Covid-19 Parenting The foreign life Travel Uncategorized

A Very Odd Summer

Facebook memories insists on reminding me daily that two years ago, four years ago, seven years ago, or even last year, I was spending the summer in Spain. Actually, last summer at this time I was still packing, since lately we travel after the Fourth of July. But I am sure you are ok with that little poetic license.

Since I moved to the US, I live for my summers. The reason why I haven’t moved back to Europe are those two month long summers that my children and I get to spend in my village, invading my parents house like Attila’s troops would. If you think I am exaggerating, ask my poor mother. Those are summers of doing almost nothing, of cloth lining, going for walks, eating ice cream in the public swimming pool, or having bitter kas (a Spanish soda) and anchovy filled olives in “la cabaña”, which, for reasons I never learned, is how my parents’ yard is called. Summers of seeing my children swimming, running, playing, making crossword puzzles with my dad and regular puzzles with my mom. Happy.

Un abuelo haciend o crucigramas del periódico con su nieto
Not so Little L making crossword puzzles with my Dad.

For the first time in 17 years I have no idea of when I will be able to go home. I don’t have tickets, I don’t have dates, I don’t have plans. I don’t even have the certainty of whether there will be flights. And if there are, whether they will be cancelled or not. The rules for entering countries change overnight. Yesterday, Europeans were not allowed entry in the US. Now, it is US citizens who are not allowed entry in Europe. Luckily, by now we are all both.

But I have a newborn with no passport. It took four months for his birth certificate to be issued. Now that we have it, we have no idea of how long his passports will take to process, or if we will be able to make an appointment to request them. They tell you to do the paperwork. And then, we’ll see.

I don’t know how you feel, but thinking that, right now, I wouldn’t be able to go even if there was an emergency, overwhelms me a bit. I know I am not the only one. Most foreigners, most expats I know, are on the same boat. It is the conversation of the day, the week, the month in every Internet forum I am at. Call it staycation angst.

Una abuela caminando hacia una iglesia con sus nietos.
The church in Pobes is falling apart, but it makes for great exploring.

I also know that, even though we are all eager to go, we are also scared of going, of catching the damn virus on the way there and bringing it to our loved ones, or becoming spreaders once we are there. Personally, if I manage to go, I will follow radical quarantine for 15 days. After all, what is a couple more weeks after waiting six months to squeeze the baby? Afterwards, I have no intention of leaving the confines of our garden. Home is all I need.

But it is hard to imagine that arrival to my parents’ house without my mother waiting outside, to peek timidly in the van we arrive in, in case one of the kids is still asleep. Without my kids running upstairs to kiss my father, and immediately run to the “bread drawer”, for a snack of proper, crusty Spanish bread.

Despite all that, in order to see them, in order for them to see us, I am willing to reinvent that arrival with masks and hands waving from a window, crossing in a calendar the days left until we dare touch each other again.

In the meantime, I pack for a mini trip to Michigan. It will be short, because by the time I thought of renting a house there, half of Chicago had thought the same and most houses were booked for the summer, we are not the only ones wanting to leave the city. But, although it is very pretty, Michigan is not Spain, and Holland is not my village, and that house is not my house.

I will try to enjoy the trip, to dip my toes in a cold water lake, to disconnect from screens, and work, schedules and therapies, of the news, even if its only for a couple of days. I will try to enjoy the moment, what they call mindfulness, focus on what you have in front of you, in the little things, a book, a breakfast, a sand castle.

And although the kids keep asking whether we are going to Spain, when are we going to Spain, when is the virus going to die, when will this end, they are also happy to go to the beach for a couple of days, any beach. Luckily they are still young enough to make an adventure even of  a trip to the park .

Un abuelo jugando a las cartas con sus nietos.
The boys love playing cards, even more so since their grandmas taught them how to cheat.

While we wait, we watch Verano Azul, an Spanish show from our childhood, we eat chorizo sandwiches and chips, we fill and album with La Liga soccer stickers, and their Playmobiles are now Tito, and Piraña and Pancho, characters from the shows of my childhood. They are no longer Spiderman and Thor. We invent a new summer, which must be the new normal everyone is talking about. I am scared by how quickly I have gotten used to that new normal.

And I don’t lose hope that, in a few weeks, or a few months, instead of reliving my childhood through the TV, they will be running through the fields I ran, they will drink the sodas we used to drink, and play with the children of those who have known me since I was little, and at bedtime, read the books I read when I was their age, while still making their own memories.

Meanwhile, I am going to learn from them one more time, and try to find adventures in our daily life, and enjoy them. That said, I will still keep and eye on the few flights that are left.

Tres niños sentados en la rueda de un tractor
Saco esa foto cada vez que vamos a España, aunque no sé si la próxima vez me van a caber en la rueda…

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