Friday, December 20, 2013

Tuesday morning I ran downstairs like a kid checking on Santa -- her flight out of Germany was mostly on time and things looked ok for Chicago flights.  The plan was to take the big kids to school, stop in my office for some quick emails and other details including getting some clothes from a friend, and then hit the grocery, post office, library, gas station, and drug store.  Meanwhile, Rob would stay home and take care of a very feverish, floppy, hoarse Auggie.  Yep, problem #1--Auggie was sick.  And Rob was in a terrible mood and still in bed because Rob had pinched a nerve in his back and couldn't move his head, lift, or really do anything.  Problem #2. (I set August up with an hour long video; literally TV as babysitter)

Problem #3 was immediately apparent: five inches of slipper fluffy snow.  I got the kids into the car and opted to put on my boots and heavy LL Bean coat from 1995 rather than my cute little Target coat and slip-on shoes like usual.  Thank goodness, because 1/4 mile before we got to their school I slid that car right into a pretty deep ditch.  Super.  Should we put this as problem #4?  Sure.  Thankfully we were all totally fine.  It was a slow speed but unstoppable slide, not a crash.  But already 15 minutes late for school and days behind in other details, this was not ideal.

There was no way that car was coming out without multiple adults and potentially powerful engines, though.  And even though we were only 1/4 mile from school at that point, it is a very busy road without sidewalks and the limited edge area was full of--oh yes--SNOW.    I called AAA and was immediately put on hold.  About 2-3 minutes after we slid in, a fellow parent pulled up behind us and offered to push me out.  Yea, that wasn't going to happen.  Ten totally non-mobile minutes of him risking a hernia and we moved to plan B.  The kids hopped into his car to get to school, leaving me and the car.  That's when my phone battery died.  Problem #5.

I managed to turn it back on and call Rob with no hopes that he'd answer it, since I knew it was charging in then kitchen and was certain he was still in bed in pain.  But he did!  I got out about 30 seconds of details before the phone died again.  Turned it on, called back, 20 seconds of details, dead.  Turned it on, texted, dead.  But he had the location of the accident and the contact details for AAA so I had done the minimum to get started.

Several kind drivers slowed down to ask if I needed a phone, a call, a ride, a push...truly, the kindness of strangers to a fellow driver was heartwarming.  Just the community support I was needing that day.  Thanks for that, God.  Didn't have to put me in a ditch to show me, but whatever, you have your ways.

Eventually a man pulled his car into the driveway near my car and came over full of confidence and smiles.  I assured him it was not necessary but he started shoveling me out, putting some wadded up mats under the suspended-over-mud tire, and generally making an effort.  A minute later a guy from across the street jogged over with a shovel and some old carpet.  And then they realized that they knew each other and had a little reunion party.  I love bringing people together.  Ten unsuccessful minutes later, another car stopped and a rather jolly man said "ok, let's do this!" and together the three of them pushed me right on up out of the ditch and onto the road.  As they shook hands and celebrated, I tried to give them some coffee money or something but ended up with a round of hugs and sincere thanks.   Back in business.  I managed to turn on the phone and text Rob that it was all fixed.

From the kids' school to campus are many hills. I got to the first one, got 1/3 of the way up....and slid back down backwards.  Cranked it so I slid backwards into the curb area, drove back down.  Took the long route to find a flat path toward home, stopping at the PO, library, and grocery.

At home, Rob and Auggie were ailing on the couch.  Plan B (C?) was hatched: I would go get M by myself.   Auggie was too sick to go and too sick to ask someone to babysit all night.  I couldn't bring the big kids to the airport by myself.  And Rob still hurt.  (Called and booked him a massage through our gym membership so he could function)

So I re-wrote all of our documents, re-planned the overnight just-in-case bags, shuffled items from one car to the other, and by 3:30 Rob had picked up the big kids and I hopped in the fresh-from-the-ditch car and headed to Buffalo 2 hours away.

This turned out to be the best idea.  I can't imagine how we would have functioned with all 3 kids at the airport for the hours and hours we had to be there.  M's flight got in at 10, but for security purposes I had to get something from the airline desk which required me being there before they closed at 6:30.  This mean leaving our house by 4 to account for potential delays.  With the minor delays in M's flight from Chicago, it was a long long night.  She was completely exhausted from her 23.5 hours of flights; and nervous, confused, and scared.  We got our necessary pictures and I gave her a note a friend had translated explaining that we'd be heading to the car and then to our house after a 2 hour drive and she would meet everyone else there.  Rob planned to put the kids to bed as usual but wake them up when I called from the rest stop near-ish to home.

Problem #6--that snow was back.  The roads were horrendous, I was tired, visibility was terrible, M was clearly terrified and exhausted, and I was very gun-shy after the morning.  After 30 miles I called Rob from a service station: "Find a hotel at the next exit and book it.  We'll be home tomorrow."

