baby NatHome for the holidays takes on new meaning, when you live 4,000 miles away. Never has my longing for America been greater than after the birth of my daughter in Paris. The expatriate craves the loving cradle of family most during moments of great joy or sadness. Within the span of that year I had endured my fair share of despair. I struggled to recover from an accident that ended my athletic career, and a miscarriage that broke my spirit.

That winter of ‘84, I courageously tucked my 10-day-old daughter into a kangaroo pouch, navigated through the crowded Metro station and waited at the American Embassy for my baby to be issued her first U.S. passport. Just a short time later, with even greater trepidation, I swaddled my seven-week-old in a hand-woven blanket and carried her solo across the Atlantic aboard a 747.

At O’Hare airport, my sister’s and parents’ smiles lit up the universe as they welcomed the newest member to the family with tears of joy.

Outside the family homestead, light snow dusted the open fields and colored lights glittered, while inside, an aroma of gingerbread wafted through the air, a newborn’s cry rose above my brother’s piano rendition of Silent Night and my mom hung her handmade first grandchild ornament on the Christmas tree.

From Cleveland, to Omaha, to Chicago, to Eureka, to Sterling my siblings and grandparents coordinated the time and distance between a dozen careers, three states and two countries to be home for the holidays. That Christmas, I dressed as a svelte French Papa Noel to pass out presents.

But the greatest gift was not under the tree.

In the early years of marriage, we could not afford a cross-Atlantic flight, so in a gesture that showed incredible generosity and profound compassion, my Frenchman along with family contributions, gave me a round trip Air France ticket Paris-Chicago, so that the McKinzies could meet baby Nathalie.

This Christmas gift symbolized my husband’s love for his firstborn, his foreign wife and his American in-laws. By sacrificing his own holiday time, he acknowledged the importance of fostering family ties and respecting one’s cultural heritage in a mixed marriage.

The magic of those shared moments is engrained in my heart forever.

This December, that precious baby, now a dedicated doctor, offers another selfless gift. She sacrifices her family time to spend Christmas Day in the Children’s Hospital, taking care of kids too sick to go home for the holidays.Nat & dad

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Comments

  1. Rachael Jefferson-Buchanan

    Oh my tears welled reading this. You surely understand the distance issues more than most, and how wonderful that your nouvelle famille francaise also did 🙂 I remember travelling back with two under 2yrs to Plymouth from Geneva just after Safiya was born. Their cries filled the airplane but it was only a short hour and a half flight thank goodness… You were a brave warrior transatlantic mother, and your talented kids are testament to the love and respect that you and Gerald have nutured them with. Hugs and Happy Xmas, lots of love, Rach

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Oh, Rach, I know you can relate to the challenges and joys of the expat life. I admire your courage raising two beautiful daughters, so far from your home in the Land Down Under. Happy Christmas and lots of love back at you. I so appreciate your comments and support.

  2. Rachael Jefferson-Buchanan

    Oh my tears welled reading this. You surely understand the distance issues more than most, and how wonderful that your nouvelle famille francaise also did 🙂 I remember travelling back with two under 2yrs to Plymouth from Geneva just after Safiya was born. Their cries filled the airplane but it was only a short hour and a half flight thank goodness… You were a brave warrior transatlantic mother, and your talented kids are testament to the love and respect that you and Gerald have nutured them with. Hugs and Happy Xmas, lots of love, Rach

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Oh, Rach, I know you can relate to the challenges and joys of the expat life. I admire your courage raising two beautiful daughters, so far from your home in the Land Down Under. Happy Christmas and lots of love back at you. I so appreciate your comments and support.

  3. krpooler

    And the spirit of giving and sacrifice cycles through another generation. Your stories always touch my heart and make my eyes tear up. This is beautiful, Pat. Christmas blessings to you and your family.
    Kathy xo

  4. clara54

    Pat, I’m getting choked up from this one. You have a gift of sharing your life and touching other hearts! Merry Christmas and Happiest of Holidays- expat:)

  5. clara54

    Pat, I’m getting choked up from this one. You have a gift of sharing your life and touching other hearts! Merry Christmas and Happiest of Holidays- expat:)

  6. Sue

    Oh,Pat, this one left me in tears, too. Your words reminded me of the true meaning of Christmas….. found in the generosity and grace of Gerald’s gesture and in the “love in action” we have shown in our family. The priceless photos also took me back- how blessed we were to share the holidays with four generations. It is amazing to think that your precious first born is now a doctor, but then we have all been witness to Nathalie’s wisdom, determination, selflessness and compassion. What a beautiful Christmas message~ thank you.

  7. Debbie

    Ah, Pat, what a SWEET story! No wonder you fell in love with the Frenchman — his selflessness is admirable! And I’m positive you needed to be back home in the Heartland to heal over that holiday season. Your daughter must have inherited her dad’s selfless spirit, to become a doctor in the first place and to be with her young patients on Christmas. Traveling with little ones is hard enough, but you know, you, too, were selfless in introducing her to your far-away family. This is a perfect story for the holidays!

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks, Debbie. When I reflect back I wonder how I survived those long flights with babies, but you are right nothing heals like time back home in the Heartland. Happy Holidays! Have a fun road trip!

  8. elinwaldal

    What a lovely story of giving what matters most…no doubt your husband enjoys knowing that his gift to you still gives in the way of memory-so beautifully expressed. I enjoyed that you shared where your daughter is now too.

  9. Grown and Flown

    Pat, I love this story and how amazingly generous of your husband to send you to see your family in the US. And the ps about the baby, now grown up, is lovely.

  10. Karen D. Austin

    What a cute baby passport! I am glad that you got to find a way to transcend the distance now and then. And it’s great that you support your daughter’s decision to serve children who are hospitalized. Lots of love going around in this post!

  11. Karen D. Austin

    What a cute baby passport! I am glad that you got to find a way to transcend the distance now and then. And it’s great that you support your daughter’s decision to serve children who are hospitalized. Lots of love going around in this post!

  12. Sabrina

    What a beautiful story! I don’t know where to start, there were priceless gifts throughout this story. Very happy he purchased that ticket for you.

  13. Sabrina

    What a beautiful story! I don’t know where to start, there were priceless gifts throughout this story. Very happy he purchased that ticket for you.

  14. Lynne Spreen

    Like everybody else, I have tears on my cheeks as I type this. What a beautiful story in so many ways! I feel the pain of the separation, love your husband for his devotion to you, and your daughter for giving back to the universe. You have such a gift for telling it, Pat. Merry Christmas and love to all your family!

  15. Lynne Spreen

    Like everybody else, I have tears on my cheeks as I type this. What a beautiful story in so many ways! I feel the pain of the separation, love your husband for his devotion to you, and your daughter for giving back to the universe. You have such a gift for telling it, Pat. Merry Christmas and love to all your family!

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