I walk to my friend’s house with a pot of bright pink flowers in my hands. I press the doorbell. Her shadow steps over a baby on the floor, points to her daughter on the couch, and approaches the door. She smiles. But not really. I give her a fierce hug and hold the flowers out to her. “I thought you could use these,” and tears brim in her eyes. “Is it that obvious?” she asks. “Um, yeah,” and my eyes water – her weepiness is contagious. She’s the second friend I’ve talked to in a week that just returned
“Have you heard of the Two Fat Expats podcast?” my Australian mom-friend asked me as she sips a cup of coffee. She has a baby on her hip while our other four children are running around my kitchen. “Go outside, guys! Outta the kitchen, this is mama-talking time,” and my three children lead her little girl out into our garden. I flip homemade tortillas and scramble eggs. “No, I haven’t. Fat Expats?” and I laugh. “Yeah, yeah – they’re brilliant,” and I make a mental note. Two Fat Expats. That will be easy to remember. The next week I’m ironing.
My phone alarm sounds at 11:25 a.m. – ding ding ding ding ding. I throw on my coat, adorn my earphones, and head into the cold – popping a King Mint into my mouth as I haul the empty stroller down our front steps. The sun is shining – that bright globe I’ve missed so much. My boots click on the cobbled road as I cross the street, passing by a lane of Antwerp city bicycles ready to transport anyone from here to there. I walk at a clip place – I have a habit of always cutting it close.
The metal gate glides open and the guard waves me through. I hand him my passport and he smiles. Asks me to pull my car off to the side. I turn the engine off and step into the cold, walk the short distance to the guard’s booth. Another mom traverses the second barrier, hands the French-speaking guard her ID. The two frozen men in the tiny booth joke they want chocolate in return for the favor. I offer Girl Scout cookies instead. There’s document signing, ID checking, photo-taking, etc. etc. etc. After giving them a blood sample and a promise
A flight over the ocean. An embrace by a colleague. A walk through the FRA terminal. A drive on a bus. A crumbling castle atop a hill. A flute player. A toss of a few coins. A view. A photo. A memory. The year was 2007. I was an American Airlines internal auditor. My job was to fly around the world, visit the different airports the airline operated in, and audit them. It was a very cool gig. Especially for an accountant. The team was small – we had five staff/senior auditors and a manager. I remember the first time
“NO!!! NO!!! NO, MAMA!!!! I DON’T WANT TO GO OUTSIDE!!!” I shove one arm into my winter coat while grabbing a tiny leg with the other. There’s a loud thud and the half liters of German beer shake on the thick wooden table as I bonk my head – trying to escape from the dark cave with my treasure, my love, my third child. I emerge from its underbelly – squirming into the other half of my coat, wrestling my three year old, and dying of embarrassment. The low roar of the restaurant is no match for my precious angel’s