Children of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley look out over Rome Italy

Brave or Stupid

I noticed the woman behind me gazing at my kids.  Her own children, probably college kids, stood next to her, immersed in their own worlds.  She caught Claire’s eye.  “Are you excited to go to Rome?” she asked.

“Yes!” Claire said.  “My mom says it’s going to take 9 hours to get there.  And when we get there it will be morning!”

The woman beamed at Claire.  I’m sure she was remembering what it was like to travel with her kids when they were younger.

We chatted for a bit.  She was from Tennessee.  I told her my kids were pretty good travelers, but this was still a big trip for them.  “So when we all arrive in Rome and you’re feeling tired,” I said to her, “just think of me and you will feel instantly energized that you aren’t the most exhausted person getting off the plane!”

She laughed.  “You are brave, that’s for sure!” she said.

Right then, it was time for us to board.  Tommy was already whining about being hungry and tired.  “I want my iPad!” he screamed.

I gave it to him.  “Remember,” my sister had texted me earlier, “snacks and movies, movies and snacks.  And maybe a nap.”

It still took me forever to settle him.  He wanted a snack, and then he wanted another snack.  He couldn’t figure out the entertainment system because he can’t read, and then he tired of it and wanted to go back to his iPad. 

All of this happened before we even took off. 

At some point during this, a couple sat down next to me.  I was across the aisle from my kids (neither of the big kids wanted to sit alone, so I told them they could sit together) and I had to keep leaning over the aisle.  I glanced over at them at one point, and saw they were holding hands. 

(Ugh, I thought.  Newlyweds.  Because this is who I sit next to on planes, apparently.)

I eventually had to sit down, and I apologized to them for all the commotion.  They were super nice about it. 

“Well, doing this alone means that I’m going to be constantly up and down,” I said, “so I’m sorry if it bugs you.”

“We don’t mind,” the man said.  “You’re brave to take all three of them by yourself.”

I smiled, and then with a laugh I said, “well, I’m brave or stupid.  Honestly, I think there’s a fine line between the two.”  He laughed good-naturedly.

We chatted a bit longer, and as these types of plane conversations with strangers often go, we started talking about anything and everything.  His wife chimed in too, and amazingly my kids let us talk for a while.  Eventually, I started to tell him about my life, and about what had happened to Shawn. 

“I’m so sorry,” he said.  I could see he meant it.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Well,” he said, “now that I know your story, I have to say that you’re doubly brave for traveling with them.”

“Maybe,” I said.  Or doubly stupid, I thought.

The night before, I’d woken around 2 am.  My heart was racing, and I immediately thought about what I was going to do the next day.  3 kids.  1 parent.  Multiple weeks in a foreign country.  So what if we were on a tour for part of the trip?  I still had to figure out what to do if Austin got sick or if Tommy refused to walk or if Claire had an allergic reaction.  It was all on me.  I mean, it’s always all on me, but back home I have my dad and my community. 

I sat up in bed, taking some deep breaths.  “I am not going to be scared of this,” I said out loud to nobody in the middle of the night.

I mean, of course I was scared – I am scared, since we’re still on this trip – but what I should have said that night was this:  I’m not going to let my fear of doing things without Shawn rule my life.  In the past year and a half, I’ve spent so much time letting fear make my decisions.  I’ve told myself and countless other people I’ve met who are hurting, “go easy on yourself when the worst happens to you.”  I believe that statement.  It is one that everyone who is grieving should practice.

And yet – I know I won’t face my fears without a little bit of a push.

Right now, I’m trying to push myself.  I’m also trying to push my kids.  I’m trying to show them that we can do something new together.

I’m not just talking about traveling.  I’m talking about life.


  • Erin

    God you’re just amazing and BRAVE! Always so brave – never stupid! Love you sweet friend and happy travels! Xo

    • Marjorie

      I love that you said this! I am feeling a bit of both at the end of our time here in Rome, as I plan to leave in a few days on an even longer adventure. But….I’m also feeling happy that I’m doing this. Miss you, my friend.

  • Henry

    Definitely BRAVE! Not to have taken this opportunity with your kids is what would have been stupid.

  • Gabe

    Brave, brave, brave and awesome! Now do you remember any Italian? In bocca al lupo and sogni d’oro, my dear! 😘😘 Can’t wait to hear about your adventures.

    • Marjorie

      Oh my goodness – I don’t! But we were on a tour in Italy, so it was easier. Here in Spain, it’s vital that I remember some of my (much better) Spanish!

  • Jeff

    First, the photo from your post before – way to rock the GnR sleeveless tee!
    Second, you might be stupid – my thirteen hour flight in the middle seat next to a really fat man has always been a cautionary tale about the potential perils of transoceanic travel – but you are without a doubt brave. I love nearly every aspect of travel (except for thirteen flights in the middle seat next to really fat men) and even then I’m always a tad daunted by the prospect of the unknown. (I just landed at 2:30AM and how do I *know* the taxi will take me to my hotel? And of course, since I don’t want to spend the whole trip asleep during the day, I’ll have to get up in three hours.) And that’s just me – a 41 year old single male. I absolutely, positively, do not know how one does this with children. I think you summed it up *perfectly,* though – this is about the trip, and it’s about life. You’re doing things with your children that are substantive and meaningful, including but not limited to a summer trip to Rome, even though and even when they;re daunting. Good on ya – really good on ya. Way to live in every sense.
    PS – I usually marvel at inflight entertainment these days (When I flew to Thailand in 2012, I was able to watch recent episodes of Mad Men, which I thought was amazing), so I liked that you noted it is biased toward the literate. What an incentive to learn to read! Get with it, Tommy! Thank God for the iPod – it is so much better than the Gameboy I used to take with me back in the day!

    • Marjorie

      It’s funny – when we arrived in Barcelona, I thought, “okay, I don’t know what part of the city my Air BnB is in, I can’t check in for 4 hours, and I don’t know how to hail a cab. And I have 3 kids under 11 with me and a number of bags.” Um….bad plan? But as I told my kids, “it’s an adventure, so everything isn’t easy.” But we made it! Not doing lots of touring – just enjoying the area and swimming a lot and relaxing.

  • Mary Grace

    I often use quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt for self talk in my life. One of the ones I like is
    “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” I daresay you will just add to these three areas that you already posses. Remember, too, sometimes the craziest experiences in travel become the best memories and stories for the future. I love that you are taking your three on this trip. I know great memories will be made for all of you. Love you all!

    • Marjorie

      Oh, YES – the kids’ favorite place so far (as a group) was the Collosseum, which was about 105 degrees and they complained about the whole time. But it was still so magical that they loved it and are coming away from it with good memories. We have so many from this trip!!