Blessedly, this turned out to be the best thing for us.  We were in a hotel within 10 minutes and M took a bath before changing into the pajamas I had brought her.  I had packed an overnight bag for myself in case her flights were canceled and a comfy pajama-ish outfit and a toothbrush and other things for her in case she wanted to freshen up before our final leg of travel.  I'd also packed some bottled water and a bag of fruit and crackers and string cheese.  As it turned out, we both needed all of it.  She was so quiet and nervous.  I couldn't explain anything major.  But I told her to get some sleep and we'd drive home tomorrow and she seemed happy to call it a day.

I was confused.  I wanted to be a "mom" figure for her, but she is taller than me, aloof/shy, and non-verbal.  I barely see myself as over the age of 25, so the absurdity of "parenting" a teenager suddenly hit me full force.  I saw no way to cross this enormous gulf.  I was not about to impose on an exhausted teenage girl by hugging her, doing her hair, or anything else, really, considering she was totally deserving of a night of sleep.  I just quietly said goodnight and stared at her in the dark from my bed.  Not creepy at all, Jules.

Around 4 AM I woke up cold.  I wandered the room looking for a themostat to no avail.  I poked and pushed at the wall-unit heater and nothing happened.  I felt around for a cord.  I gave up and got some spare blankets from the coat closet and put one on my bed, then went over and spread one over M and tucked her in.  She was clearly awake and watching my every move.  I smoothed the cover down and smoothed/patted her shoulder, then retreated to my bed.  Close enough.

Wednesday I slipped out to the buffet for breakfast while she slept and returned with coffee to find her getting ready.  We had breakfast in mostly quiet, drove home in mostly quiet, quiet in quiet.  Hilariously, the first song that came on was "Brave" (lyrics) followed by "Don't Speak".  So, there was that.  What was that about?  We finally got home and Rob gave her an awkward unreturned hug and Auggie begain/continued his endless chatter in her direction.  We showed her the house, took her upstairs to show her where she would sleep and where she could put her things.  An awkward lunch and then she and I headed out for shopping.   I definitely got a sense of her style--lots of bright colors, stripes, prints, and fun--so I know that's in there somewhere.  We got jeans and sweaters at my favorite little thrift store, then undergarments and other necessities from Target.  Home mid-afternoon to meet the kids.  Some crafts, some wii, some dinner and--when it became obvious that the time change was clearly about to knock her into her spaghetti--bed.  Oh, and the "take me to the mechanic or risk instant death" light came on in the snow-drift-loving car as we drove home from our errands.

Thursday (whew!) we started with me taking the big kids to school and then an 8AM meeting at work, then home while Rob took the car to the shop at 10, then M and I to the dentist at 11 (nearly perfect teeth; minor follow up on Monday); then a grocery store (pizza!  coca-cola!  M&Ms!) and then the eye doctor at 1 (totally perfect) and then 2 more shopping attempts to find a non-zippered non-hooded sweatshirt for pajamas (never found one; gave up and bought something else) and then a family meet-up at a state park.  The plan had been to hike, but a snowball fight broke out almost immediately and lasted 2 hours!

By the time it was too dark to play we were starving and tired.  We stopped at Red Robin for dinner and then drove home.  All the kids took baths and showers and snuggled into bed.  Katie crocheted some ornaments, I crocheted a blanket, and M curled up in her new pajamas in her bed and read Harry Potter in her own language.  I pulled out a translator and told her how amazed I was by her bravery all day and just in being here.  She's homesick.  She's frustrated.  I'm amazed at her patience and strength.  Also: her throwing arm.  If I'd seen her nail every moving target within 50 feet before the vision appointment, I would have already known she had perfect vision.

She's lovely.  I am so eager to get to know her more and find out what's in her head, but she's a teenage girl and we literally don't speak the same language.  Time.  Time time time.  The one thing we are most constrained in.


  1. Oh my word. What a week! You drove two hours in snow? Hello, you are my hero.
    I can imagine how careful she may feel about everything right now; but maybe not quite. I always felt like I was walking in eggshells when I lived with a woman in France. Our cultural differences and the language scared me. I didn't want to be a burden or get in her way but didn't know how to express that. Also homesick. You have love though. You already love her so much and that will help enormously. You've got this. Look at all you already conquered this week! This is going to be wonderful. If only that car would behave....

  2. I gotta say, being a life long Texan?, going out and spending two hours in the snow would have been the LAST thing I would have done as a bonding experience.

    But if you could see into the future about 50 years, I bet you would find that the 2 hour snow ball fight with her American family is one of her first and most treasured memories of this visit..

  3. It sounds like a good start. Except for all that snow business.