The announcement to travel went over as well as a turd in the punch bowl.
We have an ipod player in our kitchen. It's used often. We dance. A lot. You wouldn't believe it, but our 5 year old can bust a move like no one's business. It was just after one of those dance party sessions of salad making, moonwalking, spins, and roasting, that I let them know I was packing a suitcase.
I claimed I'd be a better mom for it. I'd go to the States alone, research schools for our next move, jobs in my former profession of pharmacy, shop, and return refreshed. Perhaps even, eh, happy to conquer 8 loads of laundry each week. Alone. No kids. 2 weeks with no kids. No snotty nose to wipe. No begging to clear dinner plates. No teeth brushing with a sponge bob toothbrush. Travel with no kids. A most monumental thought.
My inner voice knew it though. The kids would play their dad like a harp. I would return to 18 loads of laundry at the top of an endless "to do" list. Nevertheless, I prepared some meals, stuffing them into the freezer, packed up the suitcase and gave dear husband the sage advice" if you can't convince 'em, then confuse 'em."
Flash Back- It's the holidays, and I know you're short on time. Think Charles Dickens and Scrooge, call this the Christmas Past version of a visit to the US...
Take my hand and imagine we're floating right through the Philly airport to Norfolk, VA.
Are you with me? Do you hear that New Jaw-zee accent? Hold on. This is gonna be quick...
Flash past the bazillion Dunkin Doughnuts and Starbucks that have sprouted up in the Hampton Roads area in the last 10 years. Flash back past the lady in the shirt that said "I don't want buns of steel. I want buns of cinnamon." Past the plethora of stores filled with so much stuff; stuff which no one seems to realize they don't actually need. Flash back beyond the scores of people who sat antisocially, texting away, or stood impatiently in lines, waving papers around like they were living on Sahara desert in a heat wave rather than waiting in an air conditioned store. (Maybe all those women were having hot flashes?) Dear God let me not just flash beyond but completely erase the commercial I heard on the radio, encouraging people to purchase guns. When did we start needing commercials for guns in the US? Let us move beyond the other unforgettable strangers in flip flops and spandex who referred to me as "honey", "sweetheart" and, the all time favorite, my sister's "mom". Flash back, ever so quickly past the "cake pops" I learned about. Cake pops people. Cake pops.
Ok. You can let go now.
Let me reveal my husband's confessions regarding family developments in my absence, (while I was stateside, watching the public school programs of other, unknown children at school visits on the school's 'grandparents day' (which, by the way, completely sucks); while strangers in the grocery store were referring to me as my sister's mother, these are the things my dear husband was working on.)
Here you can close your eyes and envision Tiny Tim at the table in the chilly creaky cottage house. OK- well don't really close your eyes. Obviously you won't be able to read further. Or, if you're like me, you'll fall asleep. Just stay with me. Here are the most important things that occurred in my absence....
1) Dear husband revealed to me that he'd had a "necessary talk" with 3 year old Arleigh, who insisted that his penis would fall off once he was older because that is obviously what happened to his big sisters, Addie and Stella.
2) Dear husband confided in me that he'd shared a "secret" with the kids....
This apparently came about when they asked him 'why dear father, was there a Spiderman costume in his closet?' (On a scale of order, this man regularly earns a sub zero value). We honestly don't know how the costume came about, but suspect it was purchased on sale for offspring, but upon opening, was found to be adult size, instead of child size, and then promptly stuffed to the back. Who knows?
The kids, who are still quite interested in the Easter Bunny and Santa, now fully believe their father is "Spiderman" and have gone about school spreading word. This word has travelled through the french school and come back at us via parents. (Yes, only 24 hours after landing, I was approached at school about my husband's "secret". Nice one honey.
3) He revealed that for his 40th birthday, he'd like to attend a Metallica concert here in Belgium...People, he's totally serious with this. (Information that will make for fabulous blog posting later, no doubt). You can laugh if you know him- because this is not only absurd, and hilarious, but slightly disturbing at the same time. He's currently looking for someone who will go along with him. Takers on this 40th b-day event can notify via email. Birthday gift recommendations now include a Metallica t-shirt. I think he's having a mid-life crisis.
All this and our violin teacher confessed that although the kids' hair was not brushed, they appeared, generally well and in good condition. Apparently, "Spiderman" indicated to the violin teacher that he was glad there was no afternoon violin lesson because he needed to clean the house, last minute, before my return. She said she could only imagine a frat house after party clean up going on. I'm sure the process was something close.
So, calling upon our Christmas past hand holding experience again, just indulge for a second here and take flight once more....or rest your bottom in the chair and read on. That's ok too.
While Spiderman was cleaning the house in Belgium, I sat down to dinner in Philadelphia, all by my lonesome at the Hilton airport restaurant. This was in fact, a moment I'd dreamt all about. Dinner alone. Peace and quiet. A dinner that I didn't have to prepare, defrost, chop, mix, cook, or burn. White table cloth. Nicely dressed waitresses. The reality? I felt as lonely as a goldfish in a jam jar. The table didn't have kids sitting there snorting milk out of their noses or squabbling over the last roll, or questions about the amount of food consumption being acceptable enough to earn desert. Like crazy, I missed my sisters who'd I'd said good-bye to just that morning. I missed my family. I wished that from the table I could reach my arms from Belgium to the US. Except that would make my sweaters look quite unfashionable. It was lonely. Sad. I was Scrooged.
Let's take pause. Pretend it's Christmas future now. I'm trying to get to the point. I promise.
Constance Gordon Cumming, a 19th century traveler, who I know not a thing about, indeed, spoke some very true words. She said, (according to someone else) "returning home involves more wear and tear of the mind and body than any amount of travelling in distant lands." Home at this moment, existed somewhere between Belgium, where my kids and husband awaited my return, and the US, where family and the house we pay a mortgage on (for other people to live in) stand by waiting.
Ok, now imagine the street buzzing with carolers. Scrooge tossing out coins and shouting "Merry Christmas". Yes folks, this means I'm wrapping it up. Just in time for you to go buy more stuff (you don't need).
In the end, I returned better for having made the trip. For one thing, I had my hair colored so that I hopefully, won't be referred to as my sister's mother. Secondly, the research was quite progressive, as I've already begun to investigate steel bars so that we can safely lock the kids away from guns, texting, and cake pops, upon our return. The kids were better off too. They learned, sadly, that I wasn't abandoning them. They found out that dad really is a hero. (The kind of hero that dishes out space and opportunity when someone needs it. The kind of hero who is capable of letting his wife wander at will.) Furthermore, they accepted that Spiderman has his own way of running the house . One can only hope this spurred a new appreciation for mom's methods.
Holding onto my hand again, in Christmas present....
Change is inevitable, (except from vending machines of course). We're meant to march forward and onward. To travel and adventure in our own ways. With each new place, I find myself crying upon our arrival, and sobbing upon departure. Europe will be no different. In the meantime, together, we will savor this time. This incredible, precious gift- to dance in the kitchen, wherever that may be, together. When family comes to visit, we'll dance with them too.
May you be lucky enough to share the holidays with your fellow kitchen dancers, whoever they may be!
Merry Christmas. Now let go of my hand.