Lisa Kogan on an airplane
Illustration: John Ritter
Here is a brief list of the people who have served me well: Catherine de Medici, who at some point around 1533 came down heavily in favor of the fork, giving it some degree of social acceptance (without Cate, I'd be forced to treat spaghetti as finger food); Dr. Earle Haas, who, bless his heart, on November 19, 1931, filed the first patent for a tampon (I think of him fondly every time I start to bloat, break out, or cramp); and one Mr. Erik Oley, who, on July 23 of this very year, turned to me and uttered a sentence that would forever change my life: "Lisa," he said, "when we travel with the kids, we use a rechargeable battery that keeps the portable DVD player running an extra six hours." Yes, the fork is handy, the tampon miraculous, but thanks to friend, humanitarian, and potential saint Erik Oley, my 4-year-old is now able to enter an airplane in New York and exit it in Switzerland having seen every Charlie and Lola cartoon ever made. Twice.

Traveling the World is romantic, exhilarating, life changing—and just not my thing. When I was young and carefree, I hitchhiked through Nepal...okay, I was never young and carefree—I was the 7-year-old yelling at the other kids to quit throwing stuff before they put someone's eye out, and, if you must know, it was actually my friend Adele who hiked through Nepal. I would have gone, but every time I weighed snowcapped mountains against toasted English muffins and a pedicure, questing for a backpack full of experience always finished second. It isn't that I don't sometimes gaze up at the moon and dream about uncharted territory—but since I'm rarely able to make it to the dry cleaner before he closes, getting myself to the moon seems like a real long shot. So these days when I'm in the mood to observe a bleak, dust-covered terrain with no detectable signs of life, I mix up a tall glass of Tang and check out my bedroom.

Given this overwhelming desire of mine to remain swaddled in a queen-size duvet eating Jell-O sugar-free chocolate pudding for the rest of my natural days, it is one of life's great ironies that I hooked up with a man who lives on another continent. Regular readers know that Johannes Labusch (my love monkey of 14 years as well as the father of my child) resides in Zurich. This means that I am sometimes called upon to pay a visit. My fear of flying kicks in the second I buckle up and feel that fierce acceleration pin me to the back of my seat. I then take a deep breath of stale air, and spend the rest of the trip in an endless hell of near collisions and nausea-inducing bumpiness...until the cabdriver finally drops us off at the airport.

Every flight I board has a crying baby. Me. Johannes claims that the key to being my seat partner is understanding from the get-go that it's a very bad idea to try to strike up a conversation. Frankly, if I were you, I wouldn't even try making direct eye contact, because I'll be extremely busy having a massive panic attack and will pause just long enough to shoot you a look so chilly you could store fur in it. There simply isn't enough Xanax in the world to lull me into believing that 280 human beings attempting to choose between lousy lasagna and chewy chicken while watching a rerun of How I Met Your Mother at 33,000 feet in the sky qualifies as sane behavior.

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But the holidays are upon us, and unfortunately over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go is only doable if your grandmother happens to be conveniently located over the river and through the woods. Julia's grandma lives in a small German village, a place where everything—fruit, vegetables, fish, gingerbread, marzipan, strudel, small children, churches from the 14th century, cobblestone streets, Volkswagens, you name it—is drenched in some sort of cream sauce and it is virtually impossible to get even a single ice cube for the Diet Coke you are drinking in a futile effort to mitigate the effects of all that heavy cream.

The truth is, I wouldn't want to live there, but it actually is a nice place to visit. It's the place where I have the luxury of reading long books and running around without my watch and sipping tea every afternoon. It's the place where I get to see Julia pluck grapes and strawberries right off the vine and pop them into her mouth. The place we go to water pale peach dahlia blossoms in the back garden or pick plums from the tree in the front yard and hang around the kitchen as her grandmother bakes them into a tart (topped, of course, with heavy cream). I lucked out in the mother-in-law department; we get on very well. Ulrike is warm, thoughtful, no-nonsense, but I think the secret to our success is probably that she speaks very little English and the only word of German I know is dachshund. Our conversations usually go like this:

Ulrike: [Big smile] "You like some schwimflugels mit your knoblauch?"
Me: [Big smile] "The horse rides at midnight."
Ulrike: [Big smile] "Shmetterlink sweeten the gloffgarten."
Me: [Big smile] "Jack Spratt could eat no fat."
Ulrike: [Big smile] "Johannes, komm rein!"
Me: [Big smile] "Johannes, get in here!"

Where my parents might take us for Chinese food and bowling, Grandma Ulrike takes us into the forest to feed corn kernels to the wild boars. Where my parents might switch on a Wiggles CD, Grandma Ulrike is strictly Bach. In my folks' gated community, we swim at a chlorinated pool. In Germany there is a lake. And Julia, who next year will be graduating from the International Preschool at the United Nations, loves it all. I envy her freewheeling spirit, her ability to roll with the punches of severe jet lag, her delight in packing a bag ("Jingly ball. Check. Paper clip. Check. Grasshopper finger puppet. Check. Okay, I'm ready!") and taking off for parts unknown. I hope at some point to be as secure with the world as my baby is. I hope wanderlust can be cultivated. I hope one of these days I'll learn to relinquish control, skepticism, all the fears that keep me grounded—and simply fly. I hope the journey becomes every bit as sweet as the destination.

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