This eight weeks of vacation is part of a Congressionally-mandated home leave, a required period off between overseas assignments in which we are to become reconnected with American culture and society. It ends up being a nice sabbatical in between jobs, though made logistically complicated by the fact that we are essentially homeless. The townhouse we own in Florida is occupied by annual renters, so we are relying on the warmth, kindness and hospitality of our parents after we scrubbed plans to spring for a monthly rental when I lost a small fortune last summer when said townhouse suffered a massive water leak not once, but twice.
Though I cannot thank my mom enough for hosting our collective chaos for three weeks and Elise’s parents in advance for five weeks of more of the same, and our accommodations and the service have been five-star, it will be nice to have our own roof over our heads again. Even if it is for only nine months, it will be every bit the home as our home in Brazil was and our home in India will be.
I can see home leave becoming obsolete at some point. Due to the ubiquity of American culture, due, in large part, to the internet, reassimilation is hardly difficult. That being said, it was much easier to avoid the ugly, current political dialogue in Brazil than it has been here, though Elise and I have made a pact to avoid television. In the end, home leave, becomes all about the food.
Without being anti-American, Elise and I have decided the true purpose of home leave is to encourage you to get back overseas. A few mornings ago, we made a stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way to the library. Elise ordered coffee, one of the first opportunities she has had to do so since we returned, “May I have a tall iced coffee, please?” The women behind counter barked back, “I don’t know what you’re talking about! ‘Tall’ is Starbucks! You mean ‘small’?!” Well, obviously this woman did know what Elise was talking about and made the conscious decision than rather than politely correct her and serve her a small iced coffee, she would make a spectacle of herself. A few minutes later, in an exchange with a co-worker, she proclaimed, “I don’t speak no Spanish!” Obviously. Ignorance and idiocy know no national boundaries, but we were both happier not being able to understand when ignorance and idiocy were uttered in our immediate vicinity. By way of example, as we were walking into Publix the following morning to order a sheet cake from the bakery for the boys’ birthday party, we suffered through a telephone conversation the youth behind us was having on his cell phone that began, “Dude, we are partying hard tonight!” The conversation lasted five minutes. If that conversation had been in Portuguese, it would have been very easy to ignore. In English, it was audible spam, and we will never get those five minutes of our lives back.
We don’t worry about going over the “fiscal cliff”; we are about to go over the “exhaustion cliff” spawned by pre-5:00 a.m. mornings with Clementine. In truth, everyone is faring better than expected. After an initial rocky week, Peter’s disposition has improved. Perhaps, he thinks, this America place isn't so bad after all, with your bounce houses, choo-choo trains, libraries and Chipotles. The boys go down easy for naps and at bedtime, though they are sleeping on twin mattresses on the floor of my Mom’s room in an L-configuration so there heads nearly touch. Pete’s screaming has gotten better, though he may be hitting more, unfortunately. At least it is slightly more subtle. I know a terrible thing to say as a parent.
Clementine has just been off her usual nap schedule the past few days and has been too exhausted to stay up much past 6:30 p.m. which means she wakes waaaay before the sun even thinks about rising. I scoop her up from the pack ‘n’ play and we lock ourselves in the bathroom so as not to wake the rest of the house and we play in the fluorescent glow off the under-cabinet lighting. As each older brother wakes and joins us in the tiny bathroom, Clementine crows like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise. Doubting the sun would ever rise, I downloaded an app to my iPhone telling me when the sun will rise and set. It gives me hope that, indeed, the sun will come….eventually, though it’s not quite as useful at 5:30 a.m. as Youtube.