“Papa, we want the good guys to win, right? Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?” Junebug wants to know as she clambers up on D’s lap. “This bad guy…he’s not really an evil person who makes wrong decisions and does bad things; he just plays for the bad team, right?” Junebug is not really into sports themselves (we tried, but could never get her interested in playing soccer, for example), but she’s got the cheering spirit down pat. “Go, good guys, go!” she’ll yell before noting as an aside, “It’s ok if I don’t like baseball because I have swimming lessons and ballet.” She has taken to dance like a bee to honey and will instruct anyone who’ll listen on first position, pliés, and relevés.
One of our greatest aspirations for our forthcoming assignment to San Jose is for our kids to become bilingual. It’s actually quite embarrassing given the number of languages we speak that our kids have remained monolingual. S is now on her third stretch of language training at the Foreign Service Institute, having learned French and Tagalog before her current stint brushing up on Spanish. D also speaks three foreign languages well and has dabbled in a couple of others. And yet we have failed, to date, to realize the Foreign Service dream of raising multilingual children.
Another dizzying week is in the books — a week during which we moved back to DC and the kids started new schools 24 hours later; we scrambled to settle in even as we recognized that another quick countdown to yet another move has already begun; we caught up with some friends and relatives while trying not to fall farther behind on work. If S’s training timeline holds, we’ve got roughly ten weeks left in the District before the start of our next overseas adventure.
The first item we had written down when compiling our joint bucket list about a decade ago was to travel for a year continuously. We had met a couple of years earlier at the start of S’s nine-months-long jaunt through South America. The following year, D had backpacked through most of the same countries over the course of six months. Aiming to reprise those travels, but to do so together, we set the bar at a nice round number, envisioning lots of adventures and plenty of opportunities for cultural immersion and culinary exploration. A decade later and with two kids in tow, it feels like we have spent the last twelve months constantly on the move. The last year has treated us well, but it has also been exhausting — and definitely not what we had had in mind when penning our bucket list.
Every year in mid-August, D pauses to take stock. The approaching end of the month signals the end of the summer, which this year means yet another move for our itinerant clan. Mid-August also marks the anniversary of D’s arrival in the United States — an event that personally feels no less momentous than it did three decades ago despite the significant passage of time and all the twists and turns that life has taken in the intervening years.
Casting around for suitable hiking options in the Rangeley Lakes area, we came across a familiar name: Tumbledown Mountain. “It looks beautiful and it has a tarn on top, we should do it!” S exclaimed before adding, “Wait, didn’t we climb this before our wedding?” It seemed unlikely — we got married on the coast, a couple hours’ drive away. “There are probably multiple peaks with that name,” D ventured. This was not an unreasonable assumption; after all, Maine has multiple Bald Mountains — including two in the Rangeley Lakes area alone — so why not multiple Tumbledown Mountains?
Happiness is many different things to different people — a lover’s embrace; an old favorite song that tugs at one’s heartstrings; a hard-to-find bird bursting suddenly into view; a quiet afternoon with a book and one’s dog curled up at one’s feet; the unrestrained, contagious laughter of one’s children. For D’s parents, happiness is a wild mushroom, or — more precisely — a forest full of them.
We’ve been writing a lot about Maine’s northern woods and mountains the last few months. Wandering these boreal forests about an hour south of the Canadian border or feeling the cold sting of the ocean wind whipping across the mountaintops we’ve climbed, we sometimes forget that we’re not that far north at all. The night temperatures may dip into the low 50s in the middle of summer and our car may be fogged over most mornings, but we’re barely halfway between the equator and the north pole. Maine’s northernmost point, in fact, is closer to the equator than Paris, Munich, or Vienna.
“Don’t just lie there; tell me a Pinky Bear story!” Junebug commands before D has even laid his head on her pillow, “whatever you want, but it has to be something new!” D’s mom is of the opinion that Junebug has us both wrapped around her little finger and will for many years to come. She’s certainly grown more imperious as the summer has progressed. “Brush your teeth, do the mouthwash, leave the door open, go to bed, and don’t put anyone to sleep,” are the precise nightly instructions S receives from our little lovable tyrant when we switch off.