Sunday, May 13, 2012

The disappearing in-between

Ah, Mother's Day.  What a nice notion.  A day all about Mom.

A big "thanks for everything Mom" where I can settle down on the couch with a cup of coffee and watch my children play from a distance while my husband scrubs dirty dishes in the kitchen.

It always looks so hopeful first thing in the morning, when Joel calls the kids downstairs so I can get a few more minutes sleep.  When I finally do roll out of bed and my two year-old yells, "Happy birthday Mom" as I wander down the steps.  When I'm greeted with hugs and kisses and a steaming mug, a soft couch...

On which I can sit for at most two minutes before realizing that even though it's Mother's Day, and perhaps even more so because of it, I am still the mom here.  And particularly with preschool-aged children, though I imagine it never really ends, they still expect me to do mom-type things and, well, to still be their mom... on Mother's Day!

I'm not the kind that can honestly say just being with my family is all I want for Mother's Day.  Believe me, I've tried in the past.  It took Joel just one year of taking me serious to learn his hard lesson... that's not what I want at all.

I want a big deal.  A to-do if you will.  Homemade cards, constant reminders of exactly whose day it is, and of course some festivities that center primarily around food and coffee.

I want lots of time with my kids.  Just time that consists of giggles and kisses, of chocolate-covered faces without the sugar aftershock.  A day that looks a lot like a montage of all our best pictures.

But as most parents know, though we may seriously attempt to lower our expectations of any activities involving our children, these days never seem to go as planned.

Everything was perfect in theory.  A bike ride in the morning.  A long car trip with quietly slumbering children.  An amazing brunch at a beautiful hotel, delicious food, plentiful drinks, a fully-staffed children's area.

It had everything.  Brightly colored cards.  Appropriately extravagant festivities.

Even constant reminders of the day's true meaning.

"Aiden, stop kicking your brother... it's Mommy's Day!"

"Just eat the toast... it's Mother's Day!"

"Get off the floor, you're going to trip the waiters.  Come on guys, it's Mother's Day."

"Finn, you just peed all over the door.  Really, on Mother's Day?"

Believe it or not, my kids were still needy today.  Still rebellious and frustrating and whiny.

At the end of the day I turned off their bedroom light, fell into my own bed, and decided as they argued in the room beside me that tonight, Mother's Day night, they could put themselves to bed.

Some moments later, a tiny whisper.

"Finn, you should go make Mom feel better."

When I saw those small silhouettes in the doorway I held out my arms and let them climb into bed beside me.  Finn rolled on his back, grabbing from my night stand anything with buttons.  Aiden fetched BooBoo Doggy (my childhood pal) from his new home in Finny's bed, beginning his usual interrogations as to the origin of BooBoo's injury, if it still hurts, why he's crying.

As I felt their slight movements beside me, listened to their aimless chatter, looked into those wide, brown eyes, my mind started scrolling through the day's pictures.

And in one of those surreal parenting moments, I saw only smiling, chocolate-covered faces, heard only giggles and squeals of excitement, felt only the weight of their arms around my neck and the height of their adoration.

It's a funny thing that happens with kids.  How hours and even full days of fighting and tantrums, of strife and pure, intense exhaustion, can be canceled by a single moment.  A small clip without a before or after, where you can almost hear the sentimental music filtering in, view the happy pictures fading and appearing before you.

I guess as someone's child myself, I am luckier for it.  Grateful that my mom tends to see all the good and none of the bad, and that I'm sure she views my sister and I's lives as something of a joyful montage (lacking many of the less-than-glamorous in-betweens).

It might seem like happy ignorance, and perhaps it is.

But I like to think it's magic.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A foot in each world

This is where I live.

Where my babies live.

My husband.  My house. 

This is my home.  

But also, this isn't my home.

It's not that it feels particularly foreign anymore.  In fact it feels quite comfortable.  I leave the house without fear now.  I bike, I shop, I talk (out loud).

I don't expect smiles and waves as we wander the streets, I've stopped worrying if everyone hates me, if they can somehow smell the foreigner on me.

In fact, until I open my mouth, it's pretty easy to blend in here.  And I find I'm granted a little extra leeway for the small children I tote around on a fairly regular basis.

There are certain moments, holding Finny's hand down the slide, coffee in hand, where I feel like this is mine.  Like I own it somehow, or at least participate as a small part in it all.  

But there are times when I feel my heart quite literally pulled across the ocean.  Back Stateside.  Back home.

It nearly always hits quick, unexpectedly.  And is layered with the guilt of my contentment here.

Mostly it is fear.  My nephew not knowing me.  My friends moving on.  My family not needing me.  My kids growing older.  

How I wish I could freeze our time here.  Enjoy it, experience it, learn from it, but not lose the time.  The moments I'm missing back home.  The moments they are missing here. 

Nine months in and I am happy here.  

Sometimes I sit back at my book club, or play group, or home, and I feel so lucky.  Lucky to be here, to experience this, to know these people.  

So when the panic sets in and the homesick surfaces, it's more complicated, and, to a degree, more painful.  I don't miss home because I'm unhappy here, I miss home because I'm missing it... missing moments, missing people, missing time.

I am torn between one happy life and another.

In bath tonight Aiden decided he would like to go back to the United States.  Tomorrow.  For one day.  Then he would like to find an airplane and fly back to Hungary.  For one day.  Then... well, you can guess where it goes from there.

But somewhere in that four year-old mind he is searching for solutions to my exact problem.

We love it here.  We are happy here.  But also, we love it there, and are happy there.

If only we could live with one foot in each world, a day here, a day there...

But if we followed through with Aiden's plan we'd spend most of our life in the air, between homes, in the company of strangers.

For now this is our choice, our home.  But a part of me belongs both places.

The pictures, the voices... they are snapshots of a life I'm missing, moments without an in between.  But moments just the same.

And while I can't have a foot there, these moments keep bringing me home.