Thursday, July 28, 2011

Something found

While sweeping, awkwardly and angrily, at the walls corners and nooks and crannies in my bedroom with the vacuum cleaner nozzle, trying to make our house look less like the Addam's Family mansion and more like home, I happened upon an old Polaroid image Ian magically transferred to the beam that stands, tree-like, in our bedroom.

It's high up, where no one can see it, unless you are searching for it, or wrangling cobwebs. But it's there nonetheless, serving as proof of the existence of one adorable baby, Esther, sleeping as soundly as a Hobbit, what a fantastic sleeper she was, in this very house, in our bed, with the tail of some random stuffed animal, giraffe or zebra? half up her nose.

And here she is, minus the giraffe and baby blanket, but still full-cheeked and adorable, and a fantastic sleeper, today:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Putting things in drawers has never been my forte

We are all still sleeping together in the same room.

Isla and I normally share the double bed. I am constantly pushing her little body over to her side, all night. She inches, instinctively, back towards me, her little hot water bottle body sticky with sweat. She is a sticky -tree- frog child. In this heat, it's torture.

When I tell people we have moved in, sort of, but are still camping, technically, all in one room, they often ask why. I struggle to explain. I think mainly it's time constraints, trying to work and be a mom and a moving service and home decorator all at once doesn't leave a lot of time for, um, swimming.

But it's more than that. It always is.

Anyway, it feels right for us all to be in the same room right now. I'm not sure if we will ever spread out, span this place. It feels so big. So unruly. Especially after two years of living in more confined spaces in France, where there were no sprawling yards to mow, and  no weekends spent/wasted, however you want to look at it, on home maintenance. It has definitely changed my perspective. My house and yard seemed to have doubled in size while we were away.

Funny, or maybe not, but I am still having my same old reservations about settling here. When people ask me if we are home for good, I always take a breath before uttering the word "yes." I feel like a politician. As if I'm lying, but lying is the only option. Yes is the only answer. But how can anybody confidently say they are doing anything, for good. Forever?

I could always say, "maybe," I guess. But that feels kind of reckless, irresponsible on my tongue. And Esther would jump down my throat if she heard me say it.

Next question: Are you glad to be home?

Of course I'm glad to be home. Except when I'm not. Except when I feel that being home involved a trading in of sorts. Being home signifies the start of something. And the end of something. The end of an adventure. A coming full circle.

And I keep getting these senses of panic, of losing my grip on our experience abroad, as if an experience is something you can hold in your hand, or between your teeth, forever. I find myself groping in my pockets, hoping to pull it out to show people. Hey, look at this. This is our life, a chapter, in France. Did that really happen? Did we really do that?

Of course I'm glad to be home, except when I succumb to fear and imagine I can read the writing on the wall. The writing that says, Welcome back. You've been here before, remember, this place? You were always writing in your journal the last time you lived here about how trapped you felt, how much you craved to experience another environment, urban perhaps, other than your pastoral birthplace. Are you over that yet?

It's clear to me I have I'm not over it and may never be. Surely there have been other cases of  terminal  wanderlust. I always have. Ian's got it too. Perhaps we recognized it in each other? We both have a room, or hallway in our heads, where we keep our mental bags packed, just in case.

Here we are, all this land, this big house, that just screams "homestead me." We discuss the chickens, goats, pigs even. Then we talk ourselves out of it.

Because animals ground you. And the concept of being permanently grounded gives me hives. I half believed that our little French adventure might cure me of this. That I would come home, every last oat neatly sewn, and embrace all things permanent and stable.

Hmm. And here I am with my bags still packed. 

But every time I meet another foreign aid worker, or international school teacher, home for the summer before heading off to another distant land, I still feel the jerking tugs of envy, longing. How ridiculous this feels.

My friends have gone with their two kids to Italy for two weeks. And I'm jealous?

I've heard that reentering one's country takes some adaption. I'm not going to panic about my still feeling conflicted just 10 weeks after returning home. If it's anything like the Elisabeth Kubler Ross' stages of accepting death, I'm in the bargaining stage:

So, what if? What if we just traveled forever? Went again, and again, and again. Could it work?

I say I don’t like  being rootless-- I need a community, connections-- yet I find the older I get, the more fleeting and unpredictable life feels.

There are so many rewards from living in, being part of, a community part of something bigger than you. The support, the safety net, the connections, the warm blanket of family. I've felt the lack of that blanket. And I've shivered.

I've also felt the weight of it, and felt... itchy, stifled. 

So I'll lay here on the floor, next to this hot child on this hot summer night and try to decide: Do I want the blanket, or not?

 Clearer evidence that it I am happy to be home can be found over here on Momformation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cannon balls are the gateway drug

 Esther taught her little sister, Isla, how to do a cannonball into a hotel pool a few weeks back.

