My older daughter was then 3 years old when my Dziadek passed away from a heart attack. I was pregnant with my second daughter and was just out of my first trimester. It was time to visit Poland and take her on her first trip to the place her mother always talked about.
Time to visit my birth country.
And time to bury a family member.
My husband had to work and couldn't take a vacation. Also, because we were buying tickets last minute, along with having to file for her first passport ever, we were in a time crunch and had to pay an exorbitant amount for our tickets and expedite the passport.
For her passport, I braided her hair into two plaits, which she proclaimed made her look like a "little Polish girl" as she smiled in the mirror and looked at her reflection. This was not the first time I had styled her hair this way.
At the post office, she was so proud strolling in to be getting a passport, that she announced to everyone present "My mommy's Dziadek died so I need a passport please so we can go to POLAND!" She stayed perfectly still as the woman took her photo. The first photo, she looked last second in my direction, pride on her face and my heart burst. The woman gave me the photo to keep since "her expression was so precious" but had to be looking straight ahead for the passport.
When we left the post office, every employee at the front desk had by then heard her story and was waving goodbye to us and wishing her luck. She waved goodbye to everyone and skipped to the car, holding my hand.
This moment was precious and I needed it as I was mourning the loss of my Dziadek.
I went through my maternity clothes and saw yellows, flowers, pinks and decidedly not-for-a-funeral clothing. This also required a trip to the maternity store to snatch up whatever blacks I could find.
Can I say I do not wear black? Others can wear it. But I have learned something about myself as I have gotten older. I don't look quite "right" in black. Maybe it's the color against my medium blonde hair. Maybe it's the fact that I don't exactly ooze black clad martini sipping designer handbag socialite but instead seem more natural in "bohemian peasant" style clothing. Maybe it's because I don't style my hair. It is straight and if you try to do anything with it, it doesn't seem to want to cooperate. So, I keep it clean, brushed and parted straight. So, black does not go well with my "aura", if you will.
But for a funeral, what do you wear? Black, of course.
This was June and the only clothing on the racks were for overheated pregnant moms who were sweating even in air conditioning in June. In Poland, the week I went? It was cold.
After spending money for funeral appropriate maternity clothing, we had to pack my daughter's bag. Her obsession at the time was Disney Princess t-shirts, the color purple and bright sparkles. Again, not funeral attire. In Poland, and I would imagine in the US as well, you especially do not wear purple to a funeral.
Of course, children her age are exempt from having to wear black head to toe. But still. Sparkles and Princesses don't fly. Another trip to the store and we bought her a navy blue skirt, 2 pair of Capri chinos in black and brown, 4 peasant style shirts in brown, navy blue, black and white, a red button coat which screamed "adorable girl from Europe", black Maryjane's to match Mama, and a navy blue long sleeve shirt. Just in case. Thank goodness I thought of the just in case.
Toys were purchased for my cousin's children which I couldn't wait to give to them. My daughter kept pulling them out and staring at the Sleeping Beauty doll asking about her cousins' names and any details I could give them. She couldn't wait to meet them.
The trip total cost us over $3,000 for the two of us with all expenses.
I started panicking between all the rushed planning that I had not taught my daughter Polish. She knew a few safety words in Polish and how to express love and affection and a song. How was this going to work? How was she going to play with my cousin's children?
In the meantime, my daughter was telling everyone she saw, even strangers, that she was going to visit "the country my Mommy is from! POLAND!" with such squeaks of joy, I couldn't understand it.
I stressed that there would be no macaroni and cheese, no chicken nuggets and french fries, nothing she was used to on a daily basis. And that she would eat whatever people gave her because it would be rude otherwise. Eye widened at this information, she would nod and say "Yes, Mommy."
In my stomach, butterflies were turning while the baby was beginning her first signs of movement inside me.
A teddy bear book bag with leash was purchased. I received strange and often disapproving looks as we carried it to the register and purchased it. Look, stare, and judge however people wanted to, I was going to be a pregnant Mama on my own with my child travelling from Washington, D.C.'s Dulles airport to Munich, Germany to Wroclaw, Poland. To bury my Dziadek.
It turned out, there was nothing to worry about....
To be continued...
Related Articles: My Older Daughter's First Trip to Poland, Our Departure