Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Departure Eve

After nearly a month back in the states, we're preparing to head back to England tomorrow on a red-eye flight that will land us in Manchester at the crack of dawn.

And when I say "preparing" what I mean is: gazing at the mountain pile of clothes on the bed, letting Tyler stay up late to dig in the sand with Poppa and whisper secrets with Nanna, taking note of every single American thing we've missed and making sure to savor it (i.e. free refills on drinks at a restaurant, green road signs, the political fix from CNN, the warmth of family, the laughter of summer nights, and watching Tyler reconnect with grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles after two years abroad).

Today, in the car as we left the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory, I started to cry. Not because of my all-consuming passion for potato chips, but because I had been watching our son giggle as my mother-in-law, Susan, ticked his toes. His laughter touched that part of me that spoke of the importance of watching our own children grow up connected to that web of creation that helps them exist in the first place.

And I'm going to miss it.

This isn't to say we aren't looking forward to Lesley Avenue in York, and the dozen of so children that live on our street, the kind neighbors who always seem to have something odd they no longer need and are kind enough to pass it on to the American next door (a bird feeder, a bottle of wine, a T-shirt, a Gruffalo suitcase). And we're looking forward to our last year abroad as a chance to reflect on all we've learned, the obstacles we've been facing, and the way Isaac Newton's claim about knowledge has really rung true for us. Newton once responded to someone who asked what his years of scientific research had taught him. Paraphrased, his reply was: Everything I have come to know is like a single grain of sand on the shore of knowledge.

This time away from England has afforded not only a lovely reprieve as parents (read: our own parents and brothers and sisters have performed countless changing of the clothes with Tyler, explorations and adventures, and bedtime book-reading), but it has also bequeathed us a chance to reflect on what two years abroad with no money has taught us.

And essentially, our grain of sand is this: grace trumps everything. Grace with our son, with with one another, grace for mistakes, grace for misplanned  possibilities, grace for failures, grace for countless imperfections. England has been both beautiful and hard for us, and the synthesis of these necessities of life has been teaching us that what creates sustainability is grace.

As we embark upon the return flight tomorrow, our fourth passenger, we hope, will be grace. And if he allows Tyler to sleep for any percentage of the red-eye, that would be about the most stunning gift in the world about now. But if not, I hope to be able to redeem the way we first arrived in England two years ago: rather than a panic attack, I want to able to look out at the dawning English day and say, with faith, it's all going to be okay.