Not me, her.
I arrived home Sunday after she'd gone to bed. I collapsed exhausted into my own bed, a phantom jet rumble seeming to vibrate everything and to ring in my ears, the clock pulsing nonsensical numbers, everything all at once familiar and strange. Relief and finally, relaxed.
I was surprised how much I missed them, my family, while I was away. Maybe it was the fact of a continent between us, maybe the strangeness of total immersion in Danish language and culture, maybe that my cell phone just couldn't, no matter what I was willing to pay, connect my voice to theirs. I pined, physically pined for Pynchon, for Munchkin. I was surprised. Usually, I'm guiltily pleased to have these trips away, these four, five days of hotel beds and interesting intellectual work. Maybe because I've always been traveling west, the trip out has been so much smoother. East is a bitch, I tell you, and the six hours difference between here and Copenhagen never quite resolved itself. On the way home, I sat in a café at the Amsterdam airport, drinking in images of my family, flicking through the 914 photos of this past year, one by one, methodically.
I missed them so much it hurt.
But they were fine without me, obviously: Pynchon met tough deadlines and Munchkin ate full meals. He slept in and she had tantrums. There were hugs and visits and Sunday brunch and trips to the park. They were fine--they were great, even.
When she saw me Monday morning, calling out 'Dada, Dada!' from her bed, she was gracious. 'Mom! I miss you!' she said, smiling, and lolled back so I could rub her belly. She calmly accepted my frenzied tribute of a million belly kisses, my frantic sniffing and patting and kissing. She took it all in stride and was not remiss in asking for what I'd brought her, very pleased with her new leather slippers and her tiny gingerbread doll. I brought her to preschool and she cheerfully waved goodbye.
Monday night, though, she began to crack. Getting her ready for bed, I rocked and read and fed and hugged and tucked and patted. I reassured, consoled, and sang. It wasn't enough. She wouldn't let me leave. She woke up three times during the night, crying as though her heart were breaking, and only Mommy would do. She clung to me ardently, with a surprising strength. As I tried to extricate myself from her the third time, around 3:30am, she reached out desperately, "But I love you, Mommy! Don't leave me! Stay wif me, Mommy! I miss you."
And this has been our week, the gradual unleashing of the torrent of fear and need and the more gradual rebuilding of the defenses against the terror of abandonment. Mommy is here, I will be here when you wake up, we will play. I will not leave you, Munchkin. Mommy always comes back.
We sit on the couch, watching Max and Ruby. I brush the hair from her eyes, pat her knee, knit in companionable silence. My deep longing for her manifested itself during my absence, and was sated with my return; she, not quite so mature, only felt her loss once I came back to her, and the terror is in contemplating what might happen again.
(Can you see the terror? Okay, maybe not. BTW, she didn't quite look like this when she went to daycare in the morning. This is how she came home ...)
Friday, October 24, 2008
Not me, her.