Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Aug. 24, 2007

Vaya con Dios

When I walked into Mom's house last Saturday, niece Gabriela was putting curlers in Mom's hair.

"What are you going to do when Gabriela is gone?" I queried Mom.

"I don't know," Mom said. "She's been such good company and great help."

"Yes, and I've been a good cheerleader for you, too," Gabs chimed in. "Yay, Grandma, you can do it!"

Gabriela will soon join other college students as she takes her next step away from home. Home is La Paz, Bolivia - and her new college abode will be in Minnesota. Although the Wildcat fans in our family were hoping that she would follow our lead and attend Kansas State University, Gabriela decided to break with tradition.

I first met Gabriela when she was about five months old and her parents brought her to Kansas to meet the Freeland side of the family. Oldest daughter Mariya was just turning 3 and she was anxious to meet her new cousin. She wasn't quite sure about the attention the new family member was getting from her grandparents, though. She commented that she sure hoped the baby wasn't too heavy for Grandpa and Grandma to pick up. But she adored her new cousin and the brief rivalry was replaced by fun times in subsequent years.

My sister Gaila and her family have visited us in Kansas nearly every summer since she moved to La Paz. The only exception was 1992 when Gaila was pregnant with Gabriela's sister Larisa.

So Gaila and family came for Christmas that year instead. Mariya was 6 �, Gabriela was almost 4, Larisa was 3 months old and Katie was 1 month old. We dressed the older girls alike and the babies had matching outfits, too, so there was much picture-taking and "oohing and ahing" over the young cousins. During that visit, Gabriela had her first experience with snow, making snow angels and tasting the frosty stuff. It's rare for the city of La Paz to have snow, but she'll probably get plenty of experience with it in Minnesota.

All of Gaila's visits have been packed with memories - big events like trips to Pennsylvania, Colorado, California and Missouri and 50th anniversary celebrations for Mom and Dad and Uncle Bud and Aunt Edith, as well as everyday activities such as swimming, going on picnics, making mud pies, going to movies and catching fireflies in canning jars.

In between, our girls and I have visited Bolivia twice - once in 1998 and once in 2003. Highlights there included a ride on a reed boat on Lake Titicaca, shopping in the open-air markets, visiting the ruins of Tiwanaku and learning about different Christmas customs. We even helped Gabriela celebrate her "quince" (15th) birthday, which is a big event in Latin America.

As I think about all these events - big and small, I'm wondering, as usual, where the years went and how it happened that our little girls are now young women exploring the larger world.

Gaila, her husband Humberto and Larisa already told Gabriela "goodbye" earlier in the summer and soon it will be time for the rest of us to wish her well, too.

Vaya con Dios, Gabriela. Go with God. We are proud of you and we hope that your new path brings you much happiness and success.

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