I'm packing up my suitcase. The hotel room, a temporary home, slowly loses its charm. When I arrive in a new place, I put my clothes in the offered cupboards and place my toiletries over the bathroom sink. I do this partly because I want to claim the place as my own. Also, partly for those who clean the room daily, to show them I respect of their space.
Now, I open my empty suitcase on the bed, put on some music, and wander from cupboard to drawer to bathroom gathering all of my belongings.
I roll each piece of clothing into a tight roll, as I was taught decades ago by an army friend. Then stack them in layers throughout the suitcase. Shoes and slippers are stuffed with socks. Toiletries snuggled between the underwear. First making sure to press out all the air in the shampoo bottle before snapping the lid shut.
Before I go, I do one more tour of the room. The feeling of welcome, the hint of adventure, dissipates. Leaving behind an ordinariness that borders on tackiness. I write on a sheet of the hotel's notepad, "Thank you" and leave a tip for the person who will clean this sad room and restore it back into its proper state for the next guest and stranger.
This is a short post to say, we are all well. I will be back writing soon. The last weeks have been fraught with worry, which is the reason I have not been writing.
Covid numbers continue to escalate to never-before levels. It is hard to know how to stay safe. I know people who have been boostered, vaccinated, and still have come down sick twice. All this makes me wonder...
At the company I work for, they are trying to make sure that children and families of our Ukrainian colleagues find safe routes for leaving the country. They are helping them set up homes here. It is inspiring to see how willing everyone is to offer help on this scale.
She is a suburban mom. The boys. Rambunctious devils. Continuously making noise that echo off the walls of the house. Pounding up and down stairs. Slamming of doors. Ripping the refrigerator door off its hinges. She has no time to think between all the chores that have to be done.
Her days are defined by two bookends of mayhem. The first, is getting her three boys off to school and her husband off to work. Starting each day with a litany of instructions. "Don't forget your gym suits." "Your sneakers are in the basement." "Put away the milk." "I'll pick you up at five after your practice."
The second, is that one turbulent hour at dinner before they disappear into the den or up to their rooms. In between, are those rare hours of "putting life back into order", before she heads off and chauffeurs the boys to one school activity after another.
Then comes an afternoon when she is bringing her youngest son to his friend's birthday party. The son of her best friend. One of her dearest friends, who she had known since university. When she gets out of the car, her son looks at her aghast. "What's wrong, mom?", he asks, "Why are you getting out?" She looks at him puzzled, "Because Susan asked me to join." He continues to stare, then gives her a sheepish look, obviously embarrassed that his chauffer is going to join the party.
She left her life in Germany out of disillusionment and a deep yearning for adventure. The five years she spent living in Erlangen, the world of Siemens and Siemens Indians, taught her a major lesson... there was no way she would ever fit in. This would never be home.
So, when an offer came to do an ocean-crossing in a sailing boat, she jumped at the opportunity. She wanted to sail away as far as possible from the drab life she was living. The endless rules and regulations she could not comprehend.
She yearned to take off and see what the world brought her way. Footloose and fancy free. Maybe she wouldn't stop in Grenada. Maybe she would go to the Galapagos Islands. Or far far away to the Great Barrier Reef. Who knew. There was nothing holding her back. She'd quit her job. Given up her apartment. Her lover. Her illusions of Life in Europe.
What she didn't count on was the far-reaching tenacity of her friends. The one friend helping her extend her German residence visa, as she was in Scotland, in what could not possibly be a legal thing to do. Or the other friend showing up with her husband and four-week old daughter, to spend some precious weeks with her in Peurto Mogan in Grand Canary. Or the other friend who visited her on the Venezuelan coast and shared the experience of seeing a rainbow one full moon night.
All the adventure. All the travels. All the aspirations to continue on. What she hadn't realised was how the magnet of friendships was pulling her back to Germany. A place she called home for the rest of her life.
(This post is part of my "Growing Up & Growing Old" project.)