Sunday, November 15, 2015


Our time together since we left India has been punctuated by moments of excitement between long stretches of crying, frayed nerves, screaming, and fighting. It is not easy leaving a place you had come to call home if for no other reason than to be deprived of the routine we thrived on. When you take that dislocation and add a scoop of fear of the unknown--not sure what our future lives hold for us or what our life will be like once we do touchdown in DC-- not to mention a heavy dose of jet lag, there is a kind of stress that is created that has not yet drawn us all together, rather threatened to rip us asunder.

Now that the worst of the jet lag is behind us, I am dealing with emotions I didn't know where there. It is true what they say about children keeping you in the moment. When you are dragging three exhausted, reluctant toddlers halfway across the world, feeding them, putting them to bed, bathing, them, and attenuating to their emotional needs, you have no time to take care of yourself or your emotional needs. You forget that you just moved and take for granted that you, too, may be hurting.

We stopped in London to decompress and get a jump start on the jet lag. We did have fun. We walked through Hyde Park. We rode the Underground and a double-decker bus. We visited the Museum of Natural History, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace. We ordered room service and ate fish and chips. But all I remember is screaming at the kids. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I guess I took for granted how hard it was going to be. Elise accused me of not relaxing. I was done with work. I was on vacation. Surely, work couldn't be as bad as this. But she was right. I couldn't relax. I didn't realize it then. I didn't know I wasn't relaxed until we made it to Florida. I suppose, in my mind, I couldn't relax until I finished our journey. I guess--without realizing it then--I couldn't let my guard down because we were only halfway home.

It hasn't been much better since we've arrived in Florida. We spent the first week incredibly sleep-deprived and stressed out. we had to buy a car. Every day we didn't, the cost of a rental car got higher. We couldn't find the car we wanted within our budget, and cruising used car lots with three kids in tow was becoming increasingly less fun. I saw my mom and my dad and his family for the first time in over a year, but the reunion is now a haze. I was covered in a thick film of exhaustion and unable to experience the joyful event for what it should have been. I feel I have not caught up with them at all, but gone now is the opportunity to catch up. Questions that should have been asked during those initial meetings went unasked, and to ask them now would be awkward.

One morning, early on in our return to the U.S., I had to get the kids out of the vacant oceanside condominium we are currently calling home before they tore each other to shreds. Elise was putting the finishing touches on her latest assignment--her last in India--and needed some peace and quiet. We all did. I walked them to a nearby park and then down onto the beach. They splashes in the waves and looked for seashells in the sand. They found sea glass and explored tide pools in the rocks. They were carefree, and I didn't care if they got wet or sandy. It is what they needed, a few moments to do what kids do best.

After an hour or so, the three of them say on the rocks, watching the waves crash against them, sending seafoam spraying into the air. I'm not the photographer; that's Elise's job (sometimes much to her chagrin as she complains she has no pictures of her with the kids), and I don't always look for good photo ops like she does, but the three kids sitting on the rocks with the ocean spray shooting into the air behind them was going to be good. So I crouched in the sand to get the right angle and brought my phone to my eye to frame the shot and waited for a wave to crash behind them to get the shot. 

Just as a wave came, I got ready to take the photo, but the wave kept coming and crashed over their heads, overwhelming all three of them. For a split second, they were all gone, under the ocean. They tumbled over the rocks in the whitewash before reemerging further up the sand. They were soaked, sand in their hair, scratches on their legs, and crying.

I stood on the beach with three crying kids trying to assess if any of them were truly seriously injured. They weren't. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), I was just out of the guarded area. Maybe I was lucky, but for some reason I was never really worried, just embarrassed as I shuttled three crying kids over the sand and up to the showers to rinse off the sand and blood. Peter did scream, "I lost my skin!" "I'm going to bleed to death!" And a few other melodramatic pleas, but not only did they survive, they had a tale to share and retell for the next few days, a bonding moment; not that they needed another.

It is getting better. Gradually. We are on a vacation within a vacation and enjoying a few days in a timeshare compliments of Aunt Jackie and Uncle Bill and a day at the Magic Kingdon thanks to Nanny. Some of the magic rubbed off on us. We may be turning a corner. Before coming to Orlando, we instituted mandatory math classes to start the day, installing a small dose of order amidst the chaos. Or maybe just having TV and furniture makes the difference. Never underestimate the power eating off real plates may have.

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