 Isla has been seeking bigger, better, higher, thrills ever since.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Waking up at home

We've spent two hot, sticky nights here so far.

All our fans seem to be either missing or broken, sigh, all except the one tiny one I plugged in and pointed directly at Esther's bed.

We stayed all in the same room, on mattresses on the floor, Isla and I in my double mattress and Essie in a single at the end of our bed.

The first night Isla didn't want to stay.

We had been at the lake. We only just made it to the lake at five after spending the whole, cloudless, day vacuuming and scrubbing the walls and floors clean of beer and boogers. I think I vacuumed more over the weekend than I did the entire time we were in France.

If I didn't know better I would believe this house has been inhabited by unsupervised toddlers for the past two years. Every light switch is black with dirty finger prints. Is that peanut butter I smell? The dust is as deep as snow behind what little furniture there is. Every wall has something, I don't want to know, splattered on it. And I could have done without finding the three random pairs of girls panties I found scattered in the darker regions of the house. Yuck.

In between the scrubbing and my dizzying, ADD wanderings from room to room, task to task, I fixed a snack for the girls. Our first snack.

Then I had to keep going back and forth between my parents' cabin and our house finding paper and paints, then back again for the forgotten paintbrushes, to keep the girls occupied with. I made a half-hearted attempt to dig out the television and play a movie but I couldn't find the DVD player or the DVDs. I did happen to find one of the several old couch covers, and used it to create our first usable piece of living room furniture.

It was so relaxing at the lake, I didn't have the strength to order the kids out of the dark, glassy water and into the car until almost 9 p.m.

On our way home, Esther said,

"Can we sleep at our house tonight?"  

"I want to go back to Papa and Zsa Zsa's cabin," Isla said. 

"Why," I said. I thought you wanted to move back into our house," I said.

"There are no beds, no books, no toys, and it's all messed up." 

"It's not even our house," she said.

"Yes it is, Isla," I said. "Don't you remember living there?" I said.

"No," she said. 

How had this never occurred to me.  She was only three when we left. Aside from recognizing some of her old toys, the red Radio Flyer tricycle, Rodie the horse, she has never said she remembered living here. Why would she?

She whined all the way home and all the way up the stairs, but once I got the mattresses all made up on the floor, with pillows and sheets, all cozy, a cozy bed,  she came around. Then she saw the promise of a slumber party. A slumber party with Mommy.

We settled in, too hot for blankets, or even a sheet, and too late for a book, and turned off the light. The air was completely still. Stifling, accept for the flea-fart breeze coming out of the pathetic fan. The only noise was Ruby's hot, panting breath. I had to keep reminding Isla that it was too hot for snuggling.

Finally, finally, we all fell asleep. When we woke up, we were all pleasantly, sleepily surprised to be home. And I was surprised at the number of cobwebs I missed while vacuuming the day before.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Selective compassion

I found two mice dead in one trap this morning.

They looked like siblings. Not yet teenagers.

They looked so impossibly cute, side by side, their heads caught, like little, gray, furry Marie Antoinettes, in that horrible spring.

I felt somehow reassured to know they didn’t die alone. Poor suckers.

While I feel only the vaguest sympathy for the cheeky mice who've died in this kitchen, the bird who thought our kitchen window was the sky the other morning pulled at my heart strings.

The unmistakable thump on the window that faces the kitchen sink pulled me out onto the lawn in search of the poor, unfortunate soul with the lofty, now broken, dreams.

It's a very distinctive sound, the thump of a bird against a window. It makes me wince. It also makes me stop and consider, "Do I go out there and open my eyes to the sadder facts of life, or do I just keep sitting here, typing away on my computer, feigning immunity to nature's wicked ways?

I went out to see. I always go out to see.

At first I was relieved to see nothing there. But, with closer inspection, I found a young chestnut- sided warbler (I think that's what it was.) lying in the grass, still warm, but dead as a doornail. I stroked its beautiful yellow and black feathers lightly with my index finger. Feeling its warmth, its life still burning against my finger tip, I felt compelled to pick it up and see if it wasn’t just stunned. I placed it in the palm of my left hand and saw it had just caught, clever little birdie, a moth in its tiny beak.

It had probably been rushing back home, where is home, to show its mother how clever it was. It never made it home because there in the glass of our kitchen window, loomed a false world, a deadly trap, a siren, a cruel, deadly mirage.

The gray sky, the green canopy, the leaves shivering in the breeze, were all perfectlly reflected there. A glass ceiling?

I could imagine, not only imagine, but empathize with, that sweet little bird flying full speed towards this illusory world, only to meet with the most solid form of resistance. No give whatsoever. Just pure, obstinate deflection. Solid. A see through wall. Poor thing.

I did not cry.

But as I held it there, a soft breeze tiptoed across its lifeless body-- its eyes flat, opaque-- and snaked under its tail feathers making them flutter up and down, up and down, as if it were alive.

And I wished it was.