Sunday, September 12, 2010

Searching for Mr. Atse

Dear Elise,

Life has been pretty different these last three months, hasn't it?

We were reading a book you love - Olivia - and as we reached the last page of a very happy ending, you started crying. And not just any whiny cry - the quiet, sad kind that breaks your heart, where your bottom lip protrudes as your eyes brim with tears.

That's not like you to do that. So I asked you why were you crying. And you said it was because on the last page of the book, Olivia's mom had said goodnight and gone away, and Olivia was sleeping alone.

I didn't expect you to have a harder time coming home than any of us. But I think it was tough for you, and you showed it in your own little way. Some days you would want to know where the Union was, or if you could test microphones, or if we had ship yogurt in the fridge. Other days you asked your nanny if she's been to the Acropolis, or if we remember the Coliseum. Most days were more subtle - you'd simply ask the whereabouts of Emma and Diana and Caleb and Val and Tom and Johnburkoff and Allan and Margo and Tanya and Natalie and Rebecca and countless others friends, as if there might be a chance these people you love were just around the corner, just as they were every day this summer.

I thought I'd jot this down because I'm not sure you'll remember any of our amazing Summer of 2010, or have memories of these amazing people who meant so much to you. Then again, maybe you will - you do surprise me every day.

I think you loved being on the ship. I'm pretty sure because of the way you let everyone know you were going to the pool, the way you insisted on singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" every night the Union, the way you begged for cart rides, more than anything, the way you made a point to visit everybody in their office every day.

Your morning routine started with a conversation in Elly's office, followed by a visit to the campus store, the library, and the AV booth. After lunch, you would stop by Hotel Director John's office on your way to orange juice in Johnburkoff's office, pretzels in LaVahn's office, and Purell in Tom and Kim's office ("Can I have some soap"?). The visits were clearly the most important part of your day, and if you found an office door that was closed, you would make a point of returning several times until it found it open, with friends inside.

The way we dropped this trip on you, you had every reason to kick and scream and curse the parents that dragged you for two months away from everything you knew placed you in a tiny cabin en route to distant lands with endless walking in 100+ degree heat. But you didn't.

Maybe it was the gelato, maybe it was Ingrid at the pool bar, I don't know. But you seemed so happy, I'd like to think you played a tiny role in bringing everybody's spirits up on the ship.

Your great-grandfather would have been really proud. He was the biggest fan of my first voyage, constantly sending emails and commenting on my blog, and even serving as my mission control and travel agent for most of the trip . I remember getting my travel bug from him, as a little boy pouring through his albums in Sao Paulo, full of photos of him and Bisa in places like India, China, Russia, and other exotic locations in the never-ending list of countries they visited throughout a rich life. There was nowhere else for him to visit, so in many ways than one, I've been following in his footsteps ever since.

I think he would have made a good SASer. More than anyone I know, he embodied the idea that a person is a person through other persons. He relished his family and recharged his batteries through the interaction of his countless friends. It was a little sad not having him travel vicariously with us. He passed away not long after you were born, having never gotten a chance to meet you in person. I think you two would have gotten along.

So now we're back, and you seem to have adjusted to a whole new set of changes. Mommy and I are back at work, so you have a new brand new preschool to adjust to. We now live with Mimi and Baba, but we spend a lot of time in our old neighborhood, because you've ask to see all the people there you loved before we were on the ship. You seem to like your new room now, as hard as it was to fall asleep with no swaying, dolphins outside your window, or mommy and daddy's feet within arm's length of your crib.

And as you already know, the biggest change is yet to come. You must really have paid attention to the conversations around you - it was amazing that you figured out all by yourself that mommy was pregnant. I think the little peanut that *you* want to name Leo is lucky to have you as a big sister - we think you have that caring Nagy gene, so much so that mommy and I have to plan what we're going to do when you insist on trying to breastfeed the baby yourself. Because we know it's going to happen.

(And how many families can claim they have not one but two, ehem, "souveniers" of SAS?)

Sigh. I miss the ship sometimes. There were some great people aboard, who I hope will continue to be a part of our lives in some way or another. Once I let go of the ghosts of my first voyage, and let this voyage develop on its own terms, something special happened. I look back at how close we'd become by the time we all went out to dinner in Istanbul. It was always a neat feeling to see the ship after a long day, looking forward to sharing hilarious stories with our friends in the hallway outside of our cabin while you, Caleb, Margo, Cash, and Cal slept

Mommy and I laughed a lot.

But my favorite part of the summer, by far, was the uninterrupted family time we had for 11 weeks. It's easy to take these things for granted in the everyday rush, but as busy as things have been lately, life has just felt more balanced since.

I don't know when you'll be able to read and understand this (who knows, maybe you already can?), but I wanted thank you and your wonderful mommy for making this a amazing summer, amazing in ways I could never have imagined. Even if you don't remember the voyage, I hope it affected you in as many positive ways as it affected me.

I think our family will grow up with Semester at Sea.

I love you very much,

1 comment:

Mandy said...

This just made me tear up! Hope to see you guys very soon! xoxo