I took this photo just before my last trip. It was a weekend, so everyone was sleeping in while I got myself ready. This for me is the hardest part, the leaving part, when the whole stretch I will be away lies before me empty and bare, and feeling too long to bear. It's probably the only time I fully empathize with my children on how they view my absences.
At the airport everything reminds me of them, but soon I'm on the plane and it's like superman with the phone booth, I come in as Clark Kent, and come out superman. In my case, I come into the plane as a mom, and come out as an aid worker. A change of suit, of continent, and my mind lies elsewhere with ease. Skype helps. Phone calls were frustrating because I could barely understand them or even tell them apart. Often they were happy going about their own business when I called, and crying unconsolably when I hung up, making me wonder (and trying on occasion) if it would not just be best to be 'out of sight and out of mind'. Now they can see me, even if the time difference does not allow talking I'll send a video. I hear they talk back to it.
They view my absences as normal. just like they assume that everyone speaks more than one language and has lived in more than one country.
'when we are done here, can we go live in india?' asked the princess.
Our work is clearly giving them an entirely different perspective of the world and how it works. But I can't help thinking that it will be an increasingly common lifestyle. That it will provide them with perspective and tolerance, so necessary in this increasingly intolerant times.
Nevertheless, it weighs on me that every time I leave for work I leave a vacuum behind, just like the empty space in the bed of where I used to lie.