Game night

When I imagined life in Kinshasa I pictured the family game nights of my childhood.

On rainy and sub-sub zero temperature days at my family’s cottage (house on a lake for all the non-Canadians out there), and on many evenings, our family gathered round the dining table and played games. As we got older there was also usually a puzzle set up on a different table that two or three people would huddle over, squinting at all white tiles trying to determine whether they fit into a cloud or a snowbank. We had no cable and no internet, so the options were limited. Watch a movie on the VCR (or Beta – my Dad is an early adopter and sometimes he backed the wrong horse…), do a puzzle, or play a game. In my mind’s eye the lights are turned low, there is a fire burning and the darkness outside wraps around the house making all seem cozy and sheltered.

It’s not that I expected cozy nights around the fire in Kin – the fact that it was going to be 90 degrees in the shade many days was one of the things about the Congo that strongly appealed to me, the girl who is always cold. But, I was led to believe that internet would be spotty, or so slow it would be like returning to telephone modems, and cable would be non-existent, or full of things we didn’t want to watch, so I planned accordingly.

I packed puzzles and games and DVDs. I even bought B a beautiful wooden cribbage set for Christmas last year (with an etching of the lake where the cottage is – and where we were married). We requested puzzles for Christmas presents, we asked for recommendations on TV series and movies and we stocked up on games. I thought I’d have hours and hours to read and write and filled boxes with books accordingly.

It is all sitting, unused, in our playroom and on the bookshelves.

The reality of Kin is that most weekends are filled with so much activity that we are too exhausted to play a game or do a puzzle when we get home. Now that we are in rainy season it certainly rains – but rarely for more than an hour or two at a time, so there are no all day sit inside, noses pressed up against the glass, watching the rain and being bored moments here. Clearly there are no -22 degree days to keep us inside, and when it is 95+ we just get in the pool.

IMG_1999

The last month has been no exception – and has, in fact, been busier than earlier months due to the holidays.

First came Halloween. The embassy (or really the CLO (“Community Liaison Officer”)) organized a trunk-or-treat party with games and cookie decorating after the candy grabbing was over. C (and we, if truth be told) had a blast.

There was no traditional door to door trick or treating, but I realized that we have never had a “traditional” Halloween with C. In our old neighborhood in Charlotte there was a Halloween Parade with dozens of small children dressed as princesses, pirates, ghosts and Cindy Lou Who (in the case of C) trailing along behind a fire truck, getting candy from neighbors standing on the street and ending up at the community center for a pizza party.  In D.C. last year we did Halloween on the Hill and wandered around Capitol Hill with good friends. So Halloween in Kinshasa was really not that much different than in the U.S. for us.

The night of Halloween was Oktoberfest at the Symphonie Des Arts – so we left C with a babysitter and went out on the town to witness a large majority of the Kin expat community wearing dirndls and lederhosen made out of the local pagne cloth and dancing the night away to a band brought in from Germany. Schnitzel and sauerkraut – and dozens of other German dishes – were set out in a buffet and beer was flowing as it does only in October at German parties. And, to top of that night, we did the Conga in the Congo.

20151031_202348

  
The next day we headed with a large group out to see the Bonobos – apes that are only found in Congo because they don’t like to swim and won’t cross the Congo River. They are fascinating to watch – incredibly human-like – but their society, which is ruled by a female, apparently has the motto “make love, not war” and they are free to demonstrate that motto in actions rather than words. Luckily the children were more transfixed by the baby Bonobos than the “rumble in the jungle” going on at every turn and we escaped without having to answer any hard questions.

On Veterans Day the kids were in school, but the Embassy was closed, so about 40 people chartered a bus and took a tour of Kinshasa. We visited sites generally off limits, not only to us because of security, but to everyone, including the final resting place of Laurent Kabila (or “Papa Kabila” here), the father of the current president. Papa Kabila became president of the Congo in 1997 when he overthrew Mobutu Sese Seko (or just “Mobutu”), the dictator of the country for over 30 years, but Papa Kabila was assassinated only 4 years later in January 2001. His mausoleum is impressive, but is generally completely inaccessible. It was a rare insight into a city and country that is not generally a tourist destination in any sense of the word.

After that we had the Marine Corps Ball, then Thanksgiving at the Ambassador’s residence – with people in the community bringing their favorite side dishes. Two days after Thanksgiving was the “Kid Power” festival featuring almost a dozen bouncy houses which almost made C faint from excitement when she first saw them. This weekend we have a “Hail & Farewell” party on Friday (when the community welcomes the newest arrivals and says goodbye to the folks headed to their next tour) then C’s “Spectacle de Danse” on Saturday. On  Sunday, as on all Sundays, we’ll have our weekly “cocktail hour” at the compound.

