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whole lotta love

Coming back stateside, no matter how often we do it or how long we stay, never fails to unleash a small storm of conflicting emotions.

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It’s good to be back, though of course our parents’ houses never quite feel like home. Neither one of us grew up in the houses our parents currently occupy. S’s family moved to Maine in her senior year of high school; D’s parents purchased a home in Connecticut right before he left for his Peace Corps service in Ecuador. We have no nostalgic, childhood connections to these places; neither of us has spent more than a couple of months living with our respective parents in these new homes.

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We spent the entirety of our first Foreign Service tour abroad, using our vacation time to travel around Africa. Our parents came to visit, but we did not return to the United States until it was time for us to leave Kenya for good. Now that we are three, we can no longer do that. As it is, we feel bad that our parents mostly see Munchkin grow up through Skype, stealing a few days with him on infrequent family vacations.

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This is Munchkin’s first trip back to the United States since S’s brief visit last July. D’s grandma had not seen him since he was born. And even those members of our extended family who did get to see and hold him last year could barely recognize him now. On his last trip home, Munchkin had yet to learn how to crawl. Now he is a fully mobile toddler and won’t be held down.

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The adjustment is challenging. Everyone is excited to see him, wants to hold him, wants to be acknowledged with a smile or hug. It’s overwhelming, we can see it in his eyes. To be fair, it’s a bit overwhelming for us too. S’s parents drove down from Maine. D’s sister flew up from DC. In our first three days staying with D’s parents, Munchkin met three sets of great-grandparents, plus various aunts and uncles.

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Fortunately, it’s easy to win over a toddler, and Munchkin warms up easily, though he is quicker to accept women than men. For instance, he bonded with D’s sister instantaneously, but it took D’s dad multiple attempts over several days to earn his trust.  He may not remember this visit when he grows up, but hopefully the bonds he forms with his relatives now will be easier to rekindle when our Moldova tour ends and we return next to the United States.

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