En uno momento en Barcelona

Three o'clock in the afternoon, riding in the airport shuttle down narrow cobbled streets, the passenger next to me was making polite small talk. I didn't want to be rude, but I tried to look around her at the passing scenery as we drove. It was raining lightly.

The driver was supposed to deliver me to my hotel, but instead pulled over on a busy commercial street. As he unloaded my luggage, he pointed down a narrow street that forked into two at the end of a long block. He pointed down the first street and then gestured I was to do something at the fork, turn right or left, maybe backwards, or teleport myself, to my hotel. His English was not great but certainly better than my Spanish, so I said thank you and pretended I understood.

On a corner, in the rain, rumpled and lost, suitcases askew, looking every bit the American tourist, I took a long breath. A long, deep, grateful, joyful, deliriously happy breath. I was in Barcelona.

Now, this might not seem like a big deal to most of you. In an era of plentiful flights, international business, intercontinental families and study abroad programs, overseas travel seems pretty commonplace. But this was only my second trip to Europe, and I was excited.

Even more exciting was that I was there to visit my son, Will, who was studying in Barcelona for the semester. The rest of my family couldn't come, so I had an opportunity for a week of one-on-one time with my middle "child," now 21 and taller than me by almost a foot.

Every. Single. Moment. I appreciated every single moment. Moments with Will, learning about his life these past three months, admiring his confidence and ability to communicate, find his way around, broadened and immersed. Talking about past present and future. Eating and drinking. Walking. Laughing.

A few times when Will was in class, I'd wander the back ancient streets of Barcelona, behind the business avenues and tourist sites. The streets are cobblestone, ancient archways of brick and mortar, cement. Beautiful plazas bathed in light popped up in the middles of maze-like neighborhoods. I got lost so many times, physically. But mentally I was keen and knew I was right where I was supposed to be. Living in that precise moment, which I could never re-experience, dining at this cafe which I'd never be able to re-locate, eating a meal like I'd never taste again. I could tell Will what I did while we were apart, but my stories didn't do justice to the experiences.

The moments. Every single one. Even the walk to the hotel in the rain. Barcelona was beautiful. I'd like to go back someday, and to lose myself in the winding streets of other European cities as well. The best moments during my visit, well, those were with Will, but all of the moments were extraordinary. I can't go back to them, can't relive them. But I was there once, right when I should have been, in the moment with my son. I have the memories if not the moments. And I will hold tightly to them, forever.

- Kelly Abate Kallas of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].