Through all this we have managed to have a couple of game nights with some good friends, and they have been everything I was hoping for and expecting – laughter, mingled with competition, while darkness closes in around us and the A/C glows in the background.

 

Ode to North Carolina (and the joy it brings me)

My love affair with North Carolina began like many love affairs – I was drawn in by looks.

I went to university in Louisiana, but my family lived in Canada, so four times a year, once in summer and once in winter, I got in my trusty Chevrolet Celebrity and drove the 1,300 miles between those two places.  A little over halfway through that journey – 12 of the 24 hours in, I’d hit North Carolina.  In those days (the late 80s/early 90s) North Carolina was the only state I drove through that had wildflowers planted in the highway median.  The program apparently started in 1985 – so by the time I was making my yearly treks in 1987 the flowers were pretty well established and were beautiful.

6436544517_24de535559_n

My journals from those days are packed away, so I can’t quote myself exactly, but sometime in 1989 during one of those drives when the flowers were particularly beautiful, I wrote in my journal that I had “a new favorite state: North Carolina.”  I’ll never know whether my pronouncement then influenced my choice of law school later, or whether it was predestined that I end up at UNC, but 20 years later – most of which were spent in that state – I still consider it my favorite.

The funny thing about moving in 2015 is that it is not terribly difficult to keep in touch with people. There are phones attached to our hips all day long – and we can not only use them to call the people we love and miss, but we can use them to text, email and facetime those same people.  But it is impossible to keep in touch with a place you love, other than through sporadic visits.  C and I made one such visit recently – spending 4 lovely amazing days in Charlotte, the place that will always be our “home” even when we are half a world away.

We were in Charlotte in March and it still felt like winter in D.C.  It was cold and damp and I spent a good part of every time I was outside reminding myself that I wouldn’t have to endure a full winter again for at least two years while we are in Africa.  To know me is to know that I am ALWAYS cold in the winter.  I feel like I spend months just trying desperately to warm up.  I can’t tell you how many times people say something to me like “but you’re from Canada, how can you be cold here?”  Seriously though – I’m cold EVERYWHERE that it isn’t over 75 degrees.  And besides, I’ve done winter, folks.  Nineteen years of living through Canadian winters was enough winter to last a lifetime.  I’m done with it – a yearly Christmas vacation of snow, skiing, skating and tobogganing is great – but a week of it is enough.

So we left D.C. where it was 36 degrees and we arrived in Charlotte, where, on our first day there the high was into the 70s.  And the trees were budding. And the daffodils were blooming.  I swear I almost dropped to my knees in joy when I saw those daffodils. We were outside without winter coats.  My hands did not feel like Snow Miser was clutching them all the time. It was heaven.

Am I wrong or does Snow Miser look a little like B's boss's, boss's, boss...

Am I wrong or does Snow Miser look a little like B’s boss’s, boss’s, boss…

Then we started visiting – places, people, friends, restaurants and my heart was both a little fuller – and a little emptier.  We stopped and looked lovingly at our house that B and I built – arduously picking fixtures, colors, layouts, making nooks and crannies where there were none, and C asked me if we could stay there.  Then I had to say “No, because someone else is living there now.”  It solidified my belief that we have done the right thing by keeping the house for now and renting it out, because I am not ready for it not to be ours – not ready to shut the door on the possibility that one day we can stay there again.

IMG0289Charlotte, because it is a “young” city – with lots of transplants who are also young – is an ideal city for a child.  I’m convinced that there is more to do with a 4 year old in Charlotte than in D.C., which, with its depth and breadth of history, is more suited to a 10 year old, or 15 year old.  Charlotte is full of museums and parks and places that are geared to small children and we tried mightily to visit as many of those places as we could.

And, perhaps most importantly of all, Charlotte is full of people who mean the world to us.  So, despite what I said above, and despite the fact that it really is SO much easier in this day and age to keep in touch with people, there is nothing quite like hugging the people you love. Sitting with them on a back porch, with the warm (WARM!) sun on you, drinking wine while your children, who were once the dreams you talked about, and then infants together, play in the yard and start the next generation of friendships which will endure through time and, now in our case, space.

