One year ago...
When I wake up sunlight streams into the room. It seems like midday, but when I glance at the clock I see it's before seven. Cups clank downstairs, Aiden makes distant car sounds, thrilled with the houseful of new toys.
I hear Finn stirring in the crib beside me, arise to his sunny smile. I lift him out with a quick kiss and set him on his feet, but when we near the narrow, winding staircase I pick him up again, set him lightly on my hip.
Morning nearly always carries more hope for me than the nighttime. And I am a little happy for the challenges ahead of us today.
But in a moment my sock slips on the polished wooden stair, right as it narrows at the center. The following seconds feel surreal, but I notice the weight of my own body as it hits the hard edge of one stair, then another, and another. But mostly I hear the thump of Finn's head, the sound of his cry.
Joel ends up running to his rescue, scooping him up while I lay helpless at the bottom. I sit up slowly, but everything hurts, my elbow and hip run through with a searing pain.
Finn calms down quickly, the resiliency of a toddler. But tears still moisten my eyes and I limp with Joel's help to the couch. I sit and wonder what we will do. Aiden hovers over me, scared of my pain. I try to comfort him, but I think he knows I'm just as frightened.
Joel asks over and over, "What do you want to do?" I know what he means, but I don't know where to begin. Who do we call? Our landlord, the school receptionist? We don't know anybody here and again I realize just how alone we are.
I pop some tylenol and wait for the pain to lessen. I am sure something is wrong with my elbow, but I stay quiet.
Now I am thinking of home. Imagining this same situation one week ago. My in-laws watching the kids while Joel drives me to our small town hospital, pulling under the awning of the emergency ward, knowing where to go from there. My parents a phone call away, ready to jump in the car if ever I need them.
But here it's just us. Our parents can't hop on over to help us. And with two small kids in a new country the hospital is out of the question. I am terrified by the thought of it.
In a few hours the pain does lessen and our landlord agrees to pick us up and take us to our car, where it waits in the school's gated parking lot. I am limping when he arrives, and though I feel a little foolish I've stopped thinking about the hospital and am happy to be heading towards the school instead.
When our landlord pulls in he points us to a green car sitting lopsided in the parking lot. It's our car... flat tire and all.
Joel rides with our landlord to the nearest mechanic, where he requests some help, only to be met with a "Come back later, it's lunchtime." At this point he leaves us on our own, unable to wait out the long lunch of our Hungarian mechanics.
Later that afternoon Joel walks away from the school, where the kids and I munch on some leftover airplane snacks in lieu of a real lunch. He walks to the next village where the mechanics are finally back from lunch. I count the minutes until his return. I can't place us here, and without cell phones I feel like he's walked of the face of the earth.
Turns out he wandered just five minutes down the road. Still, I whisper a prayer of thanks when I spot him walking towards us.
Later that evening we park our green car with its four, full tires on a bumpy, dirt road in the village. We walk across the brick square, empty of life on this gray, rainy night.
When we walk through the restaurant doors we're a little nervous, but it feels like warmth in here, with it's pink and green, plaid tablecloths, it's flickering candles and English menus.
We attempt to order in Hungarian, one of the few skills we learned from hours of Hungarian lesssons while washing the dishes and driving in the car. Still, our waiter crosses over to English when we realize learning to ask for wine is a fairly useless skill if you can't say red or white.
But the food is hot and filling, the boys are happy and we smile at each other over our plates, daring to imagine a future here, and a happy one at that.
Even with the mishaps, we're here now. The months of daydreaming are over, the hope and the dread past. It's up to us to live it now, to stop thinking about it. For the first time I sit back just slightly in my chair and let myself feel some relief.