On Monday night we boarded a redeye flight from California to Guatemala. We’ve done this numerous times before, the difference being this time the little baby we thought would sleep was wide awake. We sat on the runway for a while before being giving the clear to take off. As she stared out the window pointing at the lights, we tried our best to keep her occupied. Like any parent who has flown with a toddler knows, you’ll do anything to keep them quiet and contained. I started whispering “bye bye” to each item we spotted out the window. We waved bye bye to the moon and to the lights and to the man with the orange flashlight. We continued…
Good-bye to Nana, Good-bye to Papa, Good-bye to Bean and wooff wooff,
In her sweetest voice she repeated, “byyeee, byeee.”
Good-bye Bobo and Grandma Charlotte. Good-bye Tia Steph and Uncle Brian.
As the plane started to speed up we waved good-bye to Target and Trader Joe’s, REI and easy returns. We waved goodbye to Starbucks and the sleeping deer. Good-bye library and the parks with no sand.
Good-bye 5-lane freeways and the carpool lane. Goodbye sushi and roasted seaweed.
Good-bye beach walks and friends in Santa Barbara. Good-bye Boat House and Blenders.
Good-bye Jen, Good-bye June. Good-bye church and cousins in LA. And good-bye putting toilet paper in the toilet.
As the headed west out over the Pacific and the lights behind us faded we waved one more time. I whispered in her ear…
. . .
I looked out the window into the black sky. I swallowed the ache in my heart. So much has changed since I first left.
I moved to Guatemala trusting that still small voice that says, Go, Will you trust me? My plan was for a year. I think if someone had told me you’re leaving and not coming back, I probably wouldn’t have gone. But a year seamed do-able, even desirable. And in these 4 years some pretty significant life changes happened: I fell in love and got married. We bought a home and then welcomed the birth of our daughter. My life has expanded and changed and simplified in a million ways. I became a foreigner, a wife and a mother within a span of three years. Sometimes when I let that all sink in, I think, woah! That’s a lot.
And then we go back for visits like this past one. And I soak.it.all.up.
My parents spoil us. They do everything possible to make visiting with a toddler easy. They let us borrow a car and give us the guest bedroom, they buy diapers and wipes and set-up a changing station in our room. They have a closet full of toys for Elena to play with and a fridge full of food for us. They welcome us and love us well.
One of my very favorite things was watching Elena reach her arms out for Nana or Papa. My sister spoiled her with crafts and cups of Starbucks’ hot chocolate and she spoiled us with free babysitting for date nights and afternoon errands. Gerber and I went to the movies together for the FIRST time since Elena was born. We saw, the Hobbit (his choice) and Interstellar (my choice).
I have a new appreciation for the benefits of living close to my family. I get a glimpse of what it could look like.
Then we went to Santa Barbara for a week. Some of my favorite people and favorite places are there. We bounced around and stayed with three different friends’ who gracioulsy hosted us. We piled Elena in the car for dinners with friends and breakfast dates. We walked along the beach and spent a morning out on the pier at the Sea Center Museum. I planned play dates and we had an open house. I visited the high school where I taught and ran into a few old students around town. The week was full. On our way out of town we even stopped for coffee with two of my favorite professors.
We drove down the 101 with the ocean sparkling in the rear-view mirror. As, we rounded the last curve the orange-pink sunset slipped behind the hill and I sighed. Not a sad sigh, just a nostalgic, heart full and heavy sigh.
Maybe I was mourning what I left behind. Or maybe just reminiscing. Although we all know the past often looks better when seen through rear-view mirror sunsets. I know in a heartbeat I would leave it all again, but for some reason being back this time touched something different.
. . .
Elena finally settled down on my lap, buried her head in my chest and was asleep before they turned off the cabin lights. I leaned my head back against my seat and closed my eyes. Gerber grabbed my hand. He knew. He always knows. Even when we don’t exchange words, he senses the heaviness in my heart. He saw the tears as we waved good-bye to my family at the airport.
I glanced down at my husband’s hand tightly wrapped around mine and the little girl asleep in my arms. I may have left some really good things behind, but I am deeply thankful for what I gained.
A few short hours later, the captain makes an announcement in Spanish that I am not awake enough to understand. I lift open the window shade and let the light in. Elena pops open her eyes and pulls herself up to peer out the window.
Down below is Guatemala, in all of her majesty. Volcanoes, lakes, tiny cement pueblos built on the edges of cliffs.
We start the slow descent by waving hello to everything she knows in Guatemala.
She waves hello to horsies and doggies in the street. Hello, to agua and the fountain in Antigua.
Hello, Mama Hilla and Papa Choyo. Hello, Tia Mimi & Tia Ara. Hello, Sofi and Emmita.
Hello, Guayo and Dalilia. Hello, Alessandra and Tio Walter.
Hello, nuestra casa and the community playground. Hello, bumpy streets and breakfast bagel dates.
Hello, black beans and handmade tortillas.
We are home. My heart is full and yet there is always an ache in the leaving, huh?