Quick: what does every mom of young kids dream of having?
The dream has come true for me this week, because for the first time in a long time, I have more free time than I could possibly have hoped for.
No one knows where I am. No one needs me for anything. No dinners to cook, no lunches to pack, no homework to correct, no activities to plan. No fights to break up. No television to turn off. It's just me, alone in a hotel room.
And it's really, really weird.
It's great to be back in the U.S. for the first time in a year and a half. I finally got to meet my already-a-friend-on-the-Internet pal Jen, and how cool is that? She's as smart and as funny and as thoughtful in real life as she is on her blog, and I've long considered her, along with a couple of other DS-bloggers, to be one of my inner circle of confidantes, so it was way past time to meet up, don't you think? We got to exchange views on life as a DS spouse, and the perils of blogging, and she was remarkably tolerant of the fact that I kept splattering her with udon noodle soup.
I also got to spend an entire day with my Beijing pal Shawna, who took me to Starbucks (twice!) and Target, and even fed me lunch at her m-i-l's house so I could catch up with her fabulous husband and her two very tall sons. We met up with two other Beijing friends for dinner at the famous - and crowded beyond fire code - Peking Gourmet. It was just like old times, except the food was more expensive and the bathroom was clean. When you meet up with friends from old posts, you speak a different language. No one else understands your inside jokes, your complaints, your gossip. Frankly, no one else cares. So it is always fun to rehash it all with the people who remember that crazy karaoke night, and the frightening color of green that was Louma Lake, and the crazy drivers on Jingshun Lu, and shopping at J Los, and the 10-day freak out, and the peculiar taste of loneliness that is life back in the states, and on and on and on...
So this is fun. But it is also odd, to be here, when I was there for so very long.
I am wandering up and down the streets near my hotel, marveling at all that is the same and all that has changed in my absence. And I don't quite know what to say about it all, as my head spins with the glorious freedom that is no kids, while at the same time I miss those kids and that husband so much that it takes my breath away. It does not seem natural, or normal, or good, to know that my four babies are on the other side of the planet, without their mother, because what if something happens and I am not there to jump in? My place in this world is with my family, whereever they are. Of this, I am absolutely certain. But then, just as I start to dwell on that fact, to think I should not be here, I lose myself in the aisles of Trader Joes, staring at the $3 boxes of cereal, and the chocolate chips, and the 87 different kinds of nut butter, and it doesn't seem natural that I don't live here anymore.
So that's what I've got for you all today. I am here, and it is wonderful, and I would be happy to stay here forever, quietly reading a book in my hotel room, and yet I want to be back there now, this minute, annoyed by the bickering and praying for just one moment of peace.
Also: I love Trader Joes.
That is all.