There is truly no better feeling in the world than when a half-naked two year old drops what he is doing to barrel down the alley towards you in the split second that his mother whispers "Who's that?" and points in your direction. In the shiver of excitement that takes over his body, you say a silent thank you for the success of his potty training this summer, recalling similar moments in the not-so-distant past when he didn't quite "remember himself", as his grandmother likes to say in Arabic. Everyone laughs when he lets out a squeal of uncensored delight. In his baby language, he babbles your name as he runs towards you, a vibrating staccato of motion and sound, a boundless spirit confined to his soft, baby legs and little, bare feet. You laugh so hard at the sight of him that you nearly cry, and you feel the temptation to "forget yourself" too. Instead, you drop your heavy travel bag filled with little gifts on the dust-covered concrete of the refugee camp. As your bag thuds to the ground, so do all of your adult defenses, pretenses, and socially defined norms of rational behavior. Your worries, angst and deep feelings of homesickness disappear because you are suddenly home. You are at zero. You melt for this beautiful child. As you do, you reach down and sweep him into your arms and shower him with kisses. For just one beautiful millisecond, you let this child's heart remind you of how simple it is to melt into love, to live without past and future, to just....be. You are suddenly encapsulated in a baby-sized death grip of giggles and unconditional affection. For an instant, you ponder the things you have done right in this life to make it to heaven after all.
For the past several weeks, I've done little more in my free time than long to come home. It's actually become a bit of an obsession. The good news is that in 19 days, I am coming back to the States to wear a very pretty dress and stand my BEST GIRL'S WEDDING. I'm even going to wear heels. Like whoa. Even better, I'm going to do something lovely with my hair, which is now long enough to have a personality and unruly temperament of its very own. I may be the most jet-lagged bridesmaid in history, but this is of little consequence because I'm going to be sporting a pedicure...and...wait for it...wait for it...make-up! Just keep me on my feet, and at arms length from the hard liquor, and I'll be fine, fine.
After the wedding, I'll be more or less "home" for three weeks. At the end of three weeks, I'll return to Jerusalem for the next several months to write. Seriously, though, the timing couldn't be better...
Some people go abroad for long periods of time because they are running from something, or because they come from a place where there is no love. Me? I'm lucky. I may be adept at the art of escape artistry, but I'm not running from anything imminent or even existential. If anything, I'm running towards the people who love me for me, who both need and welcome my embrace, just like my little friend in the camp. In a number of ways, I realize that I'm running with all of might. I may have several marathons ahead of me, but I'm bound to get there, in my own seemingly uncoordinated staccato, even if I do stop to take a few detours here and there along the way.
Isn't it funny how children have a way of reminding us of where we come from, and even where we are going? In the end, the only thing I'm hoping for is to be received with open arms, showered with kisses and preferably not dropped on my head. Isn't that what we all hope for? I'm looking forward to being loved up, but also tending to the people who love me, too. Relationships are gentle flowers, and they must be treated with gentleness. And if we don't treat the ones we love most in this world with kindness and generosity, then who are we as people?
In no particular order, I'm looking forward to seeing live music, dancing, running along the river, driving a car, Indian food, cottage cheese, sushi, skim milk, yoga classes in english, smelling the crispness of October in Virginia, taking a bubble bath, giving my mother a kiss, and taking a long hike with Bro. I can't wait to be in Washington, DC again, to ride the Metro, to sit at an outdoor cafe, to take a few yoga classes, to make dinner for friends, to drink tea and laugh on the couch with the person in this world who brings out the very best side of my soul.
My spirit has been a little bit heavier lately, but I'm running with open arms.
After nearly 4 months, what is 19 more days?