One Month

What a glimmer of light those two words are!

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They mean that time is passing, despite these first few weeks of watching the clock tick, and that the calendar is actually moving.  After a month of days spent waiting for the days to end, there is progress to show, and a path that is actually leading somewhere.

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I’m surprised that even at 44, life is still full of firsts.

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If I can embrace this job in Baghdad and forget that the wife and mother I want to be would be helping with the grocery shopping, doing laundry, and packing lunches, then some things about this new rhythm aren’t so bad.

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Like, I don’t have to do dishes, and someone else does ALL the cooking.  There are refrigerators with sliced fruit and warm trays of french toast, and at any meal there is chicken prepared at least three different ways.  There are curries, meatballs, and boxes of grapes with huge chunks of cheddar cheese.  I’m remembering how much I love chicken salad and mozzarella sticks. and never knew how much I could love a pistachio Magnum bar.  There is time for language lessons and reading books, and during my long, hot walks before sunrise, I see the most lovely palm trees waving in the breeze.

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When I walk after the sun goes down, I see a world illuminated by stars.

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Most of the time though, this new world is a rude awakening.  A world full of emergency drills, heat, confined spaces, too much sunshine, and weekends of bad TV.   Maybe instead of calling Vienna a “dream,” I’m actually just sleeping here in Baghdad?  Hibernating, while my real life is back home with Mike and the boys.  Can someone dream for a whole year?

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it is a strange underworld, this Dream State.  Where I have 12 plates and 24 glasses, and eight places to sit in my living room even though I’m the only person who will ever use them.  It’s quiet when I come home and quiet when I wake up, and I can put my things anywhere because all the space is only mine.   Nothing is ever moved unless I move it, and when I come home, the house always looks exactly the same as when I left.   There is no sound and no mess unless I make it, and I notice that the rhythm of my life has been determined by my children for over a decade.  It is excruciating to be without them.

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Some days, the minutes crawl by until eventually an hour passes, but then there are still so many more minutes left!  Where did all this time come from?  Where did all of this time go?

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When the reality of this abrupt change becomes too real, I look out my window and imagine I’m in Vienna, seeing the garden next door filled with flowers and a rustic wooden table where our neighbor sits to sip wine.   There is a fat, grey cat that waddles up to the roof and catches Gussy’s attention.  Gussy and I both like to sit and look out the window.  I love when Eli sends me pictures of Gussy.

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I also love when Jake and Eli answer the phone.  The old school phone, a landline, which is a surprising comfort for Mike and me but a little weird for the boys.  All they’ve ever known is seeing a person with FaceTime or Skype, so we switch over to our iPhones, where I see their homework and hear about their day.

They started sixth grade this week!

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I wish I could have been there to send them off to their first day of Middle School and celebrate with back-to-school sushi.

I would trade my firsts for theirs, any day.

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And so the clock keeps ticking and the sun goes down, and I cross out one more day on the calendar.  Pretty soon it will be September and there will be one less month to get through, one less month to wait for, one less string of endless minutes.

As long as the clock keeps ticking, I believe I’m going to make it.  Each tick is one tick closer to home.

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