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A lesson from the Visitation
May 9th, 2011
By Ginny Kubitz Moyer

Over the last ten years, airplane travel has become a serious pain. There are the security lines, where you hop around on stocking feet while retrieving your shoes from a bumper-car pileup of bins. Instead of an actual in-flight meal, you now pay $5.99 for a box of snack food. And the chances of spreading out into an empty seat? Those days are long gone.

And for me, something else has happened in the past few years to make flying even more challenging. I had kids.

Flying with small children is its own kind of penance. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago, when my family and I flew cross-country to Florida to visit my husband’s parents. We had two of everything: two little boys, two suitcases, two backpacks, two bulky car seats, a double stroller. It was Noah’s Ark, airplane-style. The logistics of hauling all of this gear into and out of two airports and one rental car shuttle was complicated, to say the least. Add the epic challenge of keeping two cranky kids contained during a six-hour flight, and I arrived back home feeling like an excellent candidate for canonization.

But though it is tempting to let the headaches of travel tip the balance in favor of staying home, I’m fighting that feeing. I want my children to see their grandparents, and vice-versa. I want to see them myself. And it’s that end-of-journey prize that makes it all worth it.

In my book "Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God," one chapter focuses on the Visitation, an event that has inspired numerous artists over the centuries. These paintings invariably show Mary and Elizabeth at the point of meeting, embracing each other lovingly on the threshold of Elizabeth’s home. They almost never show Mary on the journey itself as she travels over rocky, hilly terrain. It’s not that the trip is unimportant, just that it pales in comparison to the arrival itself. The point of communion, of two cousins being present for each other’s miraculous pregnancies, is the vivid image upon which our minds and imaginations rest. In the end, the joy of family trumps the hassles of travel. “The Visitation proves that even the most difficult journey is worth it,” I wrote in that chapter, and I still believe that today.

Because the challenges Mary had to face on that trip recede from view once she reaches out for the cousin who reaches out for her. And the aches and pains of our own long flight, tempting though it is to kvetch about them, are not what I will ultimately remember about that week in Florida. I’ll remember Luke in his orange life vest, splashing in the swimming pool with Grandma Joan. I’ll remember Matthew on the patio, chomping Goldfish crackers with Grandpa Bob. I’ll remember my in-laws’ gratitude at our willingness to come all that way, and I’ll remember how good it felt to arrive and be welcomed, Visitation-style, with joyful greetings and wide-open arms.


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