Tuesday, October 1, 2013

good to be home

{Written last weekend... yeah, it's a week old now but it still applies... enjoying being in our own space!)

A Russian disco beat from a local party floats up the hill on the breeze, into my banana-muffin-scented kitchen.  I haven’t been able to bake in a month.  Having something slowly turning golden in my oven feels good.  The timer beeps, and I grab potholders, open the oven door with a blast of hot air in my face, pull out my blue silicon heart-shaped muffin pan.  I balance it on top of the stove, letting the muffins cool in the breeze wafting in through the open window.  My red geranium sits cheerily on the windowsill, matching the red cherries my sweet Mom helped me stencil on the walls of my kitchen, during their visit two years ago.  Has it really been two years already?  

My little son sits contentedly at the kitchen table munching pieces of yellow apple.  Autumn is here already.  It’s hard to believe.  I feel like we blinked and missed summer.  My baby girl scoots across the kitchen linoleum on the seat of her pink pants, clutching a sliver of apple in her fist.  I sit at my kitchen desk, sip Earl Grey tea in my new china mug with the blue flowers, a gift from my thoughtful husband.  

My eldest son saunters in from the fresh air, hops into a kitchen chair, begs again to play our game of Connect-4. I had put it on hold while I kneaded and set to rise some rosemary-scented Tuscan flatbread which I want to tear and eat it, hot and golden, with our Sunday supper frittata.  (I’m inspired - I’ve been reading Marlena di Blasi all afternoon.)

“What color do you want to be, Mommy?”

“I don’t mind.”

“Ok, I’m red.”  The bright yellow and red plastic counters make a peaceful clacking sound sliding down their chutes.  He beats me, fair and square.  I reach for another muffin, sip my tea.  Consolation.  My son is growing up.  

My daughter pulls herself up using Ben’s chair for support, wobbles back and forth, loudly requesting more apple.  A few shaky steps and she’s clutching my pant leg, grinning cheekily up at me with cheeks bulging.  One little hand spread-eagled on my jeans for balance, she bounces her little knees and grins at me with each chew.  I blinked, and her first year went by.  

The second game of Connect-4 we fill up the entire board except for one final empty slot in the top right-hand corner.  He beats me again.  He’ll be smarter than me soon, I think.  Not much time left.    

I shoo us all outside to catch the late afternoon sunlight, grabbing Ruby under one arm, my kitchen scissors, the camera.  Ruby holds on to her stroller to practice walking.  I snip the last of the sunflowers and zinnias, snap photos in the slanting rays of light.  

James comes home, opens the gate, drives the car in.  Ruby sinks to her bottom, scoots to Daddy, holds up her arms.  He tosses her in the air.  She squeals with delight, flashing her lopsided dimples and enchanting little teeth.  

We trail back inside together, stepping over the detritus of our first full day at home - every available floor space littered with toys, the kids getting reacquainted with all their treasures after yet another month away from home.  I fill a Mason jar with water for the zinnias, place them in the middle of the chaos on the kitchen table.  The two tallest sprigs of sunflowers I stand up in a pretty china pitcher on the windowsill.  Behind me, the boys straggle in from throwing rocks in the canal, Ben whimpering over his latest war wound.  He pulls up his shirt to show me the scratch, I kiss his forehead.  

“Can we watch something?”  The inevitable, hundred-times-a-day question.  This time I say yes, tell them to agree on a DVD, turn on the player.  I go knead my dough, divide it into two oval rounds, set it to rise on a baking sheet under a clean towel.  The boys fight and bicker over the DVD, I threaten cancellation if they can’t agree.  I can hear Ben trying to pull the “wounded soldier” card: “I got an owie!  I want to pick!”  Finally, seeing no end in sight, I choose for them, and the strains of Curious George float peacefully from the living room.  

As I scrub the muffin pan, I think back over our summer.  Three weeks of June in Turkey.  One week at home, then a visa run which turned into a 25-day marathon saga.  The month of August at home, just 30 short days (10 of which, James was away).  Then we gathered the troops for a second visa run these first three weeks of September, finally climaxing last Friday with the grant of our long-awaited 1-year visa, the culmination of months of hard work and hassles….  

My soul feels tired.  

Even though we are only renting this house, it’s full of the things we love and the pieces of ourselves that make it feel like home.  The afternoon sun bronzing the walnut leaves outside, the sound of Curious George, the scent of rising rosemary flatbread, the familiar red cherries on my kitchen walls... 

The sum of all this leaves me feeling suddenly wealthy.  

The little local boy who tends to turn up at meal times pokes his brown head politely around my kitchen door.  “Assalam aleykum,” he greets me with a grin, adding, in his frank little way, that he’s just had a muncha (shower) - probably a once-a-week experience at best.  I grin back, and motion to the living room and the Curious George watchers.  He ducks his head and disappears.  

Ruby starts her pre-dinner shriek, and I rack my brain to think of what I can feed her as an appetizer… Oh, right.  Fresh-baked banana muffin.  

She grins her cheeky, toothy grin at me and presses one little hand to her bib - sign-language for “please”.  

Aaaahhhh.  It’s good to be home.  


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