Some “old” friends at the bus stop
So this past week, the kids started back to school. Just like all parents worldwide, I was MORE than ready for school to start. Even though they had an abbreviated summer because of the different school calendars in Ireland and the US, they were well ready too. Ready to see old friends, ready to buy fresh supplies and ready, as the 8yr old said, “to maybe even make some new friends”. One of the joys of being a kid is that the same person can actually be an old friend AND a new friend. Three months is a long time when you are a kid. It’s almost like dog years. I’m not even sure why we don’t count it this way. “How old is little Jimmy?”, “Why, he’s 4. But that’s in human years. In kid years, he’s 37, of course.” And the other parent would nod knowingly. Because they change that much in a very small space of time. If 3 months is a long time to a kid, imagine what 2 years is like. This is the amount of time we have been gone from the States and from our neighbourhood school. As we started the school year up and the kids began meeting their teachers and seeing their classmates for this year, I realized that we were having a totally different time experience. To me, 2 years flew by and it’s almost like we never left. I see the same parents in the classroom, the same teachers in the hallways, and to me the same kids, albeit bigger than they were when we left. But to the kids, they all seem like strangers for the most part. If not all together strangers, then distant acquaintances that they maybe met at party a while back and just can’t place. Two years is a HUGE percentage of their life and the younger they are, obviously, the bigger it is. For the 6 year old, it was 1/3 of his life so far. He was four when we left. And even though he has a girl in his class this year that he spent ages 0-4 with in daycare, he can’t even remember her name each day. I’ll say, “How was SoandSo? Was she at school today?”. He looks at me blankly and says, “I don’t even know who that is, Mom. ” He might was well add “Duh!” in there at the end, because he is clearly thinking it. For the older two, they do remember a few key friends, but even those have changed and aged and seem new and exciting. Which is a good thing, I guess. I was worried about it all being a let-down for them after the excitement of being expat kids. But so far it’s been great. And weirdly familiar. Kind of like an cocktail party for Alzheimer patients. “You’re a handsome devil. What’s your name?”…….
1st Day of school 2013-2014 (Look how dark it is! It’s EARLY!)
We are in the home stretch now, so to speak. Only a few days left until we get on that plane back to Atlanta. Back to our old lives. Or do we? Meaning, you can never really go back to your old life. Many, many much wiser people have described this. “”No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” (Heraclitus). Thomas Wolfe wrote a whole novel about it after he went back to his NC hometown after living in NYC (“You Can’t Go Home Again”).
When we came over two years ago, I knew nothing about Ireland other that the very little I gleaned from a 3-day trip to Dingle in 1993. I had never been to Dublin, never seen the house we would live in, and I literally knew no one. I also had an 8 year old, a 6 year old, a 4 year old, and an 8 week old. My biggest fear was that the kids wouldn’t like it and would have a hard time making friends. Even though I have always relished travel and adventure AND we had always said that we would jump at an international move, I didn’t really want to come. I had just had a baby and I wanted to nest in my comfy home in Atlanta that I knew so well. I wanted to enjoy the rest of the spring and the summer that was just around the corner. The kids loved their school and I had great friends, my family close by, and an extensive network of trusted sitters. Ireland was the unknown. But I went anyway, because I knew what would happen in Atlanta if I stayed. It would be good. But it would be the same things that had happened for the previous 5 years. I didn’t know what was going to happen in Ireland. That was pretty exciting. Scary. But exciting. Kind of like getting on your first roller coaster. (Or for my friend Annie, on the swings at Tivoli!) You don’t know what to expect. You think you’ll probably love it, but part of you still wants to pee your pants with fear.
I didn’t have to worry about the kids. They loved it from day 1. They loved the new house and having their own rooms. They loved all the festivals that happen around Ireland in the summer and the ice cream trucks at every park. Even without meeting many other kids, because school had yet to start, they were happy as clams for the most part. I, on the other hand, felt adrift with no support network of friends and family. And this stunned me. I never have a problem meeting people or making friends. But I also didn’t know that once summer comes to Ireland, most people leave. All the American expats for sure hotfoot it outta here to get some time in the US or just some time in the sun. But lots of Irish also take extended vacations out of Ireland. Those who aren’t on holiday spend the weekends out of Dublin down in the country somewhere. Most groups stop their activities for the summer as a result. So I had a hard time finding my peeps the first couple of months. During that time I met the lady I referred to in an earlier post (See “Shut the Hell Up, Thank You Very Much”) who basically vocalized my worst fears about having no friends. But, a very wise and dear friend in Atlanta calmed me. She said, “You will meet people, wonderful drunk people who will become lifelong friends until they lose their teeth and die of cirrhosis. You will speak Gaelic and river dance. You will kiss the Blarney Stone.” I am happy to report that the best parts of her prophecy have come true. I did not kiss the Blarney Stone (mostly because John INSISTS that the Irish piss on it and laugh at tourists who kiss it.) and the only Gaelic I even speak is repeating the name of my house when giving directions. But I did meet people, wonderful people. And sometimes they are drunk! But mostly that seems to happen at my house, so I don’t judge. (Har har). I now consider some of them Life and World Friends. This means we are friends for life and that no matter where we are in the world, we will be friends. And the only time I wanted to pee my pants over the past two year, it wasn’t from fear, but from laughter. Thank you. Thank you.
