As I was making dinner yesterday, I overhead the news anchor state, “Richard Reeves dies at 83.” I took a deep sigh. My husband asked, “Who was Richard Reeves?” I responded, “He wrote Family Travels. You know the author of that book that I so love much.”
However, that book really wasn’t reflective of his talent and career. Richard Reeves was a veteran political reporter, columnist, and author who chronicled the nation’s history and politics with poignant prose for more than half a century. He wrote about presidents, politics, and current affairs. I respected his conversational writing style that was combined with insightful analysis and facts.
But it was his book Family Travels that captured my imagination. Looking back, I bought the book in 1997, the year it was published, after returning from Europe. Ironically, in August of 1997, I embarked on what I considered my first family travel adventure. My son, Jonathan, was 13. My daughter, Katherine, was 10. We joined my friend and her son on a trip that took us to London, Paris, and Quimper in the Brittany region of France.
Since my first trip to Germany in 1975 on a school trip, I had not had the opportunity to travel overseas. Much to my disappointment as a French and International Communications major, my life went sideways in my twenties and thirties. I longed to return to my lifelong desire to travel, to expose my children to the world. During those two decades, I tried to bring the world to them by taking them to ethnic restaurants, museums, reading to them in French, expanding our circle of friends to people from around the world. I did what I could to bring the world to us since we were not able to travel.
My friend’s invitation to join her and her son for a week in London, turned into the longest vacation I have had to date. One week turned into nineteen glorious days of exploration. My kids and I wandered the streets of London, road on a double decker bus, visited museums, shopped in Harrods, went to the theater. We stayed with my friend in her time-share flat in Sloan Square. As an annual visitor to London, and mom of three, she was the perfect tour guide for us. She knew the rhythm that makes traveling with kids easy. No pressure, just wandering, seeing sites, easy meals, and plenty of down time in places like Hyde Park.
Our days in London, opened to a weekend stay just outside of the city staying with a family we had come to know through soccer. We had hosted kids at our home at that time in St. Paul, Minnesota for the USA Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament, and had come to know a couple families. They invited us to their home for a weekend. It showed my kids and myself what everyday life was like in an outer suburb of London.
But our trip didn’t end there, serendipitously a friend of mine from college was going to be in Paris, then Quimper following our stay in London. I had translated slides and a presentation for him into French nearly 20 years prior. He said, “Come to Paris, spend a couple days then travel with me to Quimper where we can stay at the family farmhouse where I stayed as a foreign exchange student in college and attend the wedding of one of one of the family members.”
Without thinking twice, I decided why not. Why not, after twenty years, why not see Paris for the first time, after all I majored in French and had never been to France. So, Paris and Quimper it was.
For my kids the trip was vignettes of stories they would tell family and friends for years to come. It laid the foundation for who they are as adults today, people who love and have a deep respect for cultures, people, food, and adventure.
For me the trip opened something inside that I had locked away. It opened that passion I had possessed since my teens, the passion for travel.
And as I read Richard Reeves book, Family Travels, after we returned, I longed to write my adventures, tell my stories. So here we are today in March of 2020 as I begin my travel writing avocation, I pay tribute to the memory of Richard Reeves who wrote from his heart with humor and insight.