Hazel and I flew to Amsterdam on April 11, en route to Boston and the interview in western Massachusetts. And now we find ourselves in Hudson, Ohio at Grammy and Grampy’s waiting for the volcanic dust to settle and European airports to clear. At night, just like for as long as I can remember, through the dark and hush of the midwest night I can hear the turnpike traffic—the whooshing ebb and flow of a piston-driven tide. An Ohio friend (who knew the sound of the real ocean) lulled herself into thinking, mind slipped sideways, that the highway sound at night was the sound of waves upon waves on coastal shoreline. Anyway.
We are back in the town where I grew up, having had about 12 hours to think about our arrival before getting here—land of 50-yard high signs beckoning you from the highway to Burger King and Midas Muffler and such. Our 18-hour layover in Amsterdam (with its airport full of international faces) gave me a chance to ponder the transition—green fields and designated bicycle paths, carpets of daffodils bobbing primly in a chill Atlantic sun. No trash. No clunkers. Lots of well-groomed, well-fed people. Then Boston’s familiar arc of the Charles River—joggers galore! rowers on the flashing water! and a future Master of the Universe dressed in crimson crossing a bridge.
I am being a little archly grim, and unnecessarily cynical—it has been quite extraordinary to land back in the lap of our family. To leap both feet into the romping and chaotic family schedule of my sister-in-law’s in Belmont; to talk in real time on the phone with California and Tennessee, Vermont and Kent, Ohio. For Hazel to march triumphant around in the wet green of my folks’ back yard (belatedly hiding and finding Easter eggs still warm from the hard-boiling, still wet from the dying); to drink a Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold with my mom (who likes best her Corona with lime); to listen to my mom read Whistle for Willie to Hazel on the couch before bed (or not even be here for the bedtime routine—instead out—that’s novel and feels good); to hear my dad’s whistle from the next room instead of long-distance.
But it’s all off. Paul’s back in Marrakech. I see his wobbly stop-start image on the computer screen every day. We made a huge decision together via skype. It will be another eight days before we’re home. High above the Atlantic somewhere on the way to Boston, looking down at Hazel sleeping across two seats and looking quite content, I had a heart-clutch moment thinking about us being on two different continents—of course not knowing then that it would be a much longer trip than planned, and also wondering how people do this for a living—the not being with their families and globe-trotting through most of their days.
And it’s just plain head-spinning. The last couple days Hazel has been saying she wants to go home. I imagine our building and our scooter-parked street, the dry-cleaner’s around the corner, the ladies at the patisserie next door, the men at the vegetable stand across the way. I said out loud to myself one time as salamu alaykum, and wondered at its sound, not having said it for days. I was imagining what it would be like if you took all the people on my parents’ block, and the blocks here and there in all directions, and packed us all into a neighborhood with as close proximity to one another as people in the medina in Marrakech—what intimacies would be created? Or do they exist already, the same kinds, just with more and abundant space between us?