I lost my wallet at Target for over an hour this past week. Actually, I thought I lost it at Target, when if fact, I had left it at BJ’s warehouse store. Boy, was that a fun hour when I raced back and forth between the two stores with Remi in tow, desperately trying to remember what I did with my precious wallet. The next day, I left the car rental agency with a pair of keys in my purse that did not belong to me. The kind lady at the counter had given them to Remi to play with and my cheeky Roo stuck them in my bag. We whizzed away in the car with me blissfully unaware that my kleptomaniac two-year-old had carefully placed them in my overflowing purse.
I have come to the conclusion though, that I am suffering now from the after-effects of a debilitating malady called “I-had-to-move-across-the-globe-with-less-than-3-weeks-notice”.
Fellow globetrotters know the routine-carefully and delicately pack up the house to go to three different destinations-one area to go via boat into storage until your next post (or straight on to wherever you are going next if you happen to know), one room with boxes to be shipped by air to your next post, and one to be packed into suitcases to travel with you on the plane. Then you have to hope and pray that the packers put everything in the right place. This time around, all of my kitchen consumables ended up in the storage destination. Sigh. The most terrifying thought is the possibility that you might actually put the passports and all essential documents in the wrong pile and find that they have been shipped to the US State Department storage warehouse in Belgium. I am sure it has happened to someone out there. And I am probably jinxing myself in the future for writing this. However, as most folks ho do this regularly know, “carefully and delicately” is thrown out the window in most occasions because of the utter frantic nature of it all. And then if you are parent of little squirrels, you have “helpers” packing with you. This means that once you get to your destination, you often find something that was NOT meant for the suitcases carefully zipped into one (or several) of the many side pockets of your bags. Something like, a ziplock bag of squished grapes. Or a pair of dirty socks. How about several acorns? Yup, these coveted things have ended up in my bag. All three of my girls are guilty of sneaking things in on the sly.
The last three weeks we spent in Senegal were total chaos. We returned from the US on home leave, unpacked our bags just to repack them, had a garage sale to sell off the stuff we didn’t want to take with us, packed up our house, tried (unsuccessfully) to sell our car, and returned to the airport less than three weeks later to move back to the DC area. I would not recommend this process to the faint of heart. I nearly had a meltdown several times and I most definitely gained a few wrinkles a sprinkle of gray hairs because of it. I pretty much wore the same outfit for three weeks straight and I looked like a train wreck. My hair, thanks to the lovely humidity and heat of the Senegalese summer, was a Richard Simmons-esque halo of frizz around my face. I did manage to brush my teeth, though, shower most days, and wash my clothes. And man, was I rockin’ that sweat suit.
Throughout all of this frenzy, we were saying goodbye to dear friends whom we would be leaving much sooner than we had ever anticipated. And as much as I cheerfully (heheh) complained and joked about Senegal during our two+ year stay there, it was truly hard to leave. And to have to fast forward all of our goodbyes into a tiny window of 18 days was truly heart-breaking. I know we are supposed to be used to this by now. But especially for children, it’s difficult to comprehend. And feeling this emotion for my girls is even more difficult. I felt guilty, sad, anxious, and worried for them all at the same time. Again, we are supposed to be accustomed to this routine, but it never gets easy. As much reading material as there is out there on 3rd Culture Kids and children who move regularly across the globe, it’s still heart-wrenching to see your kids to say goodbye to the people that they have grown to love. I still tear up thinking about the moment when we had to say goodbye to our nanny and babysitter, Kiné, who quickly became a part of our family for our two-year stay in Senegal. Seeing our kids hugs her for the last time, knowing that it would be years, if ever, we see her again. And seeing how incredibly sad she was. She had loved and adored my girls as her own and her heart was broken that we were leaving. My girls are so used to friends coming and going all the time, but they still have a hard time understanding this at such a young age. And so the next stage of our adventure begins. We leave for El Salvador in July of 2010. For the meantime, we are vagabonds courtesy of Oakwood corporate housing. My kids are giddy with joy in experiencing everything Americana at the moment-this is their first Halloween ever in the states and they can barely handle all of the plastic decorations and candy overload. They are also enthusiastic consumers of Christmas decorations in September. It’s enough to make them behave like maniacs. We went into CVS the other day and they proceeded to run up and down the Halloween aisle in utter glee. Then Mia’s eyes fell on the rows of blinding plastic Christmas decorations. Her head practically spun right off. When we left, Mia said to me, “Mummy, I LOVE that store, I want to go there every day!”
But as much as my children are victims of mass American marketing, they also feel separation on a level that I didn’t think was imaginable before for a child. I didn’t give them enough credit. However, they miss friends and family just as much as we do, but they just express it differently. Even Remi, my two-year-old feels loss. We have been back in the states for just under two months and she still asks about our nanny. Or she sees someone while we are out who she thinks is our nanny. Breaks me heart. It’s my job now to make sure she doesn’t forget her.
I had wanted to be posted next closer to Europe to be near my family. So, El Salvador is a big mental adjustment to accept. I am 38 years old and I still cry when I leave my parents or my sister and her family. That will never change. As much as I love and appreciate the lifestyle that we lead, I never get used to saying goodbye to my family, especially my parents. I get used to it, but it’s never easy and I dread it every time that goodbye approaches.
I hope to instill in my children how truly lucky they are to live the global lives that they lead. I wish for them to be citizens of the world. I want them also to appreciate the people who love them. When your house and home change so much, family and friends are what truly counts and makes us who we are. In the end, all the material stuff in the house isn’t important. All those trips to Target don’t mean very much. Although occasionally, I would like to hang onto my wallet.