The first week passed in a haze of cruel jet lag. The next was marked by Rwanda’s presidential election – a week full of long days at the office that seemed to persist long after the final ballots had been cast. The third week was blissfully uneventful and marked in its passing the midway point of our separation.
S’s sister recently sent us a New Yorker article that chronicled one French/American couple’s travails in choosing a name for their son. Charmingly witty, humorous, and filled with all sorts of quirky name trivia, the article also hit a nerve, for despite the fact that S had compiled a list of girl names she liked long before she was even pregnant with our firstborn (who turned out to be a boy), we had a hard time choosing a name for Junebug.
The grass always seems greener on the other side, so the saying goes, but there are exceptions, and this was one of them. There was no doubt in D’s mind as he transited three airports over the course of 27 hours that the return alone from Portland to Kigali was going to be a bit of a downer. What he hadn’t quite counted on was to find the saying to have literal implications as well. Rwanda is a lush, verdant country for most of the year, but D returned during the height of the dry season to find the countryside sere, the grass wilting brown, and the air pregnant with dust.
Junebug’s birth provided a reset of sorts. The six weeks D spent stateside closed the book on the first year of our Rwanda tour. D flew back to Kigali a few days after the anniversary of our arrival in Rwanda to find the country gearing up for a presidential election.
All good things come to an end, and the best, it seems, reach their conclusion faster than most. We’ve tried to stay in the moment these past six weeks – enjoying the summer in Maine, catching up with friends and family, savoring our last few weeks alone with Munchkin, and then soaking up the newborn snuggles after Junebug was born. Alas, we have run out of moments, and D has begun the return journey to Rwanda while S and the kids will remain stateside for another month.
There are some American cities that, for better or worse, leave an imprint on one’s DNA. New York is like that – an international metropolis that makes life elsewhere seem pale by comparison, a city that exudes the kind of confidence that might be mistaken for smug superiority. Growing up in the Bronx – diehard Yankee fan country – it was impossible not to develop a deep-seated loathing for Boston, the only other East Coast city that could credibly lay claim to a similarly brash swagger. Even now, after spending the better part of the last decade overseas, the same reflexive antipathy born of a sports rivalry that knows no bounds stirs in D every time he visits Beantown.
Long summer days, the short northern nights made shorter still by interrupted sleep. The days run together, exhaustion and enjoyment converge, and the calendar grows increasingly more meaningless with each passing (or perhaps passed over) sleep cycle. Vacation at its best? Parenthood at its most painful?
“Oh no, Tigey! The big bad wolf is coming to eat us!” Munchkin squealed with delight, clutching his stuffed tiger as he cowered behind a couple of throw pillows on the couch. When D growled to be let into his makeshift house, Munchkin squealed even louder, giggling all the while. “Not by the hair of my chinny-chinny-chinny,” he exclaimed defiantly from under a pillow before making a beeline out of the room and screaming, “Run away! Run away! Run away!” A few minutes later, Munchkin donned his wolf costume, Halloween having come a few months early in our household, and the roles were reversed, with D cowering on the couch while Munchkin pretended to eat him.
Our worry that Munchkin might react negatively to the arrival of his baby sister stemmed partly from S’s late-night Internet trawling and partly from experience. S was four when her younger sister was born and, in lieu of exhibiting concern for her hungry cries, S urged her mother not to feed the newborn who had intruded into her heretofore-perfect family life. And when Munchkin was born, our pup Emmie wore her melancholy on her face, arching her eyebrows in a show of exaggerated sadness at seeing her playtime and share of our attention significantly reduced.