IMG0290

IMG0635

IMG0656

I am going to miss our friends and family without a doubt, but I hope that I will also get many opportunities over the next couple of years to chat with them, talk to them and visit with them.  I know I won’t get that opportunity with Charlotte or North Carolina. The feeling of peace and belonging we feel there will have to travel with us, in our hearts, to deepest darkest Africa, and wherever else this adventure might take us.

IMG_0667

January in Canada

In January 1970, my parents boarded a plane in London, England and flew 3,550 miles to Toronto. They then drove another 2 1/2 hours to a town of approximately 400 people (404 when we arrived) called Arkona, Ontario.  They brought with them a 26-month old (me), a six-month old (my sister) and, according to them, not much else.  They left behind their parents, their siblings, their homes and everything they had ever known.

MUM FIXED

Dad 70s

My mother had been born and raised just outside London.  She was 28 and had just finished medical school and her residency. She had never been to Canada, or anywhere in North America, before she carried her two girls onto that plane and set off for an unknown life.

It is cold in Canada in January. There is snow; lots of it.  When they arrived at their little (very little) house, which they had never seen before, and did not “chose,” there was probably not much to see in Arkona except snow.  By mid-January winter is also not that pretty in Ontario.  It has lost the sparkly newness of December.  Christmas is over and there is a long (long) time before the next holiday (Easter) and the next warmth (often long after Easter).  It is a difficult time.  Bitter cold and short days making everything feel lifeless and dark.

propsect winter

Our street in London, Ontario circa winter 1975 – a lot bigger than Arkona…

My Dad, who had graduated from medical school the year before my Mum, had a job at the local clinic.  When they arrived my mother did not have a job.  My parents had opted to put her brand new – and hard fought – career on pause and move to Canada for the opportunity afforded by my Dad’s new job, hoping that once they arrived she too would be able to find work.

If my Mum wanted to talk to her mother – or father, or brother, or best friend, or anyone from England – she had two options: an airmail letter carefully scripted on vellum-thin blue paper and trusted to the Canadian Postal Service, or a very expensive long distance call with awkward pauses and echoing words across the Atlantic.

air mailtelephone

As we embark on this life of perpetual relocation, I am fascinated thinking about my parents in those early days.  Particularly thinking about my mother.  Alone in a cold, unfamiliar place with very little to do and two small children.

I don’t remember a thing about our immigration to Canada, just like, I suspect, C will not remember living in Charlotte, moving to D.C. and, in a few months, moving to Kinshasa.  But, nevertheless, I feel for my mother when C breaks down in tears and asks about her friends, or her old house, or her old bed, because, whether she remembers it or not in 20 or 30 years, right now it is a trauma for her and is, no doubt, having an effect on her.  I suspect, likewise, I was not that easy to live with right after we came to Canada.

On the days when I’m feeling particularly weepy and missing our friends and Charlotte, I wonder “how did she do it?”

I have Facebook, and Skype, and text messaging, and basically free long distance.  When I get bored in our apartment, I leave. I get on the Metro and go into one of the most fascinating and amazing cities in this country (if not the planet), with amazing restaurants and museums and an endless list of things to do, not to mention many of my dearest friends.  My child is in a daycare she loves where she is, in turn, loved and taken care of so B and I can do the things we want and need to do each day.  I know moving to the DRC will be very different – I will not have the freedom to wander around the city and explore it, but, then again, I’m going to be stepping into a fully formed community of U.S. Embassy families who will help us navigate the streets, culture, stores and newness of Kinshasa.  They have a blog that I can read right now to find out what sorts of events are going on (Happy hours, a Burger Burn and the Marine Corps Ball…to name a few), for heaven’s sake.  My mother had none of that.

And, hand in hand with my mother, I also think about all the FS families who have gone before us.  Who have stepped into the unknown of a new post without the internet, Amazon Prime, Skype and mobile phones.  And it makes me realize that hardship is a wholly inaccurate and very relative term.   What B and C and I are facing will be different, definitely, but hardship? “Severe suffering and privation”? No. It will not be that.

And so, when I look out my window at the streets of Arlington, and I’m homesick for the streets of Charlotte, I try and picture the streets of Arkona, with grey skies and lots of snow, and I remember how lucky I am, and, as well, how thankful I am that my mother (and Dad) braved the view (or lack thereof), the snow, the homesickness and sadness they felt, in order to give our family the amazing life we’ve had.  I hope one day C feels the same way.

Finding our D.C. Groove

We’re starting to fall into a groove now that we’ve been in Washington for two months. Our weeks are full of school and work and French, and our weekends have been full of visits with friends and family.

