Like waking up from a dream, I am home again. What a wonderful 24 days! To wake up in a place with a cat on your chest, two little boys snuggling their fuzzy heads next to yours, and the blush of autumn shimmering through an open window.
There is a clarity in leaving something you love behind, then seeing it again with eyes more patient than those of a tired parent. It’s like… Grandparent Wisdom. I see which details really matter, and how quickly time can slide away.
Since starting middle school, Jake and Eli are taller, faster, and super fun to have dinner with. They communicate with grand emotions and ideas, and their ability to read, write, think, and play with iPhones is growing in leaps and bounds. With their long, skinny legs, they’re also literally leaping and bounding all over Europe with the Cross Country team.
Running through the Vienna Woods, training for the Vienna Night Run; when did they get so strong? They traveled with the team to Budapest and I loved hearing stories about their Home Stay. How late did you stay up? What did you have for dinner? “Noodles, Mom, noodles! Everyone eats noodles.” I liked that they were reminded to call their parents when they arrived, so a few weeks later when we hosted two soccer players from Switzerland, we made noodles and reminded them to call their parents, too.
Jake and Eli went on a 6th grade overnight trip to Hallstatt, where they had roommates, went hiking, and shared illicit bags of candy when the teachers weren’t around. There is so much to learn in middle school! It’s a new chapter of Life opening up, and so little of the important stuff comes from books.
October is a beautiful everywhere, but especially in Vienna. We always have visitors, and this year Nathan, Sahara, and Hunter came, and after that Halloween was right around the corner. Jake, a.k.a. Indiana Jones, was the DJ for the school dance, and Eli ran around as a giant blow-up dinosaur.
Another weekend Jake worked as a radio host for the regional soccer tournament. Eli was part of a Robotics group, and they supported their friends on the team by eating burgers on the sidelines. I worked as the school nurse and loved listening to the middle school kids all day. I couldn’t help thinking that teachers and kids seem more mature than the people I usually work with….
The chilly afternoons with long shadows and faded sunshine were perfect for baking pumpkin bread, brownies, oatmeal raisin cookies, apple pies, blueberry muffins, chocolate shortbread, and an almond marble cake with special assistance from Jake. They are also perfect for throwing the baseball around and burying each other in the leaves.
Gussy Cat is learning new tricks, too. Every day we come home to find this!
In September, the boys went to see the Austrian Air Force in a show at Zeltweg Air Base.
They went to the Albrecht Dürer exhibit at the Albertina, the Mamuz Museum of medieval history, and saw a cool exhibit of old books in Bratislava.
They also spent three fun-filled weeks with Oma and Opa,
And taught Mom to play video games.
Most importantly, they have been loved and cared for by a Dad who drives them to violin lessons, picks them up after Cross Country, irons Scout uniforms, makes dinner, supervises homework, packs lunches, keeps them clean, and hosts sleepovers for their friends while also working full time. I don’t know how Mike does it all, but he does better than I do! Look at this guy, ironing his own suits in between all that other stuff, and snapping photos of Foreign Minsters at the Hofburg. Who does that?!
It is nice to come back and see that my kids are still my kids. That my family is still my family, my cat is still my cat. That there is still the same food in the refrigerator and the same default dinner of grilled cheese, and the same socks on the bathroom floor every single day. It’s a relief to see that not much has changed.
I realize that my biggest fear fear is not just that they will change, but that I will change, too.
When we’re together, we absorb each other, and there is little effort involved in knowing them, in closeness, in intimacy. I struggle to stay fully alive now without the people I love, and fear losing these precious moments in their lives. How do we stay together when our paths take us apart?
But on better days I remember that we’ve traveled many journeys apart in life so far, and yet here we are, still walking, through change on the same path, and the people we love are never far behind. I might be 100% replaceable at work, but at home there is still no other Mom.
I like feeling necessary for something.
When you leave something then come back to it, you see it from a different angle. Greater detail, greater compassion, maybe something deeper and better that wasn’t being noticed before.
Leaving may not mean missing the growth and the change, but may in fact be the only way to see it.