Here’s what I will miss most about four of those World Friends (in order of when I met them)
Patrika: Gentle spirit, soothing, amazing masseuse, always planning the fun and making it happen. I will miss you true optimism, your sweet smile, and your ability to see the good in everyone, no matter what. You inspire me to be gentler and kinder with myself and with everyone else.
Michelle: Southern, strong, fierce, my fashion icon. I will miss your effortless fabulousness, your strength in the face of any obstacles, and your ability to embrace change with such grace. You inspire me to up my fashion game and remind me what a true steel magnolia is.
Mimi: Sarcastic, sassy, protective, empathetic. I will miss your amazing ability to listen and to understand, your easy, appreciative laughter, your sarcasm. And your ability to worry about everything! It reminds me to be more cautious at times. And you inspire me to always let others see my weaknesses and not just strengths. Because it is our common foibles that make us laugh and bond in this world.
Annie: Upbeat, balanced, smart, generous of spirit. I will miss our travels together, your sharp insight into the heart of things, the fact that you take nothing for granted and your appreciation of the finer things in life. You inspire me to always be seeking balance and to always be grateful for my blessings in life.
I could truly write pages about these four women and the others who have touched my life. But I will stop there. Love you guys!
Dublin is a great city, with a lot to offer anyone who is lucky enough to spend some time there. But spend enough time and you quickly realize that the one thing it doesn’t offer is sun. So, we knew we had to get out and see the sun for at least some part of the kids’ two week spring break. Spring break…that’s what we call it. But every time you say that in Ireland, they look at you funny until you correct yourself and say “Easter break”. It’s like, they know what spring is and they know what a break is. They just cannot reconcile those two things when they are put together. Anyway, to guarantee ourselves some sun, we had booked ten days in Palma, Mallorca. I have never been to the Baeleric Islands and have always wanted to go. (Years ago, when I lived as a student in Spain, the cheapest way to travel around was by Eurorail pass. You paid a ridiculous low fee for a yearlong pass and could get anywhere around Europe that was reachable by train and in some few instances ferries that were part of the scheme. The Baelerics was not included in this and buying a flight there was about as feasible for my broke student self as flying to the moon.) I was excited to have some time in the sun with the kids and John, show them some of the beautiful Easter processions that Spain offers, and generally just enjoy. Probably eat a lot of jamon in the process as well.
Both Noah and I had birthdays while we were in Mallorca. For mine, we went into Palma as a family and had a lovely paella lunch at C’an Eduardo and then walked around the town a bit. The restaurant was on the waterfront and had a lovely view of the giant cathedral.
For Noah’s a few days later, we took a trip across the mountains to the village of Soller. There is a lovely old restored wooden train that runs across the mountains from Palma to Soller. Since he is obsessed with train, I thought that would be a good idea. He loved it and was excited the whole hour ride over. It doesn’t take much to please a 2-year. (But it doesn’t take much to piss them off either.)
One of the funniest parts of the trip was that Linc decided to buy a fedora. He saw a felt one in a kids’ clothing store that was really cute. But it was too small, so I wouldn’t buy it. He was furious with me. But then we found one that was his size and more summery to boot. He looked so cool and got lots of compliments from strangers. You could see John John feeling torn. Now he really wanted one too, because it WAS cool. But he didn’t WANT to want anything that Lincoln has or to want to be like Linc in anyway. The core of his whole beef with his younger brother is that they are so different. I could almost see the internal struggle. Then Sophie got a fedora too. That was too much. Now John couldn’t resist. So he caved and got one too. At times, it looked like John and I were raising some sort of mini-mafia.
One of the days, John and I rented a car to drive around the island. We saw some really beautiful places. I’ve decided that if we ever come back, I would love to stay in Deia. What a gorgeous place! Apparently, I am not the only one who thinks so, as the little place we ate lunch had lots of photos of famous people on the wall that had also eaten there.
There was this one abandoned house smack in the middle of the village. It looked amazing and I wondered if it was for sale. I had fantasies of summers in the small village, waving to the abuelas as we walk to the market or down to the sea. I looked and looked online, but couldn’t find any info. That’s okay though….it’s still a great daydream.