Have you ever wondered how it would feel to have the paparazzi on your tail, stalking your every move, documenting your tiniest sneeze, analyzing your clothing choices, rating your performance?
Well, wonder no more. Just ask Stella!
This girl is princess of the playground, ruler of the one-and-under crowd, queen supreme of have it your way. That’s her taking over some kid’s portable keyboard. (FeiLong, in the gray sweater, is public enemy number one as he also likes to have it his way. Kid is half-American: sensing a pattern here?)
On the downside, this means Stella’s clothing choices are regularly criticized and bringing her out with a runny nose and short sleeves leads to looks of death and judgment. On the plus side, if I’m feeling tired, I just head outside and I betcha 10 bucks I can find someone else who’s willing (desperate! dying!) to hold the Bean.
There are a lot of things that make me nerve-y about being back in the States for a year. Maybe the biggest? Who’s gonna take care of my baby?
Yes, that’s right: other people regularly grab Stella and go. This is her with her name twin: XuanXuan jiejie (that’s XuanXuan Elder Sister, also known as Stella) and XuanXuan meimei (XuanXuan Younger Sister, who’s smaller by two months). This picture was taken a month ago; on Sunday, Stella danced for 30 minutes or so to XuanXuan meimei‘s stroller boom box and then, like the tyrant we all know is bottled up in there somewhere, made XuanXuan meimei‘s mom walk her around for another 10.
Last week, I was eating lunch with a friend at a fine local establishment. Stella was in the stroller making faces at the people at the next table (who asked if I was ever worried someone would steal her because she was so cute). Next thing I knew, Stella was out of the stroller and the waitress was bouncing around the restaurant with her. Lest you think this was odd, this was the second visit in a row where this happened.
Sometimes I should probably be a little more hands off. But y’all. Seriously. People are happy to entertain my child while I enjoy a leisurely meal. They are happy to make faces and coo at her when she cries on the elevator. They are happy to get the door and open the gate and happy to share their kid’s toys and happy to laugh at her when she pitches a fit about wanting to take said toy home with her.
I swear that Stella must think her name is yang wawa (foreign baby doll) because honestly, people scream it every time she shows up. And it’s not just around the local crowd.
Our friend group here is disproportionately young and single and that means Stella is disproportionately the center of it all. She does have a few friends her age (see above: hi Jack and Luke! Addie and Noah, we miss you!), but the numbers are so far out of whack that there are always at least 5 or 6 people available to coo and giggle and clap and cheer.
Girl has got a cush life. Oh, well–all that’s coming crashing down in T-minus 25 days when we pack it up and head for ‘Merica.* Tell me, are Americans generally happy to be seated next to one-year-olds on trans-Pacific flights? No? And how do they feel about happy babies who have been traveling for 24 hours before they sit next to you on the Dallas-Atlanta leg? Not great?
Oh well, Asia. Stella (and Stella’s mama) are in for a cruel wakening in the real, harsh world of the SouthEast USA.
*Who am I kidding? Gran and Grandpa and Bebe and Papa will pick up the slack right where Asia dropped the ball. Stella, honey, you’ve got it made.
In addition to getting ready to move, we’ve recently also been hitting the road. Planes and cars and hotels and other people’s empty houses… I guess there haven’t been any train or boat rides in the last month, but it sure feels like we’ve done it all. Traveling with a baby isn’t the easiest thing, but I am thankful that traveling with 10-month StellaB is infinity times better than traveling with 6-month StellaB.
Here are some pictures from one of our latest trips, this one to a beautiful area in the south of the country. We met some great people, saw blue skies and sunshine, and learned a lot. I don’t have photo documentation of us all together, but we were also grateful to travel with our friends and neighbors, Owens and Jess. They make entertaining the Beanster 1000 times simpler–and are dang good company, too!
Thirteen or so months ago, we loaded up our lives into rice bags and hauled them 20 stories down, across the street, and 10 stories up into the apartment complex across the street. We weren’t thrilled about moving–our landlord kicked us out because he wanted the apartment for himself–but thought we’d ended with a good deal in our new home. A newer place; bigger; only marginally more expensive; and (maybe best of all) a landlord who was just keeping the apartment as an investment; a place we could settle and STAY.
The idea of staying was attractive because I’ve logged up the moves since starting college at 18. Here are the stats for the last 12 years.
Times I’ve moved continents: three
Times I’ve moved an hour or more (essentially to a new city, although one of the in-Asia moves was to a different part of the massive city where we live): six
Times I’ve moved apartments: 11
(Is it clear that this is a total of 11 moves? Not a total of 20. Just if you were keeping score. I sure am.)
But last spring, as far as we could see, there were no more moves on the foreseeable horizon.
Turns out, we couldn’t see that far.
Because here we are again, one scant year later, getting ready to pack it all up and move it all on. I won’t get into it here, but due to an unforeseen turn of events, we are headed back to America next year. It’s taken a bit of time for this fact to sink in, but now that it has, I feel: sad. uncertain. apathetic? thankful (that Stella will get to see her grandparents in real life, not just on Skype). overwhelmed. But mostly, I feel tired.
This life we live is crazy from any normal point of view. Who in their right mind would change countries as seemingly cavalierly as others change–I don’t know–their gym? Well, here we are, guilty as charged. (Although of course I must insist that these changes are not at all unconsidered or off-hand.)
It’s true, this ain’t normal. And while anyone who makes the life choices that we have made is obviously a little bit off somewhere up there, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt. The constant transition frays, sometimes more than just a bit, at the edges of my weary soul. People come, people go, it’s a fight to care. To know when relationships are worth fighting for, and when to just let them fade. To manage the details of packing up a life, of making plans for a new and temporary home, of planting and uprooting and re-planting.
No answers here, just questions. And this thought, from Abraham Verghese’s book Cutting for Stone:
“Wasn’t that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted?”
Old as this song and dance can become, this is truth. We have so many homes, so many places where we are wanted. Come or go, stay or leave, I’m grateful for that.
Sorry your life is so unsettled, StellaB.
But I think, hope, that it’s rich in some ways that a “normal” life isn’t.
It’s a trade-off, for sure.
Just know this: wherever we land, one of your many, many “homes” is ecstatic to receive you.
Dressing up never ever ever happens in our life here. But Stella has a few fancyschmancy (and beautiful!) smocked dresses that she neeeeeds to wear before she outgrows them. What to do?
Well, hello and thank you Easter!
We celebrated the Resurrection with some friends. It was perfect: simple, time for reflection, yummy food, and our baby girl all gussied up.
Here are some pics. For posterity, of course.