Back and Forth and Homes Galore

8 Jan

We’re back! To bare feet on concrete floors. To the happy Jehovah’s Witness’ music pouring in our windows all day on Sunday. To salt tacos, because the handmade tortillas hot off the comal can’t wait for the breakfast to be ready. To coconut water straight from the coconut tree. To trucks that drive by selling oranges or propane or tortillas or drinking water. To men that come to your door with machetes to cut the overgrown weeds in the yard. To dirt roads where dogs and children roam free. To iguanas and crowing roosters and herds of goats for neighbors. To lighting the stove with matches and the absence of a microwave. To clothes hanging from the line. To only cold water in the shower. To not needing lights during daytime because the sun streams in through the over-sized windows that take up nearly half of each wall. To tank tops and cut-off shorts and walking around dancing from all the energy the heat gives me.

All this, less than twenty four hours since our return to the alternate universe that is our life in Puerto Escondido. We’re just two days and three airplanes away from the alien world called Savannah, Georgia- the one we grew accustomed to after six months. One day back here, though, and it’s hard to believe that we were just living in the United States. You can tell, though, by the fancy toothbrushes the kids have now (the electric kind Lucia begged me for, which I justified when Khalil’s speech therapist suggested it), and “whatever that thing is that you’re charging,” said Conan. I have a hair product for the first time in my life (to minimize the frizz, y’all). The kids have their own Kindle (there’s not much access to books here). The kids have a bunch of clothes that are not hand-me-downs (we don’t know that many people in Savannah yet). We might have slightly fancier stuff than when we left, but I’m sure we are not too fancy, even if I might have hollered a little at the slightly chilly water this morning.

Photo on 1-8-18 at 8.06 AM.jpg

Air travel, by Lucia and Papi

There will be some adapting to do, though. The most obvious of which will be language for the kids. Keeping up with their Spanish proved harder than I thought. My plan was to speak it with them daily, for at least an hour a day, and slowly switch over to speaking 90% Spanish with them. However, between working part-time, homeschooling Lucia/being a stay-at-home parent with them both during the day, learning sign language, taking Khalil to speech therapy three times a week and practicing at home, and all the other important survival things for the three of us, I was not a rock star at maintaining their Spanish language skills.

In fairness to my rock star parenting (haha), Lucia did not have the best attitude about Spanish for a good bit of our US life. “Why are you speaking Spanish to me?” she’d ask like I just peed in the bathtub. I know; it’s hard for me to switch languages with some people, but she was seriously resistant for a while. I enrolled her in a kids’ Spanish class to try to make it more fun than just talking with Mommy. It helped, but by the time she liked it she’d already lost a giant portion of her expressive language. Lucia left Puerto speaking a fabulous version of Spanglish; her English strong from speaking it with both parents at home, her Spanish strong from school and all the other play with kids in Spanish. She still understands Spanish pretty well, but it’s going to cost her some time to get back to where she was. She’s nervous about seeing all her friends and not being able to communicate with them as well as she’d like to. There’s nothing to do but keep showing up, though. Like so many times in life.

With Khalil, I’m completely intrigued as to how the language struggle will go. He left here totally bilingual in his understanding, and with a few words in Spanish and a few words in English. I couldn’t be more pleased to announce that he’s totally fluent in English now! Khalil was most honorably discharged from speech therapy back in mid-December. He is a talking fool; “I can say everything now, Mommy; I’m not a baby anymore.” (Ok, there are a couple consonants he can’t do still, but it’s age-level error.) He can say a couple of things in Spanish from our occasional practice time at home, but I’m not sure how difficult his Apraxia of Speech will make it to get fluent. I’m not sure if the sound sequences will have to be practiced in the same Apraxia-specific way the English ones were, or if it’ll be similar enough for him to work it out on his own with time. We shall see!

At least my kids will not suffer the same fate as my Nonna. She had forgotten all her English when she went back to the US from Italy at one point as a child. The nuns at her school would send her home every day, with a message to not bring her back until she could speak English. Her mother, of course, kept sending her back anyway, because, as she finally pleaded her case, “Where do they think she’s going to learn English if they keep sending her home from school?!” My mom told Lucia this story when she started worrying about going back to her “old school.” My children are happily returning to their school tomorrow, where I am sure that no one will send them home, where the teachers will be patient and understanding, where the other kids will rapidly reintegrate them into the circle, because that’s the kind of wonderful environment that exists there. Their school is definitely one of the things we’ve been pining for. The kids are looking forward to a fun place to play with a lovely group of other kids, and I can’t wait to have some place to send them five days a week. I suspect that readapting to school will be a joy for us all.

I do remember all my Spanish, but I still have my adapting work cut out for me. I have to find a new job and transition into this next phase of life in Puerto. I have to figure out what our next life transition looks like, and how to make it happen. I’m constantly evaluating what home means.
On the one hand, Puerto Escondido feels more like home than Savannah, from all the time, sweat and tears of making it home from scratch. On the other hand, being in Savannah gets us so much closer to so many of the people that we love. But it’s unclear if and when Conan would be able to move there. (That’s a topic for another time.) So I’m constantly thinking about the privilege of being able to decide where I live, and the emotional weight of that decision, especially when one is making decisions for their children. I debate with myself constantly about our most important needs in life and how to make that happen. What are the things and relationships that we each most need in life to grow and be healthy and, at least some of the time, happy? I have more heartache than answers.

Photo on 1-8-18 at 8.07 AM

Lucia obsessively draws houses these days. My little artist searching for answers in her way. 

“When you have many homes, and many people who love you,” I tell Lucia when she’s missing someone, “You get to feel very, very happy, but not always all at once.” I hold her and let her cry. “It means we’ll always be missing someone, always longing for some other piece of home. But it also means we’re really luck. We have so much family in different places! Not everyone gets to have different homes.” I console myself right along with her.

And on the hardest days, I listen to my favorite Ani DiFranco song:
“Do you prefer the easy way? No? Well then, ok, don’t cry….. I do it for the joy it brings. Because I am a joyful girl. Because the world owes us nothing. We owe each other the world.”

Home, maybe, is not a place at all, but just a state of mind.

 

3 Responses to “Back and Forth and Homes Galore”

  1. aruna3 April 3, 2018 at 12:49 am #

    Awesome.gifted children.

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