Monday, February 1, 2016


On our tenth wedding anniversary, Elise and I took our three children, the product of said union, out to dinner at a local Indian restaurant. The restaurant, Haandi, is located in the shopping center behind our house. The date fell on the eve of ‘Showpocalypse’. The following day, forecasters were warning of a record-breaking blizzard set to blanket DC and the surrounding environs in over two feet of the white fluffy stuff. Shoppers were emptying store shelves. Elise and I shook our heads at what we perceived a greedy grab for the supplies many people though necessary to whether the storm. But the grab wasn’t about survival. It was about maintaining one’s level of comfort despite any exigent circumstance; the Kripsy Kreme display at the local Giant had been stripped bare.

Our understanding on a lot of things has been altered by our time in India, and our definition of what were deemed ‘necessary’ emergency supplies shifted similarly. My memory of eating Vienna sausages out of the can during Hurricane David also shapes my perception of what is ‘necessary’. Maybe we were just bitter. We legitimately needed milk, because we have three children that each eat two bowls of cereal every morning and not because there was an impending blizzard about to strike, and hoarders who would never otherwise buy milk had greedily bought up every carton within a 25 mile radius of our house.

Elise asked me if we weren’t freaking out enough. We didn’t buy a snow shovel when the opportunity presented itself (this was, perhaps, in retrospect, a mistake. Fortunately, we were able to borrow one from a neighbor; otherwise our car might still be under a mountain of slush and ice). Instead, we bought a sled, beer, a bottle of wine, and a bag of Tostitos. Now we were properly stocked. We could eat Cheerios for three days if we had to. We weren’t going to die. I told her we’d survive.

The Indian food was good. If not spicy enough (or at all). Expensive. It cost about twenty times as much as it would have in Chennai. The gin and tonic was a little watered down, but at least they had Kingfisher. The fact of the matter is, we’d pay thirty times what we did in Chennai for a good Indian breakfast and we have done that twice, discovering two South Indian breakfast places in Vienna since being back in DC. You can’t put a price on comfort food, and it helps keep—not only myself—but the kids, too, to stay connected to India, to something comfortable and familiar. We have beans and rice and pão de queijo and now we have dosas, too.

I went to work the following day, Friday, but was dismissed at the first sign of flakes. It would be the last time I saw my office for five days. The boys were out of school for almost an entire week. The snowfall was impressive, and as the kids squatted at the top of one of the large mounds in our yard that resulted from my back-breaking efforts at clearing the drive, watching the bulldozer come down our street, Elise looked at me and said, “They’ll probably remember this forever.”

I’d never seen that much snow in my life and I’d lived in Colorado for a couple of years. Elise didn’t think she had either, though she grew up in Eastern Oregon and Washington states. For the briefest of moments, there was the thought that we wouldn’t be able to get out of our front door.

It snowed Friday night and all day Saturday, not stopping until early in the morning Sunday. I shoveled us halfway out on Saturday as the kids played around me, and finished the job Sunday. Later that afternoon, I took Peter and Sam sledding on a steep hill near the high school. The following day, Monday, a snow day, we brought Clementine and Elise back with us. By Tuesday, cabin fever had begun to set it, and we were getting antsy and we made our first tentative foray into the outer world…we went to dinner at Chili’s.

Elise and I had tickets to the ballet and a babysitter lined up to celebrate our ten years of wedded bliss. When I picked up the tickets the Tuesday before the storm, I asked the guy at the box office if performances were ever cancelled because of weather. He told me they were very rarely and usually when the Metro closed. Well, the Metro closed preemptively all weekend, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Center was, indeed, closed, as well. The ballet was cancelled. We did get a refund, though, and have plans to go back. We’re interviewing a new babysitter this week. Our Saturday Night Date Nights were the lifeblood of our lives in India, and we are anxious to reinstate them here.

Elise’s uncle recently gave me some advice that I am taking to heart. Initially scared to death living in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the United States would crush us financially, I am learning to embrace what it means to live in the U.S. Our time here may be short, so we should make the most of it. Drink good beer and eat good food. Each of the kids gets to pick one extracurricular activity. Clementine is taking ballet. Pete’s first piano lesson is tonight, and I just signed Sam up in the city soccer league.

I may also finally be getting the hang of this technology thing. I bought a Roku. It’s not a blender, but internet TV. The device was $50 and we get a bunch of free kids shows through our Amazon Prime membership. Elise and I downloaded a season of Tiny House Hunters. Tiny houses are my current obsession as I begin to understand it is the only type of house I may ever afford to own. Evidently, the tiny house movement is catching on in the U.S. as many families decide to downsize. If it is popular, you wouldn’t know it by the sheer number of not-so-tiny houses in Northern Virginia. The only tiny house I know of is the one we’re renting. It is small, but comfortable and filled with the laughter, crying, screaming, fighting, and thundering footfalls of three high-energy children. We may only be in the States for a year and half, but it seems as good a place as any to open the next chapter and next ten years of our lives.

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