By Anya Schiffrin
The opinions expressed are her own.
I love my parents. I love traveling in India. I am dreading taking my parents to India in November. It turns out that everyone who has traveled with her parents has a horror story. Financial Times US editor Gillian Tett’s parents came to rescue her once from the Sindhi desert when she was 17 and then later in Tajikistan when she was doing her field work. Of course she refused to budge. The intrepid anthropologist-turned-journalist gave me some mysterious advice. “Bring lots of ziploc bags and a clean knife.”
My friend Kent recalls bringing his father hiking in Queensland last summer. Worried about deep vein thrombosis his Dad wore those special socks that restrict circulation. The only problem was he wore the black knee-length socks every day he was in Australia. With shorts.
Why am I dreading this trip-of-a-lifetime and the chance to show my parents one of the greatest countries on earth? For starters my mother is a tremendous coward. As children, we took the ocean liners to Europe every summer to visit my grandmother because my mother was too scared to fly. In the early sixties, the SS France was cheaper than the plane so we were regulars on the New York-Le Havre route. We kids were scared of the strict French nannies in the playroom so we spent the days wrapped in blankets on the deck chairs, reading books in the ocean breeze and stopping for 11am cups of bouillon. The SS France went out of business and so it was the QEII until that was taken off to fight in the Falklands War.
For a while we ate the pasta on the SS Da Vinci and SS Michaelangelo of the Italian line and then I got old enough to fly off on vacations by myself (mostly to go backpacking around India). My mother still took boats even when the only choices left were the Russian ones, the SS Pushkin and the Lermentov, which, in a nod to the Soviet system, didn’t have classes but had categories.
For domestic trips, my mom took the train. Visiting our cousins in Mexico she took the train for five days while we flew down and met her in Mexico City. The one time she came to visit me at Reed College she made a three day journey by train. My mother, born in Spain and raised in England, had rarely left New York and this was her first cross country trip. “I had no idea that Americans hate New York so much,” she said upon arrival in Portland, Oregon.