When you live abroad, you spend a lot of time missing out on things: the birth of babies, the union of two souls, the showering of a bride-to-be... and those are just the big ticket items. The smaller things also get glossed over: Friday happy hours, Saturday BBQs, birthdays, holiday parties. You get it... we miss out on stuff, and we don't just miss out on stuff that happens back home, we also lose out on the things that happen in our life abroad. A friend this year, who was surprised with a visit from her parents for her 40th birthday, said that this was the first year she spent her birthday with her family in years. My kids, who have celebrated a total of five birthdays, have only celebrated one with family on their actual birthday. It's not easy. Life abroad is awesome, but the sacrifices can definitely be tough.
Yesterday was one of those days. It was our son's second birthday. This beautiful, special child turned 2 and there were no grandparents. No aunts, uncles or cousins. And because of my late notice, no friends either. It was just us: mom, dad and sister to celebrate our son's second year of life. Thinking back, it seemed sad to imagine our boy decked out for his birthday with no one around to celebrate him. His party hat on, donning his brightest and whitest birthday boy gear, party horn blowing in disappointment because no one was coming. No grandparents. No aunts, uncles or cousins. And no friends, either. It was just us and that got me remembering a thought I had when we first found out we were moving abroad and having a baby...
In the months leading to our move, Husband and I were planning our wedding. I'll skip the gruesome details of wedding planning and leave it at this: A lot of the process sucked and some people let us down, but what we got from it was a deep sense of each other. We were, in the scheme of things to come, now what mattered; just us -- us and the baby that was coming in a few months. We knew we would miss people when we left but we also knew that it would make our bond stronger. We were nervous and unsure about having to start again in an unfamiliar place but excited to start again -- clean slate -- together. Our new family's beginning on a blank piece of paper, creating its own story. We thought about how tight our kids would grow to be, traveling and experiencing the same things together and how exploring the world as a family could certainly bring us closer since nothing - nothing but us - would be constant. We were excited - very excited - to raise our little family, our way, in our pages. Four years abroad and two babies later, we still hold the same opinion: we are the main ingredients of this Family Cake, everything else is frosting.
I think subconsciously I liked the idea of yesterday being just us since if you know me, you know I'm a planner, a scheduler, a big, fat red reminder on a black and white calendar, and I, who normally plans a year in advance, didn't send out an email for my son's little celebration until the day before. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I think I needed a little "this team" time with no planning, no meeting spots, no objections, no waiting. No phone calls, no texts, no time table. No diversions. No writing on the paper. No grandparents. No aunts, uncles or cousins. And no friends, either. Just us and our boy. And in that moment, I was grateful for it.
I sat in the shade of the oldest church in the Americas and watched my daughter scoot on her patineta, remembering how it wasn't that long ago that a scooter seemed like a difficult vehicle for her to navigate. When did she get so big? I stared at our birthday boy play with his favorite of toys, a ball. His ball. His simple birthday gift because nothing with dings and pings and flashes of light would entertain him more. We trollied the streets of the Colonial Zone and learned about its history that I hadn't known in the four years I've lived here. I took my daughter to the bathroom and came back with two ice-cold beers. One for me, one for Husband. And as our kids played, we chatted like old lovers over our beers, lovers who don't skip a beat. Other times we sat in silence and just stared out into the square, undoubtedly both thinking about these little people who are growing so fast but that just yesterday were cradled in our arms like footballs. We watched them play together, or on their own, in front of the backdrop of the city we call home. This is our life. We're not missing out on the story... we are the story.
Sometimes with the hustle of trying to not miss out, we end up missing it all.