Global Mom: Going Home, or How to Be Present. Fully.

From Global Mom: A Memoir

We were moving to a Heartland Homeland and in many ways the American Dream Land. A 30-minute drive south from Randall’s company’s headquarters, it is a bucolic, historic swath of Americana with 200-year-old farm houses. . .

Early American home, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Early American home, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

. . .and snaking stone walls surrounding horse farms and apple orchards. . .

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. . . a place known, as my new neighbor dressed in a Phillies T-shirt told me, for its Blue Ribbon schools and Blue Ribbon beer.

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Despite that appealing description, there were early indications the adjustment was not going to be so easy. Parker was immediately called “Frenchie” at a middle school that had a two percent rotation rate, meaning that people were born there and schooled there and never moved away. Next to zero international influx.

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Our children were mortified when everyone but them knew to stand in perfect unison at the beginning of the school day and recite, “Verbatim, Mom,” Claire said through gritted teeth later, an “Allegiance chant,” Parker cut in, all gluey and glum. “I had to lip sync, Mom,” he went on.

They had never heard it. Never knew it existed. And how would they? But they knew the Norwegian and French national anthems by heart, and I suggested they teach them to their classes as compensation.

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088

Getting to know Philadephia

Getting to know Philadephia

Then the girls on the elementary school playground were tittering in a tight clump about someone named Lizzy; her clothes, her hair, the way she talked, what she did this week and the week before and what she might do next week. And Claire, a month into this new world, interrupted to ask, “So. . .who’s Lizzy? Is she new here at school like me?” To which all the girls stared. And laughed.

“Lizzy McGuire, Mom,” Claire told me later, not crying, but looking stern, like an anthropologist who’s just spotted a member of an endangered species. “Lizzy, M-C-G-U-I-R-E. We have got to get American T.V.”

Dalton's first ever American soccer league: The Guppies.

Dalton’s first ever American soccer team: The Guppies.

And Dalton was having his own adjustment issues, not spitting at children this time around, thank heavens, but doing other things his teacher was trying to manage. “Twenty-two years as a teacher, Mrs. Bradford, and I have to tell you I’ve never seen anything quite like your dear Dalton.”

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At thirteen, Parker would have probably been riding the plate tectonics of an identity crisis anywhere, but here he was trying wardrobes and body postures and accents in order to fit in. When asked were he was from, he never mentioned a word about his real upbringing, would no longer speak anything but English with us although we’d always hopped from Norwegian to French to English in our home, in our private conversations, to keep secrets as a family when on the streets. It seemed he’d made an overnight decision to be a new person.

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Where, Parker? Where’d you just tell that guy at the gas station you were from?”

“Fully” he tipped his head on which he now wore a flat-rimmed cap tilted strategically off to one side. “Fullydelphia.”

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My son — maybe you remember him from barnepark and the Versailles Club du Basket? — had morphed in the course of exactly 0.6 minutes, into a boy from the hood. From the Fully hood.

After having written an essay for entrance into an honors English course for his school, Parker reported to me later how it had gone.

“So, ça va, mon cœur? How’d it go?”

“’Salright, I guess. I finished the thing. Wrote a good full three pages.”

“Sounds good! What did you write on?”

“Eve.”

“Eve? As in Eve . . . Adam and Eve—Eve?

“Yuh. Eve.” He was adjusting the hat and letting his oversized pants bunch sufficiently around his untied basketball shoes. My boy from Fully. Where’d this kid materialize from?

“As in, you wrote about the Bible story? Or, uh, what?” I kept smiling, taking it easy, knowing that I was now in a country where the separation of church and state is at times maybe a bit smudgy. But. . . Eve?

“They gave me three choices to write on,” he said, “And I picked, ‘Describe the life and accomplishments of your favorite First Lady.’”

“And Eve. . .She was the—”

“The First Lady.”

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10 thoughts on “Global Mom: Going Home, or How to Be Present. Fully.

