Last June, I wrote about the boys back to school journey and what it looked like, how they did with the long journey, little sleep and entered into another school year with more ease and comfort than I could have ever imagined. The piece I wrote was published right before we were heading back for the start of school this year. I decided then I would make this a yearly tradition and I certainly wouldn’t wait 10 months to write about it. The table was set differently this year. Pete came over to the USA with me, spent a couple weeks and then left to travel Europe and some parts of Asia for work. In between the trips, he managed to move us into a new house, same village, just a house further into the neighbourhood with more outdoor space. Seems like a lot to ask for such small changes, but let me just say, these boys love a grassy area and freedom to run and nothing makes this Mama more delighted than to see that. The boys and I spent in total 8 weeks in the area that Pete and I grew up in.
We flip flopped between my parents home and Pete’s parent’s home. We drove miles and miles, stopped in our favourite drive through for coffee and a sandwich (doughnuts for some…) more times than I’d like to admit. We saw old friends, made new friends, spent time with cousins and Aunties and Uncles who spoil them like their own. Beach days, and lake days, rainy day activities and baseball and soccer camp, completed. Our skin got darker, hair lighter and longer. Our bodies changed shape, a little rounder in the belly as we took on way too many American favourites, those bellies now back to their normal size a distant memory as I sit here, just days shy of October.
By the end of the holiday the kids had caught on to some American expressions, our stomach linings adjusted to the milk and water and fresh berries. The boys and their cousins, deeper in love, in a new level of mischief and the bond even stronger than the summer before. They had a chance to really play with their cousin Finn who was a newborn baby last summer when they met him. The boys began reciting things my Dad says and Ryker began really talking for the first time. The ability to hear one language all day long was a break from the four he is use to taking in his daily life in Bangkok. Making him a superstar English speaker in a few weeks.
Typically, mid way through summer Camden shouts, “I want to go back home!” Which is Thailand for this boy who moved here when he was 7 months old. The change is he became emotionally attached to my Dad and Pete’s Dad when he was in town. Who doesn’t love a Grandfather’s love? Who doesn’t love a good chore or a project, that your Grandpa put you in charge of?
We drove out of my parents driveway on that cloudy Sunday in August, having had our traditional send off by my parents, brother and sister and her family with tears dripping from our eyelids and broken, choked up words of “I love you, thank you for everything…” being said. It was the kids and I. Alone. Going away from Wifi and any connection to our village. A brief moment of solitude with them and yet aching for the reality of how sharing them with others for most of every day for the past two months gets comfortable. How much joy that brings to me and an obvious joy to those I get to share them with. While I quietly wiped away my tears I was thinking of how much I love the village we were driving away from and the one that stretched through many states and towns.
On the other hand I was thinking about the man waiting 8,500 miles for us and the village in Bangkok waiting for us there. Messages of “are you ready to come back, are you OK? Are you ready?” coming in from my Bangkok girlfriends. I was ready to go to our second home and see Pete, five weeks apart was wearing on us all and I knew the friends would be there to scoop us up, as they know this feeling too. The moment of quiet ended. Parker spoke first “Mama, do you have your phone?” I replied, “Yes, I do.” “Do you have your charger? He said. “Yes, I do honey, thanks for asking!” “Mama, do you have your keys?” “I don’t need my car keys anymore” I said, “I gave them back to Poppie.”
I chuckled to myself he sounded just like my Dad, who stands by my car each time I leave and asks me if I have the 10 items I need the most. Parker went on, “So this means we can’t turn around and go back? This means we won’t see them again?” No words could come out, i just shook my head, no. He cried. Then Cam cried, big shoulder shaking sobs. I rubbed their backs while keeping the goldfish parade en route to Ryker. Brody put his headphones on, turned on his music and for the first time in months, napped. There were no plans to make, no ball to kick, no sleepover to plan. By the time we hit the highway, Parker and Cam’s sobs had turned into a calm, in and out breaths of sleep. Ryker and I left with each other, the goldfish stock already out. I turned my thoughts to the future. The flight, keeping the boys calm and happy.
I set my emotions aside, pulled out the deep and inner strength I was given from my parents. My Dad’s last words to me, “You can do this. Be strong. You are strong.” To get back to Bangkok this year looked different. A relaxed conversation the summer before with Pete’s Aunt and her youngest daughter had her, booked in to fly back with us and stay for 2 weeks and take all Bangkok had to offer, or all I could get her out to see while managing coming back after the holiday, getting the kids settled into school and always, always, preparing for sick children sprinkled throughout. I have known Pete’s cousin since she was a little girl.
Having known her for 17 years but never being able to really get to know her as our phases of life were opposite, the 7 year age gap can really throw that off, especially if you move around a bit. I was thankful she agreed to come and help me on the flight and yet nervous too. The flight from the US to Thailand is not an easy task. One that takes patience and the ability to adapt to anything that may come up along the way, especially with 4 boys. I often say its like a competition, a challenge, well at least that is how my former athlete brain works.
The finish line is customs at the airport, you’ve done it. You may look ragged, and disheveled, your nerves shot. You and your team having competed in their own way too. Medals go out to all participants, no matter what. Alyssa is a teacher and I knew if times got tough she’d turn on your teacher tone of voice and maybe, just maybe things would be OK. I was right. She ran into a couple of issues on the journey but nothing major and mainly I was able to pipe in and use the scary Mom voice and end things. I believe her attitude, her airplane themed leggings and her excitement to come to see Thailand was what made us through this trip back. I am forever grateful. We arrived home to our new house and things slowly, and yet quickly went back to our Bangkok life.
They met up with their friends in the village, prepared for school the next day and adapted back to their second home. Favourite Thai dishes consumed by lunch and berries replaced with guava, pomelo and the best bananas in the world. For me, it takes time, the battle with being an adult. I often think how in a flash I was just sitting with Pete’s Mom, laughing over the kids crazy behaviour in the checkout line at Target. How quickly my “can you meet us on this day” texts end to friends.
The faces of our families and daily hugs, not there. That morning coffee with my Dad, how it fills my veins with caffeine and my soul with a comparable reaction. The boys woke for school the next day, no jet lag, just squinty eyes from having not woken up at 6am for sometime. This year, all three donning the same uniform. We helped Camden button his shirt that he so proudly slipped into. A forced, quick photo session and at 6:30am we waved and jumped and smiled as they all happily got on the bus. There we were. Pete, Ryker, Alyssa and I. We did it. The journey back to Bangkok for the beginning of school over and a new journey set to begin. Another year, growing up in Bangkok, sports, new hobbies, friends and adventures. With that pause, Alyssa and I set off, Bangkok was ours to see and her visit not only put a bandaid on my summer ending mourning but rejuvenated my love for sightseeing this amazing country and all the culture and love it holds within it.