, for ever, for the continued inspiration you provide for me.
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