Okay, I think I am about ready to go home now. To Brasilia.
When we left Brazil, there was too much to do to move back to the States for introspection. As I finished up work, we packed, and checked a thousand things off our to-do list before leaving the country, there was no time to drink in our last weeks and days of Brazil. I didn’t even finish everything on my list. When I tried to close my Brazilian checking account, the teller told me a manager would have to do it and the manager would not be in until 1:00. I couldn’t wait until 1:00, so my account is still open. I had a dream a few nights ago that I had my work cell phone, Blackberry, even the emergency radio in the pockets of my pants, having forgotten to turn them all in. Elise has confessed that she has been having similar dreams about our pack-out.
Our first few weeks back in the United States didn’t afford many opportunities for reflection, either. We landed a few days before Christmas with an equally long list of errands. If Brazil was still fresh in my mind, I didn’t know it or didn’t have time to notice. A few days later, during the chaos of Christmas, New Year's and scrambling to get everyone ready for family photos, it vanished completely.
This morning, though, it crept back, manifesting itself as vignettes on my mind’s eye. As I made banana pancakes this morning, I was reminded of Brazil. That was when muscle memory kicked in. I have heard that, like smell, muscle memory can powerfully bring you back to a place. See, I made a lot of pancakes in Brazil. Why? Because it was one of the few things I could make for breakfast and, working every day, it was one of the few parental duties I could perform; I tried to fit in as many between 5:00 a.m. and 7:40 and when I returned from work I did baths every night. It’s not much, I know, but between baths and washing dishes, I tried to do as much as my schedule would allow.
As the boys watched the same Curious George DVD that they have been watching nonstop for the past week and Clementine played quietly on the floor, I made banana pancakes and pictured different parts of my life in Brazil. What were faded images were now all vividly green. My drive to work and the car parked in front of the seminary with its trunk open and the crowd gathered there for morning cafezinhos out of tiny plastic cups and pastries. And the drive home when I would pass the same ice cream vendor pushing what I hoped was an empty cart back uphill from his usual spot in Pier 21 to the place he parked it at night near the bus stop and the boy selling garbage bags who wore the same brown polo and same red baseball cap every day, rain or shine.
The time I ran over the Lake Paranoa dam shortly after Clementine was born, clocking seven miles which was way too many at the time. The course was exceptionally hilly as the road descended down to the span over the dam and climbed back up to a churrascaria sitting on the side of the road, advertising fresh alligator meat, and the view beyond out over green rolling hills that evoked the Land of the Lost, as if that line of hills separated the city as originally envisioned by Dom Basco on one side and a land completely devoid of civilization, law or humanity on the other.
Even the comforts of home are missed. Little things like a familiar bowl to mix pancake batter in, a spatula, a place for paper towels, the means to close three thick wooden doors and separate the children from Elise or Clementine sleeping peacefully beyond.
Though Nanny’s house is more than comfortable, it is work to create and sustain the same illusion for Sam and Peter that my brothers and I had when we visited our own Nanny’s house. It was a magical place and a magical time because everything is special and everything seems to happen automatically. Of course, Sam and Pete are too young to appreciate that everything does not happen automatically and a lot of freakin’ work is actually involved, just as I was too young then to appreciate that someone had to make the pancakes or biscuits that appeared on the table every morning and it was no accident that our favorite cartoons were on TV.
I didn’t realize how much work it would take Nanny to simulate this same illusion for her grandchildren to create a place where pancakes, biscuits, hot dogs, food in general is always plentiful and within reach, a place where your favorite shows are always on TV, a place without a schedule, where the only box to check on a very short to-do list is □ play.
Don't get me wrong, I am more than excited to go to Washington, my second home, that has won my heart and may, someday, be our only home. Now, home is where we make it and, truth be told, I don't mind living out of a suitcase and it makes dressing immensely less complicated.