A few weeks before we traveled back to the States to spend the holidays with our family and friends, I had a moment of panic about how busy our schedule was for the two weeks we’d be there. We had a literal spreadsheet of packing lists, to-do lists, and a complicated calendar of events. But even when we aren’t living abroad, our holidays are often like this. We are so fortunate to have close-knit families and tight groups of friends who like to celebrate this special time of year together. It is wonderful, and it is also exhausting. There was a time a few years ago, before we had kids, when I tried to talk Matt into taking a trip over Christmas, knowing we’d never do it but enjoying the fantasy of a leisurely vacation together instead of the excitement and bustle of our traditional holiday season.
Buuuut after I finished freaking out, we pared down our to-do lists and set a few schedule boundaries for ourselves. I was able to once again feel excited about our trip to Minnesota and Wisconsin, and for all of my anxiety about running ourselves ragged, we had an absolutely A+ trip. Our detailed planning paid off, and we were able to catch up with so many of our loved ones. Basically a Christmas miracle.
I also loved being back in the States. When we landed in Detroit after our overnight flight, it was a strange delight to realize I could effortlessly eavesdrop on the ambient conversations around me. I was struck by how cold and dark it felt in the Midwest compared to the summer we’d just left in Brazil, but I also loved the coziness of twinkle lights, outdoor fires, and light snowfalls. I really didn’t feel any Christmas spirit until we were back in winter.
One of the highlights of this trip was seeing how happy Oscar was. He isn’t unhappy in Brazil by any means, but living here has been hardest on him. I have written about this before: he forms relationships using words, stories, conversations, jokes. It’s really hard for him to do that in Dourados, where we know only a handful of adults and zero kids who speak English. He is rising to the challenge of being in a language minority, and I know we are all already better for this experience, even when (especially when) it’s hard. Seeing Oscar in Minnesota with his best friend, Connor, brought me to grateful tears.
On the second-to-last night of our vacation, I met up with three good friends who are also moms to young kids, and at the end of the night, I felt so filled up. I hadn’t realized how starved I was for conversations in English with people who know me well. I talked so much during the trip, feeling unrestrained in expressing ideas and searching only rarely for perfect vocabulary. It was so freeing, and when we boarded the first plane back to Dourados, I was buoyed, fortified, and ready to return to our adopted home.