Last weekend we did “Halloween on the Hill” (really Eastern Market) on Friday with one of B’s friends from high school (who is also an FSO) and his wife and son, then we had some amazing bbq pig (in the true NC pulled pork fashion) on Saturday night with dear friends from law school, and on Sunday we had another Kinshasa-bound FSO (from the 177th A-100) over for dinner.  The weekend before that we did a quick tour of D.C. while we followed my sister-in-law around while she ran the Marine Corps Marathon.

We’re headed to Pennsylvania this weekend to visit with our friend J who is in the U.S. for a few weeks before moving to Morocco (yes, we will be living on the same continent, but the logistics of getting from Kinshasa to Agadir are, well, stupidly difficult).  Next weekend my parents are in town, then the holiday season starts and we’ll be all over the place visiting family and friends.

Thinking about my lists and all the things I *probably* need to be doing in preparation for July has been low on my list, though I suppose at some point it will have to move up.  But for now I’m enjoying getting into our groove.

 

IMG_0003

Miller’s groove.

IMG_0017

Run K, Run!

IMG_0005

Can you tell who is more exhausted by “school” these days?

IMG_0019

Hello Mr. Lincoln.

IMG_0024

C believes this is “her” Washington Monument

IMG_0031

Cousin love (and disgusting ice cream novelty love)

IMG_0001

B’s groove.

candc

C & C Halloween fun!

I dont like my costume

I don’t want to wear my costume (I’m Doc McStuffins)

IMG_0039

Ropes!

Rekindling

The summers I spent at camp were spent sleeping in tents in the woods, not, as seems to be the norm today, in cabins.  The younger kids were grouped together, but as we got older we became more and more isolated until, as CIT’s (counselors in training), we found our tents a good distance from the main lodge and all the other campers.

We would often have campfires in our isolated little area and sit around until the fire died down and the embers glowed, but barely cast any light.  We would lie in the dark and talk and watch the stars above us.  Inevitably though (we were teenage girls after all) there were nights when some topic or other jump started our desire to be fully awake again and we would bank the fire and do our best to rekindle it so we could get back in its warmth and light.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that rekindling lately.  The isolation and stir-craziness I sometimes feel being in our apartment pretty much all the time (living and working) has prompted me to get out when I can to do lunch with old friends who, at some point or another, have found their way to D.C.

PD_0286

Love reconnecting with old friends – 10 years later (hello 1994!)

A couple of weeks ago, I went to lunch with two of those friends and we had such a lovely time that one of them promptly invited us both (and our “entourages” (B & C for me)) to dinner at her house with her family.  As we drove home that night it felt like that rekindling of the warmth and light from a fire and I wondered how I had managed to let these people get away from me and fade into soft glows over the years.  I am feeling a tremendous sense of loss for something that I haven’t had for about 10 years (the number of years since these people left Charlotte).  These are fabulous, interesting people who I can talk easily with, who I share some history with, who are, despite our lack of contact for many years, dear to me.  And now, just as I am rekindling them and our friendship I am realizing that I’m going to leave.  Suddenly, despite our desire to get on our way, 9 months doesn’t seem like long enough to be in this city.  It doesn’t seem like long enough to bank these fires and get them roaring again.

Add to this the (almost) equally strong desire to build up the new friendships we have made through B’s A-100 class and our calendars don’t seem nearly large or open enough.  Now that B is in language training (in a class of 3 people instead of a class of 84) there are not as many opportunities to hang out with all these new fascinating people who are also contemplating their new lives in the FS – and some of whom are only weeks, not months, away from moving to their first posts (one person in B’s class has already left!)  So we find ourselves juggling the rekindling of past friendships with the building of new friendships – and, while I recognize that it’s a good problem to have, it is, nevertheless, a problem.  Perhaps I should go back to my teenage days of believing that a good conversation with my friends lying under the stars was worth the sacrifice of a good night’s rest, and hope that once we get to Kinshasa we’ll have plenty of time to catch up on our sleep.

busy-calendar

Fitting in

The bid list has been submitted.

Our fate is in the hands of the CDOs (Career Development Officers).  We really only had one, relatively minor, disagreement about how to rank our posts, but that was sorted out (or, more specifically, I told B, “You rank it however you want, but be warned that if you rank it high and we end up there, C and I will be spending our summers elsewhere.”)

