Our original plan of attending breakfast with Santa sponsored by my work were scrapped when both Elise and I succumbed to a wave of anxiety over how much we had to do before our pack out on Monday. What had seemed like a necessary distraction, just became a distraction, and the thought of bathing three kids and dressing them in what passes in Brazil for Sunday finest only to be elbowed out of the buffet line and left with ice cold pao de queijo and coxinhas was made more unappetizing when we realized we had so much to do.
The hardest part, of course, was convincing Sam that it really was a better idea to stay home and putter around the house helping mom and dad than to go have breakfast with Santa Claus. But Sam has been miraculously helpful in the last few, incredibly stressful days. It took some hard negotiating, but once we threw in an afternoon trip to the toy store, he acquiesced, and Elise and I were able to do a bit of last minute organizing over and around Loulee and the boys playing Thomas trains and Legos.
I try to calm my nerves by telling myself it will all end up in the same place eventually and that what is really important is that we are all together and no one gets left behind in Brazil. Since every waking moment is spent either working or taking care of three incredibly demanding young ones, it was impossible to carve out sufficient time to do the organizing I wanted to do. I just hope my running shoes don't get to India a year before me and my name plate from my desk ends up in my luggage. A lot of good that would do me. I try not to worry, but we lost a Christmas garland of Anthropologie mittens Elise bought in Seattle somewhere along the way and I keep kicking myself to this day that I can't remember where I packed it.
I tell myself that this pack out can't be more difficult than our pack out from Florida where I cradled an eight week old Peter through the entire day. But the numbers are not in our favor. Fortunately, Sheyla, our empregada, will be here to share cradling duties. Moreover, I am not sure this move carries the same emotional weight as that one did. A lot more is known now. We are going back to a place we have been before, Washington DC, and we know how long we will be there. And we know where we will move on to after that. India. None of this was known to us when we moved from Florida. We know nothing about DC or Arlington. We didn't know if we would stay for a few weeks or a few months. We didn't know we would be coming to Brazil until we received our assignment on Flag Day. We might as well have been boarding a bus for the moon. Or Peshawar.
But I am sure it is too early to estimate the emotional impact of this move. I am sure the full weight of it won't hit us for another week, when we depart. Since moving from my position in the environment and science section back to the political section, I have had an opportunity to exhale. And reflect. On the shuttle ride home yesterday, I rode with one of my colleagues who was also departing post; he was flying out that night with his wife and daughter. I asked him in a very-open ended way, "So, what do you think?" I explained that I had meant my question to be open-ended and I was curious to hear is general impressions of his own time in Brazil in what was also his first assignment. I don't think anyone is as enamored with Brazil as Elise and I. But in his position he had to work until eight o'clock every evening. Had I had that job, my impression of Brazil may have soured a bit, too.
We leave knowing this is not goodbye, but "see you later". There is no part of me that doesn't think we will see Brazil again. Maybe everyone thinks that when they leave a place. Or, perhaps, we are unique in this view. Maybe if we were leaving Ouagadougou we wouldn't have the same confidence that we would see Burkina Faso again.
When he got home from the toy store, Pete and Sam played with their matchbox cars in the front yard. They make a mud puddle with the hose and submerge all 100 of their cars in the thick red clay then spend most of the rest of the time, hosing the mud off. They skipped naps. Who has time to nap when you only have a week left in Brazil?