  1. Sounds like the family is transitioning. Your kids are adorable! I never thought about Eve being the First Lady…your son is right. Kids come up with the most simply profound statements, associations and interpretations. GoodLuck! 🙂

    • Angela, Yes, at this juncture in the book, we were all transitioning, and it was challenging on many fronts. And then (in a few posts from now, which means the next chapter), we were transitioning again. I won’t spoil it for you, but there were major upheavals awaiting us. Some, we simply could not have braced ourselves for.

      And the First Lady thing. . .Our son simply had no idea what a First Lady was. So why not Eve? (His logical deduction makes complete sense to me.)

      Thanks for stopping by, Angela. I’m watching your blog closely. Dense and worthwhile material.–M.

    • Maren, oh, and the ride was just starting. . .Should I say I’m grateful I had no idea what was coming? Maybe I am. Yes, all things considered, I’m grateful I had non idea what was around the bend. Not to get too philosophical on you in an innocent comment thread, but as much as we thrash against chronological time, we mortals, it is as much a blessing as anything to not know the future. Stay tuned. . .the following posts pick up speed. Thanks for stopping in. Always with warmth–M.

  2. Melissa, this passage feels like our year! Claire, our oldest, is almost 11, and this is the first time she has lived in the U.S. since we moved to China when she was 15 months old. We just got an American TV so the kids would fit in better! Looking forward to comparing notes and following your experiences.

    • Kristen– Okay, you must promise to keep me apprised of how things go for you and your family. I want details. I hope it’s a gentle slope, not too jerky, padded with ample flotation devices. The adjustment is dependent upon how deeply integrated you have been in other places, how “disconnected” culturally, linguistically, emotionally from your native country and morés, and probably on how much sympathy/comprehension/diversity you find in the new place you’ve landed. We tried hooking up a TV for that whole integration thing (for the same reasons you mention, but mostly for basketball, otherwise, I’m just not really so much of a TV fan. Sue me:) Then, as you’ll read in the next posts, we were outta there so quickly, we never really got to watch much. . .

      (I did have French and Norwegian TV for the kids’ language acquisition, I’m realizing. Tele Tubbies in French at 7 a.m. “C’est l’heure de dire au revoir!” and children’s TV from 5:30-6:00 every night in Norway. That sort of thing was really helpful.)

      Please come back and tell me how it goes, Kristen. I’ll be so interested to hear the month-by-month report!–M.

  3. So thrilled that you put all these beautiful, personal, sacred family experiences into one book to share with the world. Your excerpts read with warmth, humor, sardonic insights, and touching (sometimes heartbreaking) reveals that highlight and dissect the humanity that connects us all. I honestly can’t wait to read the entire book!! Great work Mel!! Love you, Ves xoxo
    p.s. Love the new layout of your blogsite! =)

    • Vesna- Thanks so much for the compliment(s). I have to keep reminding myself every day that there’s something broadly worthwhile in these stories, that this is not mere self-absorption. (Memoir can read as panoramic narcissism, and that thought costs me sleep at night, it really does.) But I’m learning from my interactions with others, including on this blog – from readers’ repeated questions, concerns, their fears – that there are universal themes at work in what I’ve written. I’ll just glue your words to my office wall: highlight and dissect the humanity that connects us all. I hope that’s the balance I strike.

      P.S. I had a couple of readers comment that the dark background and light font was tiring to read. Agree. And I needed a theme that lets me post BIG images, but still gives me a clean, legible read. Don’t know about you, but blogs with a lot going on visually are hard for me to sink into. They make me jittery, like a visual version of techno music. So, I hunted down the perfect format. Well. Except. . . The header image has given me a faceless husband. He said he didn’t mind.:/

  4. It is so fun for me to read more about someone I just didn’t have time to really get to know. With so many wonderful people I came to know during my precious time in France, I was constantly wanting to ask more questions, learn who they were and where they had been and how they had done it. I would, of course, love more conversation face-to-face over lunch or another divine Thanksgiving dinner, but time and distance don’t allow for it, and so this is beautifully enriching. So happy to finally get to know you better!!

    • Jena, The feeling is mutual! Those months we overlapped in Paris were too short, and it felt as if there could have been a flourishing friendship over the years. Until we can sit and talk (as we did around our thick, long table in the Paris apartment), we’ll meet here. And you are always welcome wherever we are living. Open door for you, friend!–M

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