We went heavy on French speaking posts for our “highs” in hopes that I will get to resuscitate, revive, or resurrect (depending on how you look at it) my long dormant French speaking ability.  B has to learn a language regardless, so why not a language that I have a pretty firm foundation in thanks to my parents’ foresight and 6 years at a French school.

dialects of French

If hindsight had been 20/20 and I had guessed in college that I might embark on this adventure (anyone who knows me can laugh uproariously now – I have degrees in equine science and journalism from undergrad – not exactly “foreign policy/world adventure” type majors) I would have actually taken some additional French rather than CLEP’ing out of the 12 language credits I required.  I don’t know if they still have the CLEP program (College Level Examination Placement, I believe), but it saved my derrière, and my parents’ hard earned money, by allowing me to take exams for credit in French and (also somewhat ironically given the current circumstances) American History, rather than adding (yet another) semester to my college career.

So I’m practicing my French by reading newspapers, listening to French books on tape and playing French word games on my phone.  Which means, of course, that we’re going somewhere where the language is Spanish, or Aramaic, or Mandarin.

accent

Either way I’m going to be excited.  It’s sometimes hard to believe that B is going to get paid to learn at least one, and possibly several, languages as an FSO.  And that I, while not being paid to do it, will likely also have the opportunity to be taught, by top notch teachers, for FREE, a new language as well.  SO. COOL.

Besides the turning in of the dreaded bid list, life in D.C. (yeah, yeah, technically we’re in Northern Virginia, but I can see the Washington Monument from my building, so close enough) is good.  We’ve attended our first dinner party, we’ve had friends over to go swimming in “C’s” pool (which sadly will close for the season this weekend – Boo), and we have been making some great new friends among B’s classmates and their spouses, partners and children.  We are fitting into this life, for the most part, like we are meant to be a part of it.

Tacoma Park Festival fun!

A new dishwasher

C is very into singing these days.

I’m not talking about conventional signing, with lyrics, to a tune. I’m talking about taking everyday conversation (assuming you narrate everything you do) and adding a totally out of tune warble to it so that you are, basically, singing (off key) about all of the everyday things that are happening throughout the day.

My girl is never going to win American Idol (or [insert foreign country] Idol), which is TOTALLY fine with me, but watching her put her daily life to a tune is hilarious and has been amusing B and me for a while.

Last Friday C and I headed to meet good friends at the National Zoo.  I (stupidly) opted to drive instead of take the Metro thinking (stupidly) that it would be easier.  We did fine for the first 10 minutes or so, then I missed the exit to Rock Creek Parkway and we ended up stuck in construction traffic in the middle of D.C.  Not fun.

I *might* have been providing my own non-musical running commentary on the situation, when suddenly C says to me, “Mommy, are you annoyed at the traffic?”

“Yes sweetie,” I said. “I am very annoyed because we’re stuck in traffic and I don’t know where I’m going.”

This prompted C to begin to sing “We are stuck in traaaaffic, and we don’t know where we’re go-oh-ing.”  Over. And over. And over.

It was actually pretty sweet at first, but the out of tune repetitive signing combined with the devastating stand still traffic finally got the better of me and I said, rather loudly, “Pumpkin, I really need you to stop singing and be quiet.  Mommy really needs to think!”

I felt bad.  Truly I did.  I was annoyed and angry at myself and C really had done nothing wrong, but I was at my wit’s end and I really did feel like I needed silence to contemplate my options (add my lack of movement to a fast dying phone – my only “map,” as a bonus).

I got silence.  At least for a few seconds.  Then very quietly from out of the back seat I heard a real song.

C was singing “Let it go…Let it go…” from Disney’s Frozen.

Out of the mouths of babes.

Turns out we made it to the zoo and had a fabulous time.  C was right. I needed to “Let it go.”

IMG_2409

What I find fascinating is that I struggle to let go of the little stuff.  The traffic.  The whining child.  The dishwasher in our new apartment that doesn’t work properly.  But I feel incredibly calm about the big stuff.  Not knowing where we will live this time next year, for instance.

I know some of my friends think we’re nuts, and can’t imagine spending a year in sub-Saharan Africa, or in the Middle East, or anywhere but the United States of America.  But no matter where we get posted – whether it is a “high,” a “medium” or a “low” on our list, the end will be in sight for us.  Two years.  Twenty-four months.  104 weeks.

Two years goes by in a blink.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years – 27! – in prison, and yet you rarely saw him without a smile.  People live in horrible conditions every day all over the world – millions of people.  I’ll be living in a government provided house or apartment, fully furnished, with clean, SAFE water and enough money to buy plenty of good food.  C’s schooling will be paid for.  We will get vacation, benefits, medical treatment from the best available physicians – and if they can’t be found at post we’ll be medevac’d to London, or Petoria, or back to the U.S.

