Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Wormhole to India

There are a lot of analogies that run through my head as I think about what the final weeks in the U.S. will be like as we, once again, say our goodbyes and prepare to head overseas. In a little over two weeks, we will gather our car seats and carry-ons, cameras and iPad, our strollers and children, and board a flight to New York City, then one to Germany, before finally stepping foot on the long flight to India.

Sometimes, Elise accuses me of showing no emotion. It is true I am not sad to leave Northern Virginia. I like it here, but--unlike Elise--I don't have a lot to say goodbye to. Everything that is important in my life I am taking with me. That cannot be said for her, and to that I need to be especially sensitive.

I try to act the stoic captain as the S.S. Hanna sets sail for distant lands, standing on the bow, a weathered hand shielding my squinting eyes from the bright glow that is our future. The breeze coming off the Bay of Bengal fails to rustle my diplomatic feathers, but I feel it nonetheless. I tell myself it would do no good to completely freak out, so I continue to plow ahead into the unknown, certain that, though unfamiliar, good things await us in India. We are ready. Of this, I am convinced, but often we won't know a good thing even when it stares us in the face, and, though we have moved overseas before, I don't anticipate this move being any easier, logistically or emotionally, than the last.

Our time in the States has been like slowly ripping a Band-Aid from an old wound. Had we only been here for a few weeks or months, we could have ripped the Band-Aid off quickly, but it has seemed like our departure has been coming forever; we've been in the States for almost a year.

But now that our leaving is imminent, it is as though a gravity well has opened up, a black hole or wormhole, if you will, that threatens to swallow us all, our worldly possessions, the above-mentioned car seats and strollers, sweep us and them through time and space, and spit us out on a continent far away. You can't escape a wormhole; its pull is too strong. Like an outgoing tide, all you can hope to do is keep your head above the rush of water. Fortunately, we have three life buoys named Sam, Peter, and Clementine to keep us afloat.

I never saw the movie Titanic. I don't like disaster movies. Mostly, because many of them are based on true events, and I know how they end. But, sometimes, I do feel like I'm in a scene toward the end of the movie Titanic that I saw in the theatrical trailer: the ship is completely vertical in the water, with its giant propeller sticking up in the air. Passengers are holding on to anything they can to keep from plunging into the icy black water.

I don't mean to say that I am afraid or even nervous about going to India. I am excited. But I do have to constantly remind myself we are not going back to Brazil.

It is natural to feel hesitant. To want to hold on to what is familiar for as long as possible. And I think it is good to bring with us things that remind us of a place that is safe, comfortable, and familiar. We are cognizant of the fact that in the midst of so much change, it will benefit the kids (and ourselves) to know that many things remain the same. We will still sit down to dinner together and say the blessing. They will still take naps, and the same stuffed animals will occupy their same positions on their bed spreads. There will still be juice boxes and granola bars and jelly beans. We are still a family and we are still all together.

But there can be too much emphasis placed on the re-creation of a place. It is dangerous to think we can replicate the U.S. or even Brazil in India. India will be different. It will be an adventure on to itself and it will be exciting. It will be India. The latter, especially, should be embraced. We can only protect ourselves with the familiar for so long. We can only pad ourselves against the change for so long. Sooner or later, India will come rushing in. It will fill our eyes and our ears and our lungs, and just like Brazil did, it will become part of us, and before too long, we will have forgotten where the part of us without India stopped and the part of us with India begins.

Argueably, Brazil is the best thing that happened to us. I have every reason to suspect India will be the same. As I said, I don't suspect it to be easy, but I am ready for the adventure to begin. I think we have all been ready for a long time.

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