(A small preface au cas ou... After spending three lovely months at home this summer with my friends and family, I have made my way back to Europe. I’m living in Luzern, Switzerland, working as an au pair (in French! poor kids might end up saying some funny things), learning German, hiking, writing, reading, preparing for the GRE and, most recently, wild mushroom hunting and apple canning.)
Here is my explanation as to why you may think I’ve fallen off the summit of Mt. Pilatus, vanished from the face of the earth or moved to a much more remote country than Switzerland:
I suppose the morning should have been some indication of how the day was going to go. Six-thirty was blue and sunny but by seven I couldn't see the top of Mt. Pilatus anymore as I peaked through the shutters in the living room. When clouds move in from over the mountain, you can bet your Wellies that it's going to rain. I usually get up about 40 minutes before I wake up Yves and Samira so that I'll have enough time to make a peppermint tea, gather enough calm to coax unwilling limbs into sleeves and pants and make (yet again) a convincing argument for breakfast.
I like to wake Samira up first because she still snuggles her way out of dreams whereas Yves balls into a hedgehog, quills out and pointed toward me. This morning she was already awake when I crept into her room and she gave me the biggest smile she could manage with a pacifier in her mouth. I prattled to her in what sounded to me like soothing French (I might just sound ridiculous... Hello hello. It's wonderful the day coming, little heart. How was your sleep? Nice! Lovely!) as I lifted her out of her crib. She lay her head on my should and I felt warm all over. Then I realized that the warmth was strangely localized and had begun running down my leg. Her diaper was bursting with the previous night's too-much iced tea. So, for the first time that day (I hope my English professors reading this delight in my subtle foreshadowing...), I changed clothes and took my second shower.
From that point on, the day was a Wednesday. We all arrived where we needed to be on time. I picked up Yves from kindergarden at noon after I got out of German class. Wednesday is our day to play together all afternoon. And though it makes me feel terrible and makes me fear ever ever being a mother, six straight hours of just the two of us together can get pretty, well, long. While I was making lunch, all of the clouds vanished and I thought, Super! We can go outside and play this afternoon instead of staying cooped up in the apartment. But, after lunch, Yves didn't want to go outside. Certainly not. This is what he said in French.
It ended up being a good call on his part, as shortly after he so vehemently declared his preference it started to pour. The apartment turned cool and grey. Everything gave into sleepiness...except Yves. We stacked stuffed animals in towers, zoomed trains across the floor and built a lego mansion with every single lego he has (many). Wow, we'd been playing for hours and it was almost time for Nicole to get home, to start making dinner, to....not it wasn't. Somehow the grey made time sleepy as well. It was creeping along like a nocturnal animal tossed into an Alaskan summer. Yves and I were both a little bored and stir-crazy, but it had stopped raining so in a most exciting French I said, Let's go outside! Yves declined. I changed my approach. We're going outside! Yves put on one shoe and ran around the apartment shouting and refusing to put on his second shoe. Actually, to be fair he agreed to put on a second shoe and came smirking out with one sneaker and one of his mom's high heels. I ended up manually depositing him straight into his galoshes. Needless to say, we weren't to thrilled with each other as we left the apartment.
We headed across the street to the playground, but what little boy needs soggy wood-chips and a sopping swing when rain has collected in all a sidewalk's dents and crevices? Yves found a mammoth puddle and as he darted through it, gave me the arent-you-going-to-stop-me eye. I, however, thought it was a great idea. I told him he was free to get as wet as he liked as long as he payed attention not to splash the people passing by. He hopped and laughed and dashed and shouted and splashed and flung and slapped and scgoushed. It was delightful. And, not only was it delightful for me, but it brought delight into the days of almost every person who passed. I think we looked at him not necessarily with envy (it was rather chilly to be getting wet) but with a sense rightness, of wonderful contentment that someone was so fully enjoying a moment. I felt like a distant third person narrator beside my tree watching the change brush over peoples' faces as their eyes moved from some point in front of them to Yves' sopping zebra striped shirt. I hope to remember that moments like these hold hands with hours of mounting boredom in a closed house.
I had a few precious hours to myself that evening. I had been planning on leaving the apartment and nesting in a cafe somewhere with my laptop to work on a massive (and overly hopeful/ borderline obsessive) GRE Literuature Subject Test study scheme. But the prospect of perhaps getting wet feet won out and I took to my bedroom instead. I had earbudded myself to Beethoven's 4th was trying to summarize some 18th century epistolary novel I'd never read when my door opened a crack and Yves asked if he could come in. Sure, I said, mentally berating myself for not having gone to some interruption-free zone. But Yves hurled me from regret to guilt in under three seconds: Can we look at the pictures of your family? He crawled into bed beside me and just as I was pulling up the folder, Samira padded in and patted the bed with her dimpled, still-baby hands. I lifted her up and she doughed into my other side. I would point at a face and she would squeal from behind her Nookey Mutter! and Yves would bashfully say, ta mere. Their dad called and Nicole came in with the phone, put her hand over her heart, and said, Sorry, they can't talk right now. They're busy. As she left the room, Samira projectile-vomited right into my lap and my laptop. The screen instantly went dead, Samira started wailing, Yves started crying and I sat in a pool of another woman's child's vomit wondering that such a serene moment could turn catastrophic in an instant. I wanted to cry too. Loneliness would be worse without pictures and email and occasional Skype conversations. And, how much work had I lost? How many half scrawled poems?
But, it was too ridiculous to cry. I ended up in a fit of laugh-sobs after which I showered and, unlike a real mother, left the house to have a glass of wine. I was already thinking about telling the story, about how I would describe this tranquil scene and then say laughingly, Ha ha, but theeeeeeen... In my mind the reality of the "after" had surpassed the reality of the "before." The more I thought about it, the more my inclination to spin the story this way frightened me. Those soft moments, why do we cancel them out? Why is the story about disaster? Why are most stories a person hears in a day about disasters? I don't mean to belittle the truly terrible (a category into which the loss of a replaceable electron device does not fall), but the puddles are just as real as the gray hours in a small space. I'd rather tell of puddles.
So after various rigamaroles with insurance agencies, trans-Atlantic import taxes and blahdiblah, I’m finally re-equipped and back in action. Remo happens to be a software writer so he was able (magically, or so it seemed to me) to save my hard drive and my, er, rams. I’m terribly behind on my study schedule, but I hope to add little updates here and there.
Hope the farmers’ markets are overflowing with decorative gourds where you are....