Mother, Scholar, Witch?

When I put the purple witch’s hat on my head, I knew it was mine. When I added a black costume cloak I felt a surge of contentment and happiness for the first time since arriving in Virginia this summer.

I don’t think I mentioned it here, but we moved back to Albania a year ago, with a “let’s see how this goes” mindset, and by spring realized that all our conversations about “next year” presumed staying on. Yet the day we left was one of the worst days I’ve had here; I got into a shouting match with our landlady’s son (who lives on the floor below) about who could have access to our flat while we were gone – about a 2-month time span. Ugh, I won’t go into the whole play by play but it was awful.

We spent two weeks in Colombia then, reconnecting with people and places – prioritizing what had been important in our children’s lives. The trip was for them, not for us. Then on our last day there, my daughter had a playground accident which landed us in the emergency room for 5 hours. She got four stitches in her heel and we were cleared to fly the next day, but it was traumatic.

So our “home leave,” vacation, summer month in the US was colored by all these things, and then Gimli left us in the basement of his parent’s retirement cottage (sharing their kitchen and car) for two weeks. I had insomnia; the voices in my head when all was quiet were unbearable and I’d web surf for hours until I just couldn’t stay awake anymore. I didn’t want to see anybody, do anything. I was walking on eggshells trying to learn all the house rules while processing the intensity of all the transitions going on.

The local library had a Harry Potter birthday party, so of course we had to get costumes to attend – it was really fun and I revelled in it.

~::~

When Gimli came back, as soon as he was more or less recovered from his jet lag, we dragged the kids north to our grad school institution; we got an AirBnB with backyard chickens and spent two lovely days seeing a few of my favorite relatives, long-time grad school friends, and my academic advisor and her husband – who took us on a walk to the nearby falls and it was like being with family; I don’t think we even talked about academia much.

That trip re-fueled and refreshed me more than I can say.

Which got me thinking – what was it about those two moments that made me feel so much myself? What has been missing that has made me feel not-myself, and if not-myself then who is it I’ve been pantomiming?

I was thinking about this again today, through the idea that we are people through other people – what was it in those moments that made me feel seen, known, understood for who I fully feel and believe myself to be? My aunt in upstate NY pulled out her genealogical charts and stacks of old photographs while we were there; perhaps that was the moment that I began to feel the unfurling of a dormant sense of self start to emerge again. These are my people; this is who I come from.

But her pages do not represent all my people; speaking Spanish with my advisor (who is my mother’s age), celebrating books and reading and waterfalls with my children and husband; being able to wear a purple witch’s hat and fitting right in… all these things mixed in together somehow.

I don’t really know quite how to make sense of all of this, just that I realized in the finding of that feeling of being myself that I had lost it prior, at some point. And I really want to hang on to it now.

 

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