Wednesday, April 24, 2013


When you're living overseas, you tend to bond hard - sometimes too hard - with the people who get tossed into the fishbowl with you.

For some people, this is a drawback of Foreign Service life: they don't want other people up in their business. For me, though, this has always been one of the biggest bonuses.

Take today, for example. It was a typical too-much-to-do kind of day. I had to work, of course, as did Bart. But also: there were parent teacher conferences, so the kids had no school and I had to juggle work with child care. Today was also baseball practice for the boys, right around the same time as our conferences were scheduled. Oh, and the car needed an oil change.

I rushed from meeting to meeting to meeting, trying to get everything done so I could run out to the conferences. Picked up the car and dashed out of the Embassy, trying to make it to the first conference on time.

My cell phone rang.

It was Bart, asking if I'd remembered to get his glove out of the car so he could go help out at baseball. Of course I'd forgotten, and there was no time to go back.

I took a quick detour and headed past STJ's house, which was on my way to the school. I rang the bell, and when her daughter opened the door, I tossed the glove in with a scattered explanation before running back to the car.

I made it to the school with one minute to spare and quickly texted STJ to warn her about the extra glove. She texted back and offered to get the glove and my kids to baseball - an offer I happily accepted, seeing as how I hadn't even begun to think about how that was going to happen. Then I hung up and called another friend, to ask him to track down my eldest child and send him home to get dressed for practice. And I started my marathon session of teacher conferences.

(Aside: no one warns you, when you first set out to have little babies, that some day you're going to have to spend half a day at the school attending conferences if you have too many. Four kids. Four conferences. Exhausting!)

I finished those conferences, eventually. (And yes, grandparents: your grandchildren are all brilliant and motivated and excellent readers and social butterflies and budding scientists and everything rainbows and unicorns!)

Checked my messages to find that Bart was on his way to the baseball field with coach CL, who happens to be STJ's spouse. Are you following this? Are you starting to understand the title of this post?

I headed back to the Embassy to finish my day before going home to make a quick dinner. STJ texted to ask if CL could drop their kids at our house for awhile after practice, because he had a meeting to attend and she was stuck at the office. No problem, I answered, and then set about adding some extra dinner to the table.

The six kids inhaled their dinner and then her kids entertained my kids while I cleaned up and started this post. It's 8pm as I type, and STJ just picked up her kids. Oh, but they left behind their catcher's gear so Aidan can practice with his brother in the morning.

Tomorrow afternoon I expect another round of Musical Kids, as some are dropped off here by one mom and others are picked up by a second mom.

Somehow, at the end of the day, all of us moms will gather up whichever kids we find in our kitchens and living rooms, and we'll toss them all in our cars before heading back to the Embassy for dinner. We'll share a table and share some laughs while the kids run around outside, playing and bickering and just generally enjoying one another's company. Someone will win tomorrow's sleepover lottery, and someone else will lose. None of us will go home with the kids we brought.

But that right there? That's one big reason I chose to stay here while Bart goes to his onward assignment. If we'd elected to return to Northern Virginia, I'd be friendless and alone, trying to find my way and juggling too many responsibilities as a single mom. Here I have STJ and CL and all those other folks who step in on an almost daily basis to help me out in one way or another.

So yeah. It's weird, sometimes, being so closely intertwined. I think it's safe to say we all know too much about one another in some ways. But there's a positive to all of this, too: with them, I don't have to pretend to have it all under control. I can ask for help when I need it, and offer it when they do. Somehow, it all seems to even out, and all of us get through our days intact. Most of the time we do, anyway.

I'm going to miss this big ole family of ours when I'm gone from this place.


Sherwood family said... [Reply]

That is one of my absolute favorite parts of this lifestyle. Even though you leave family, you get family too!

Naomi Hattaway said... [Reply]

They will miss your piece when you're gone as well! Great post!

Popster said... [Reply]

It sounds like a description of small town life in anywhere USA/World. It has often been said that in small towns,people are always in your business and in large cities, people are anonymous. Sounds as if FS life is a small town that moves around the world in movable clumps.
Try reading Main Street by Sinclair Lewis.

Please. Write your own stuff.