I was away for almost 2 weeks on a business trip; my first since having Willa. Up until the moment I got on the plane, I was anxious: what if the plane crashes? What if something happens to the girls while I’m gone? What if Willa is not as attached to me when I get back? But my attitude suddenly changed when I settled into my seat on the brand-new Ethiopian Airlines plane. During takeoff, I couldn’t have my laptop out, so I was *forced* to watch some TV. I started to relax while I flipped through the options on the screen. I had the realization: “I get to sit here and do whatever I want for a few hours.” Sure, I missed the kids and Dan already, but I also felt free for the first time in 18 months.
My driver welcomed me at the airport in Zimbabwe and I was reminded of how much I love the people there. Our time in Southern Africa was so special, and I’d like to think we knew it and appreciated it every day. Driving into Harare, I saw glorious purple jacarandas everywhere. They had just started blooming before I arrived, my driver explained. They only bloom for about a month, and I would be lying if I said I hadn’t anticipated this when I booked my travel dates. (Luckily, those dates happened to be best for my client as well.)
My hotel was perfect. Right in the middle of town, it felt like a country getaway compared with life in crazy Addis. So many flowers and trees, and quiet places to sit and have a glass of wine. No children. A gym (usually empty) where I actually ran on the treadmill three times during my stay. I had forgotten the sensation of running when still sore from the previous run. It’s painful but so invigorating; it says “you are hardcore” and “you are alive.”
There is so much time for everything when you’re not used to having any at all. I worked full days while I was there. I got my hair highlighted. I spent time with old friends and colleagues. We went out to see my friend’s Irish band play at a local bar, we had braais of delicious meats, leisurely lunches with coffee-amarula milkshakes (because why not–this is why we run, right?), and I made new friends as well.
One night I skyped with the girls and Dan, after their Internet had been out for a few days in a row. When the picture popped up on my computer screen, I gasped. These are my children? They are so beautiful. Charley is so articulate and sweet! Willa is so cute and charming! And Dan. I don’t like to get all mushy about my marriage but Dan is… let’s just say I truly appreciate how blessed I am to be married to this man.
Clearly, absence made my heart grow fonder. I’d like to think I always feel this way, but it’s not the same when I am running around all the time juggling a million things and trying to be a good parent. It wears down on me. I love my family so much (which is why I was so anxious about leaving them) but it’s not like I’m excited to see my 4-year-old when she jumps into our bed at 5:30 am. 10 days without them, and I was actually hoping the girls would be up at the crack of dawn the day after I got back.
Charley did not feel quite the same way, I’m afraid. She has always been independent. It never seems to bother her much when I leave town. “Zimbabwe” was one of her first words, since I used to travel there regularly for work. I think she is almost impressed whenever I do something different. Charley gets angry when I have to go upstairs to my home office, but not when I need to go to a meeting in another part of town. Anyway, in one of our Skype chats last week, this came out:
“Mama, I haven’t had your iPhone in a long time.”
Hmm. It’s not like she watches my phone often, but she does occasionally get to use it when I need to put Willa down for a nap or when I need her to stay occupied for 20 minutes (I’m not ashamed–I am teaching her to be information literate! haha). So I asked her, “Charley, do you miss me or my iPhone?”
“Well… I miss the phone, Mama.”
I love her honesty. Needless to say, I have avoided letting her have any screen time since my return. And I think they are all happy to have me back home.