This morning, in a lovely little restaurant called Presence in Schoten, forty-two women gathered to celebrate the American Women’s Club of Antwerp’s 91st anniversary. With feathers in our hair and jazz music twinkling, we embraced, remembered, and honored our members celebrating mile-stone anniversaries and our club. Ariadna, our 2nd VP of Membership, worked tirelessly over the past few weeks to create the most amazing program. Constant phone calls and whatsapp messages flew between us. “Where are you now?” I’d ask as I sat at my computer updating luncheon payments. She was hopping all over the city – collecting videos and
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
The idea began with me laughing and shaking my head at Facebook posts. My husband grew up in Louisiana, and his fraternity brothers all married beautiful southern-born women. While Texas has its own way of doing things, I can admit it’s probably a little more rugged and less refined than its southern sisters. With firmly planted French roots, New Orleans has a unique and sophisticated manner of decorating, speaking, and hosting. Back in September I swear, or maybe it was October, I saw Facebook posts requesting recommendations for mother-daughter Christmas teas in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. I smirked. I