Meanwhile, many (if not a vast majority in some places) of the people who live their entire lives in whatever country we get posted in will not have enough food, or fresh water, or medical care – not just for two years, but ever.  They won’t know what vacation and benefits are.  They can’t access Amazon Prime when they need something.  They won’t have an Embassy pool, tennis courts, or playground to entertain them, and they will probably never have the opportunity to leave.

So traffic and dishwashers make me a little crazy, but two years in a “hardship” post.  I’m ok with that.  That I can let go, maybe because it allows me to appreciate the little things as well.  Maybe it will allow me to appreciate a traffic jam because, after all, I’m on my way to a free zoo to eat ice cream and wander aimlessly with people I love.  Or appreciate my not so perfect dishwasher because, after all, I’m not having to wash all my dishes by hand in water that was previously flowing through a sewer.  Or even better, appreciate the fact that, with one call to maintenance I got a new dishwasher. Along with a note from Juan, our wonderful maintenance man, which said “I’m so sorry for the inconvenience.”

I hope C and I will sing together about our new life in our new home in a few months.  And I hope I can continue to learn the lessons she teaches me about enjoying life one minute at a time and letting go of the little things.

IMG_2396Postscript:  Everywhere we go we are reminded of North Carolina.  Check out the pig we met at the zoo…

IMG_2406

Controlling the uncontrollable

I’m beginning to feel that my life as the mother of a three year old is going to be good preparation for my new life as a “trailing spouse.”

Before C, at least before my adventures in pregnancy, I prided myself on my control of most situations.  I could plan for almost every eventuality, every possible outcome – whether of a case, a relationship, or a day.  I could make lists, make plans, direct the other attorneys and staff I worked with, and generally maintain physical, emotional and organizational control over my work and my life.

Then came pregnancy and, later, C.  And my control disappeared along with my waistline.  I’d like to think the waistline is generally back, but somehow the control seems to have been permanently displaced.

This morning C refused to get out of bed until I agreed that she could wear a tutu and crocs to have breakfast.

IMG_0070

I tried to reason with her.

“We need to get dressed in clothes we can wear to school,” I cajoled.

“No.”

“You won’t be able to play in the playground if you wear this,” I told her.

“I don’t want to play in the playground,” was her answer.

I’m sure a better Mummy than me could have sweetly convinced her to put on her (appropriate for school) clothes, eat her breakfast, wear her socks, and leave the house without a doll, three princesses, a light up ball, her umbrella and a purse, but not me.  Because I cannot “control” or “manage” or “organize” her; she is three.

And it turns out, while I can do a lot of planning, I cannot control much about what my life will look like in the next few months – and maybe even for the foreseeable future.

Self-Control-alexmillos

It seems crazy to me that I have no idea where I might be living next year. What happened to the “me” that needed to know what was happening, where I’d be, and what I’d be doing every day? I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and to find myself totally freaking out, but so far that has not happened.

I have started to lose a bit of emotional control – it started in earnest tonight.  I went to workout and when I arrived home some of our best friends in Charlotte were just leaving our house, a leather chair we put on our “sell/give” list in the back of their car.  C and their son, W, were kicking a soccer ball back and forth, their baby E was playing on C’s little push car.  It was such a scene of contentment and friendship. My stomach gave a little twist as I got out of my car and walked toward them all, thinking how much I wanted to preserve the little scene, but knowing I couldn’t.

W & C - Friends forever...

W & C – Friends from the beginning…

Then, later, as I was putting C to bed she went to her basket of stuffed animals and said “Where is my monkey with the tail on it? And the daddy monkey?”  The twist intensified. I donated those monkeys last weekend.  I know she doesn’t need three stuffed monkeys (I kept Curious George), but her question just left an ache in my chest thinking of those lost monkeys and how much she loved making them a “Mommy” monkey, a “Daddy” monkey and a Baby George monkey.

And finally, as she was falling asleep, giving me a hug and playing with my hair, she said “I didn’t want W to take my big chair.”

“But W will look after the chair and we can come back and visit it, won’t that be fun?”

“Is W coming to Washington, Mummy?”

“No, sweetie,” I told her.  “W is staying here in Charlotte to look after our chair.  But we’ll visit him, and maybe he can visit us.”

She said “Ok” but I know she doesn’t understand.

I understand though.  I know that how often we might, or might not, visit is out of our control and there is nothing I can do about that.