Monday, December 1, 2014

The Good, The Bad, The Lonely

It isn't perfect, this foreign service life.

There are days when you can physically feel the absence of loved ones, deep in your belly, in a way that makes your soul ache more than a little. Maybe they're planning a Thanksgiving feast on another continent, or posting pictures of themselves taking a trip on which you weren't invited. You miss them more than usual on those days.

There are days when a child comes home sad, saying he doesn't like his new school, or hasn't made new friends to rival the old. There are days when a kid throws a massive, old-enough-to-know-better temper tantrum, and you understand why she is unhappy, but you have no idea how to help her past this new-to-post bump in the road, so you basically just sit next to her and have an age-inappropriate temper tantrum of your own.

There are days when you walk out the door, feeling unsettled, because you don't know where to go or what to do to fill the hours that stretch ahead until the school bus gets back. You realize you don't yet have any friends whom you can just call up, out of the blue.

All of those things and more happen in the first few months at post. Truth be told, they happen for me the entire time I'm at post - I'm never quite settled, always looking back at the last one or wandering forward into daydreams about the next. I do try to anchor myself in the present, but I guess I'm not a present tense sort of gal.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and this year was no exception, but it did feel bittersweet, to be starting over once again. What do you mean, I have no poultry seasoning, no sage, no cloves? Oh, that's right - I had to throw them away when we moved. Where did my meat thermometer go, anyway? And who are these people on the guest list? I've never even met half of them. Still, I threw myself into the cooking and the preparation, and the holiday ended up as perfect as possible. A neighbor loaned me some cloves, the thermometer turned up in the bottom drawer, the new people turned out to be a lot of fun.

The weekend after the holiday, though? Cold and dark and dry as a bone here in Moscow, so I kept scratching absentmindedly at my itchy winter skin as I listened to the children bicker and the dog bark, wondering when I'd finally feel that everything is back to normal, whatever normal is. I guess you could say I was feeling just a teensy bit melancholy.

Today, though.

Today, of all days, an unexpected package arrived in the mail. I recognized the Jordanian return address.

I opened it, and I wondered - how did my friend know that I was going to need all of this today?

The enclosed note was perfect:

Dear Donna,

I hope this package finds you well. The contents require some explanation:

The Dead Sea products are to assist in the exfoliation and moisturizing likely necessary in the cold climes of Russia!

The Jobedu t-shirt is to remind you of your roots.

The herbs are from Mrs. Globehopper.

The Wings of Icarus are to make you run faster in case things get dicey there.

The Golden Oreos are for you to eat in front of your children.

The Rudolph disguise will help you stay incognito!

Your presence is missed.

How about that? While I've been over here missing them, it seems they've been over there missing me.

And today, when it hasn't yet hit 30 degrees outside and the sun isn't going to make it high enough in the sky to burn off the clouds, this was exactly what I needed. The world isn't so big after all. Okay, well, that's not quite true. The world is vast. But my friends span the entire globe, from one continent to the next. And even from great distances, we send each other prayers. Prayers, and Golden Oreos.

So thank you, my friend. I'm going to slather on the Dead Sea moisturizer, break out the Oreos, bake myself some bread with za'atar and enjoy the day a whole lot more thanks to your awesome and unexpected gift.

And I promise I'll find a way to pay it forward myself.


Please. Write your own stuff.