We left our passport country a week ago now, and I still don’t think our stomachs, or our hearts have come down out of the clouds. Everything you imagined to be true abut flying with two littles on three back to back international flights totaling 21 hours in the sky and 33 hours of total travel time – you were probably right. It was… something.
Leonie did great because everything she needs for peace and happiness is attached to my body. The rest of us had to dig deep and seriously woman-up lest we fall apart. Poor Bronwyn, empty from exhaustion and full of sorrow for having parted with Grandma, she wavered back and forth between excitement over escalator rides and extreme mourning over that which she had left behind. Every hour or so, she would break into a drawn out wail, exclaiming loudly enough for the whole plane to hear, “I miss Grandma! I want to go back to Grandma’s house!” We kept shoving gummies and other forms of distraction in front of her to try to keep the peace for everyone. As we waited in the heinous security line in London, she found herself trapped in yet another episode of misery and just cried out over and over, “I can’t handle it, mom! I can’t handle it!” I know baby, I’m not really handling it either, I’m just concealing it better than you are.
I kept telling myself that it would all be over soon, and sure
enough, we did make it to Zambia. Jeremy worked some of his magic and got
himself in the back door to be able to meet us on the immigration side and help
us collect our bags. I offloaded the eldest onto daddy and focused on the still
happy babe who was the only one who had properly eaten and slept for the last
|I recruited a little Italian girl in Heathrow for some play therapy|
We commenced the 10 hour drive to “home.” Are we nearly there yet? Bronwyn asked for the 927th time since leaving NY. Catching her staring intently out the window, I asked Bronwyn what she was looking at, to which she answered, “I’m looking for my friends, mom.” I was so excited to get her home and back in the playful arms of those who had cared for her so well throughout her first two years.
As we turned off the pavement onto our dirt road, we all prepped her, “We’re almost there, girl! Just half a kilometer left!” We pulled into our yard and switched off the engine, video camera in hand and ready to capture whatever cuteness that was about to ensue. I don’t know what Bronwyn’s expectations were for our homecoming, but the adults had clearly set the bar too high. I expected Bronwyn to run back to her friends with hugs and laughter, pick up her shovel and dig things, grab a ball and have a grand ole time. I expected to sigh with relief that finally we were getting back to normal, that my girl would find her place in the world again. Instead, my sweet three year old clutched my leg with a death grip and for the first time in over a year asked to be picked up. The fear in her eyes was unmistakable and it was clear that she didn’t know what was going on. “Is this my house?” she asked. We escaped the crowd to go look at her bed and her toys, to say hi to her kitties and to get reacquainted with the environment. I had to lure her outside. Everyone wanted to shake her hand, in the way she once knew so well, and yet now she just pulled back, unwilling to extend a hand to anyone. “Mommy, why do they all know my name?” she asked. Because they know and love you baby, and somewhere inside of you, I know you know them. I put a ball in her hand and gave her a gentle shove. She tossed it at no one in particular and ran back to my leg. We tried again, and this time she threw it back and forth a few times before retreating once more. “I don’t know what any of them are saying, mom” she stated. I know baby, they are speaking Bemba, and soon you will too.
I had foolishly thought it would all come back to her, that
she would remember immediately and pick up where she left off. That night I
watched her crash from exhaustion in the new-to-her house, in the new-to-her
village and I just sobbed. With our best intentions we were bringing her back to
what we considered the greatest place on earth. Now it felt more like we had an
amnesia patient on her hands, and I had no idea how to help her cope. The next few days proved similarly difficult.
“Mommy, there’s a lady out there who keeps trying to pick me up.” Yes baby,
that’s Bana Chiti, and you used to love her more than you loved me. She carried
you everywhere and I know she has missed you.
|all the friends on one side, and winnie by herself on the other. it was painfully awkward.|
|this girl. her happiness in all situations is healing|
|daddy is a shelter in more ways than one|
It will be ok.
He is able.
It will be ok.
This is my refrain and I repeat it over and over until I release my fears and my babies into His hands until the next wave of worry washes over me.
It will be ok.
He is able.
None of the current scenario looks particularly hopeful. Nothing I imagined to be good for my girl is coming to pass and my deep love for her is therefore matched by the depths of my concern for her and her happiness.
My logical side tells me that this is only a season, though I have no reassurances as to how long this season will last. I am drawn to hold her hand all the moments of all the days, though I am fighting that urge and challenging her to try and engage. She has learned a whopping two words of the local language and has made one friend. I’m choosing to call these baby steps victories even though I’ve melted into tears each time an insensitive child has barked at her to stop speaking English.
It will be ok.
He is able.
I know my fears are legitimate. I have observed how many third culture kids devolve into anxious, isolated, awkward, resentful beings. I know that my reasons to worry will continue to beat me up and I’ll have to continue to preach them down. But the trump reason for not worrying remains: Him. The One who took us back to the sates, who knew when we would get pregnant, who knew how long we would be away from Zambia, who called us back here, He knew how it would all play out, and planned it that way: He sees, He cares, He is able.
It's three reasons in One, a holy trinity of security and confidence.
|all manner of things will be well|
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay...
Sing it with me, will you? My girl is struggling and therefore so am I, and I share this without reserve because there is something about living abroad that calls for above average vulnerability and the rallying of the troops. We’re battling on – with love and patience, and legos and gummies. Thanks, bush baby community, for standing with us.