I realize not everyone has access to these choices; I wouldn’t have two years ago, due to grace not yet intervening and demanding it (although up to one year ago I would have written that off to my own refusal to participate in grace’s demands, i.e. a deluded sense of control over my own life, i.e. the operating system by which we all abide until the lid on our own plans is blown off and we realise we’re not running this show). But I’ve done the American Christmas/Sydney New Year Itinerary twice now and it works: short, cold days set to a soundtrack of carols; kicking off the year with a backyard BBQ by the pool.
It’s insulting what grace has forced me to acquiesce to, but I’m doing my best.
If I sound smug, it’s because I’m being a jerk. Every change that I’ve encountered in my life, every deviation from my plan, I have fought and resisted and complained about. I’ve requested a change in management. I’ve sputtered at the fact that this was all worked out a long time ago, by ME, and the rules I set aren’t allowed to change, DAMMIT. And so many of those changes were insulting: years of singleness during prime childbearing time, days spent in doctor’s offices and nights spent in hospital rooms, loss of a pregnancy in the bathroom at work, the internet going out for extended periods right when I was bingeing a new show. Not one of the changes to plan was without merit (except the internet failure; haven’t found the deeper meaning in that yet), but they all had their attendant struggle and pain that mired the good so much it seemed impossible to discern.
Sydney, though, after a year, seems without flaw. Without negative. Which is inaccurate, and revisionist history. Which is why I fight going “home” so much (quotations added for emotional analysis). Every time. You see, it complicates things: there is the re-encountering of family and friends and the re-realisation that it sucks to be away from them. There is the sense of familiarity provided by grocery stores that house all our bad food choices. There are the people whose accents sound like ours. There is crispy bacon, and there is (are?) grits. It’s much easier, emotionally and existentially speaking, to continue communicating with the people back home over internet apps and email and the occasional (gasp!) phone call rather than actually having to feel the feelings. Also, there’s no jet lag.
But we went “home” for Christmas anyway.
And while we loved, and were emotionally challenged by, the time spent with family and friends (really, we did and were), what stood out the most to me was the time spent with just the four of us. Specifically, time in the air and in hotel rooms, since that is where so much of it occurred, doors closed to the outside world and moments suspended in semi-wakefulness populated by just us: boredom and thrill, landing and takeoff, packing and unpacking, joy and utter irritation. Nowhere to go but to each other.
It’s about to be that way a LOT, especially for me and the boys, as we are staring down the barrel of a month of summer “vacation” (quotations added for sarcastic analysis) together. Blessed be the fruit, as they would say on The Handmaid’s Tale, which I watched through my fingers on the flight back to Sydney. A year ago we spent that time mostly alone but for us three, and by February I was on my way to a mental rupture in IKEA. This year, I have friends besides wine and the month is looking decidedly less…bleak. The boys and I know each other better, and this is not nothing. This knowledge has been forged in hotel rooms and on planes and in doctor’s waiting rooms and in hospitals and in all the ways grace has gently but firmly forced it to occur. We are reaping the benefits of staying; of saying yes (usually through gritted teeth). Of, really, grace not taking no for an answer.
I expect there will still be plenty of rough moments and regrets. But there will also be a higher dosage of Lexapro, and more support/witnesses. So what I’m saying is, I’m hopeful. And that ain’t nothing either.
On our flight back “home,” I took The Kid to the bathroom during one of those semi-wakeful moments, my contacts out and earplugs in, and as we navigated the tiny space together, he looked around and said, apropos of nothing, “This is where the magic happens.” I considered the surroundings: toilet, sink, questionable odors, our other two sleeping nearby, the four of us suspended between two countries, two continents, two homes. Magic in the moment, apropos of everything.