Sunday, March 28, 2010
We returned from our trip to the US about a week and a half ago. Actually it was March 17th - the exact day that three years ago I left SF and a whole different life to come to Argentina. Since our return I've been reflecting on what I left behind and what I miss most.
The trip was hard though no harder than expected. Valen was her usual energetic self - going nonstop all day but in different less baby friendly places where I needed to watch her every second and often hold her. She was clingy and sometimes nervous around strangers (including family members she'd met at 5 months old) so my arms got an extra workout.
The week in Dallas was fairly serene and Valen enjoyed the routine at Grandma Vincelee's who she quickly started calling "Mamita" as do all the grand and great grandchildren. She fell in love with Mamita's mutt "Paco" and never tired of chasing him around the house. She also spent countless mornings searching the house for meow meows - the two of which wisely never revealed their hiding places.
San Francisco was much more hectic. We had lots of friends to see, family flying up from LA and San Diego and trips across the bay bridge to visit my sister and nephew Anthony. The first few days in SF we made no plans and tried to just settle in to a routine at our friends the Fuchs. They live in the inner sunset just two blocks from Golden Gate park and one block from a long stretch of cute shops and restaurants. I'd missed just strolling around from our week in Dallas (where they don't have sidewalks and everything is designed for you to motor from strip mall to strip mall in an SUV) and immediately set off to wander the park. That Saturday was my nephew's baptism - the big family event of the trip. My mom had flown in from San Diego that morning, my aunt Sea Jai and Uncle Jon, cousins Elan and Aja came from Marin and all of Rey's side of the family was there too.
The family was waiting just outside the chapel for the ceremony to begin. Everyone was greeting each other and making small talk. We arrived and all heads turned. I set Valen down on the ground and she fearlessly walked up to people saying "hola hola". I saw my sister a few yards away holding her baby who I'd never met looking over at Valentina, my daughter of 16 months who she'd never met and the tears just rained down my face. My mom saw me break and rushed over to hug me and pat my back- "its all right" she whispered. It wasn't all right. It was overwhelming and an emotional knockout. This is what we'd left behind when we moved to and stayed in Argentina. These are my people, my family, my roots and in that moment I felt the distance like never before. Seeing Valentina again for my mom was like meeting her for the first time - the last time she visited, Valen was 7 months old and not even crawling yet. Now she was walking, laughing, talking and had a discernible personality. It hurt too much still to approach my sister who I missed desperately and couldn't believe she was now a mom too. The last time I'd seen her she was not even trying to get pregnant yet.
The ceremony was a blur. I tried to pull it together but new tears flowed every time the old set dried up. Hugh was baffled and genuinely worried. "what's WRONG??? he asked". It wasn't something I could explain. "nothing, I'm having a pregnancy moment". How could I tell him in a sound bite that I should have known my nephew Anthony. That I should have held him, cared for him, and known his habits. I should have seen my sister pregnant and dropped Valen at their place for a playdate many times over. That my mom should have known her granddaughter better, that my aunt and uncle should have had us over for dinner or visited when she was an infant. These are the things we gave up. In my day to day I don't think about it much but in that moment it was impossible to ignore.
The rest of the trip whizzed by. We saw oodles of friends, ate lots of asian food and organic fair trade eco friendly fare and shared early mornings and evenings with the Fuchs family. Their daughters Abby and Audrey taught Valen to sit at the piano with them and pound the keys. Their son Will showed her many wizardly card tricks. Everyone received besos multiple times a day and their Golden Retriever "Buddy" became her new "Paco".
Still, it feels so good to be home. Yes, Buenos Aires is home. I'm glad to be back to balmy weather and our simpler life. I missed our parks, the small playground where I take Valen every day, and our friends Carolina and Pablo. I missed our small easy apartment where I can see Valen from any room and not have to worry about her falling down stairs or poking her eye out with a fireplace tool. I missed our maid Viviana who gives me breaks from childcare to shower, run an errand or practice yoga. I missed getting kissed on the cheek when saying hello to someone (even the doorman!) and my group of expat moms that meet every week to share life's little joys and let the kids run wild. I missed shopping for fresh veggies and fruit every day for the meal I'd prepare that night. I missed speaking spanish.