An afternoon meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, discussing religious affairs was not unlike many meetings I go to. Our daughter Bridget, who often accompanies my husband, Mark, and me, keeps us fairly disengaged from adult activities. That afternoon, like many others, I worked hard at alternating between my chair and the floor, while keeping up the flow of quiet toys to my daughter, then 10 months old, and trying to glean something of the topic at hand.
Eventually the activity level in our corner of the room required drastic action, and I picked up Bridget and left the room as graciously as I could. After Mark took his turn caring for Bridget, the meeting came to a close. But having missed almost half of a meeting that had felt very significant, I walked toward the door, wondering if bringing our baby on our 15-day tour of the Soviet Union was worth it. As I said goodbye to our host, she smiled and touched me where I needed it the most: "Oh, thank you so much for bringing your baby to our country."
Exchanges like this, especially when communication is made all the richer through gestures and expressions, made moments of doubt about our traveling as a threesome evaporate. In fact, now I can't imagine traveling without Bridget in the Soviet Union, simply because the opportunities and insights offered from being with her were the most significant and memorable of our time there. Children, I have no doubt, not only bring out the best in people there, they also reveal a characteristic that runs deep among Soviet people, visible only when a child is present.
Having traveled quite a bit with Bridget, I have realized that it is then that I am most aware of her needs, trying to keep one step ahead of the next looming crisis. In this frame of mind, and with Bridget in my arms, we boarded our Aeroflot flight which would take us from London to Leningrad, via Moscow.