Walking through town on my way to the library, familiarity strikes. Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhzzzzzzzzz! A discernible sound. A sound unlike no other. The pitchy whir of a remote-controlled car. Under whose behest? A grown up. His wife walked several paces ahead, pushing the baby, he lagged behind exercising control of his own. Pushing away adulthood? Preparing the car for the baby’s inheritance? There’s no reason to know really. But this is the kind of moment where I realize something I miss. Like a driveway. It hadn’t really occurred to me that children (and grown ups) across the globe would have to play with remote-controlled cars on the street. (Yes, this is obvious but not one of those things I’ve ever given much thought.) That’s always been what a driveway was good for.
Our driveway was always so much more than cement. It was the limit of where we were allowed to play. It was the welcome mat after a long vacation. It was a multi-purpose sporting court (baseball, basketball, evy ivy over, volleyball, whatever we created). It was mean, causing who knows how many bruises and scrapes and breaking my collarbone. It was a canvas for water and chalk. It was a storefront when we had our annual garage sale. It was an indication of who was home. It was a place to have parties, park cars and lay out to soak up the sun. Perhaps it should have been called a runway, given we most likely ran on it far more than drove on it. Nonetheless, it was a way–a way to be somewhere else, someone else. A way of life.
Now that I am somewhere else, it’s one of things I find hard to explain. When you’re not from wherever you happen to be, you get these questions. (Often within the first 10 minutes of meeting any stranger.) What are you doing here? Why did you come here? Where does your family live? Is your family OK with you living here? How often do you go home? Do you like it here? What do you miss? All such questions are posed with good intentions. They’re part of the (dis)integration process. Yet I think very few people get it. They’re partially pleasantries like all else. Because I can’t very well explain to someone I just met at a party that I miss having a driveway. Cement. I miss CEMENT. If I did, they’d probably assume by ‘I miss my driveway’ I really mean ‘I miss being American and having a car.’ Oooooaaaaffff. This is one of the things I deal with on a weekly basis, if not more frequently. For those of you who haven’t experienced this, just imagine basically justifying your existence with every new person you meet. It’s tiring. I just want you to know how it is in this life over here. That being said, everyone has a story, wherever they are. We’re all curious human beings. So these questions won’t end anytime soon. I get it.
Having started the new job, this process was expected. Somehow it’s different though. The questions get more to the point: What’s your story? Are you here for love? My particular department is semi Swedish, semi everywhere else. America. Ireland. UK. New Zealand. Australia. People get it. They’re mostly in the same boat. They’re tired of explaining too. So the pleasantries get taken care of quickly and you collectively move on to having conversations. This is refreshing. This is being able to be more of myself. This is being proud of (and being paid for) my awesomeness with the English language. (Awesomeness makes it seem like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I do. I be adroit at writing.)
What I’m saying in all this is I’m so thankful for my job it’s uncomfortable. It gives me a place to be. It gives me another reason to be here. It gives me people who get it. It gives me worth for all these choices, years, feats of endurance. It gives my brain stillness. It gives me, of course, a paycheck. Like most jobs, it’s not a cakewalk. It started out rough, with too many days where I ate lunch alone, trying to bury my shame in a magazine. (I chalk this up somehow to karma. There was one time Erin and I sat down in the middle of the cafeteria floor. Two bites later came the resident blind kid with his full tray of food. We were the unexpected obstacles. Everyone lost. I’m still sorry about that, kid. So sorry. I’ve reaped the seeds.) Then there’s the 1.5 hours I spend on the train to work EACH WAY, which explains my lackluster internet presence as of late. But on the occasional morning (Jan. 27, to be specific) I see a MOOSE out the train window and life is appeased. My very first moose! On my way to work! Have you ever said that?! Which brings us to the million-dollar question: A driveway or a moose?
There is no answer to that question, at least not yet. In the meantime, I’ve got a photo album full of holiday randomness for you. I went home for Christmas and New Year. I didn’t get to see all of you as I’d hoped, for which you have my apologies. For those I did see, I hope you found it to be as lovely as I did. You’re all my saving graces. I really hope you know that. And you surprise me every time. I love how much you grow when I’m not looking. I hope you realize that too. Now I must stop before I weep all over this keyboard.
Click me and my homemade year of the rabbit ears for photos.