Re-entry

It’s been explored before, I’ve read about it in a multitude of books, across many genres. A Little Life, What Alice Forgot, Us. The list goes on, all adult fiction of course. The idea that when our partner travels for work, when they get home there is a period of re-entry where everything is a little uncomfortable.

This can last for a few minutes, to a few hours depending on different factors that I’ve never been able to consistently pin down. Time they get home, how long the flight was, how long we’ve been apart – none of them seem to come together to give us any clue how long the uncomfortable-ness will stay.

There is this bit of time where you are out of sync with each other, where you have each led single lives for a period of time that the other has no idea about. There is no frame of reference to anything that’s happened while they have been away, because it was all so separate, no matter how many phone calls you’ve had.

My partner came home from a week away, he was meant to get home the night before but the flight was cancelled and he got home the next morning. The level of trust here for any relationship is high – because he didn’t call me to tell me his flight was cancelled until seven hours later. Am I convinced that his excuse of a dead phone was reasonable?

Of course I believe him, but I can’t deny the question was there. What happens if one day that answer isn’t so easily available to me? It is these questions that we have been able to ask alone, while they are away, that may give us a small pause when they get home.

Then it hits me, what if he can tell I’ve doubted him? What does that say about me?

What if he comes home and sees that I have a huge pimple on my face from eating chocolate, and he realises that I’m not that great compared to other interesting travelling people he has met whilst working?

From my end, the re-entry period is about facing someone who has gone for what I consider an exciting time away without children, had an adventure where there is dining out for every meal and talking to other adults the whole time (I work with children, as well as having our own two, so talking to adults all day would be like a holiday). What if he has come back and sees me as boring?

From his end, the re-entry period is about coming home exhausted from having to work the whole time, eating horrible hotel food with adults he might not even like – let alone want to eat with. Then having to see that the house has functioned without him perfectly well, what if I see him as irrelevant?

I’ve had to run the household like a single parent for a whole week, the children and I are in a groove with the different things we do and places in the house we have set ourselves up. Now there’s this other person who has to fit back in – does he feel that too?

This time while he was away, I’ve looked after our son who was recovering from having his appendix out, so most of our phone conversations revolved around that. However, I have some medical issues that came up too, and while trying to tell him about that he was too busy to listen because he was playing a computer game with one of the children.

It hurt, because I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about it because the children aren’t able to understand it, and there haven’t been other adults around to talk to since I was alone. Sure, my timing wasn’t great looking back. But that’s the thing with the re-entry – I never know if we are ready to talk properly or not.

Yesterday it took us five hours to be comfortable with each other. To remember how to interact easily and work out that we both still love each other – that nothing major has shifted or changed. Not the best, but not the worst either that we have experienced.

It’s weird, and we don’t even talk about it – but it’s always there and I didn’t know to expect it. I’m glad it’s covered in all those different genre books, because it validates those uncomfortable times in our relationship that I thought only happened to us.

Easter blues…

When I think of Easter, I remember being a kid and getting a small egg from the Easter Bunny. I wasn’t allowed to eat the egg that morning, because we had to quickly eat breakfast before heading down to my Nana and Pop’s house.

Of course, I don’t remember how huge the traffic was, nor how annoyed my parents were at having to sit in all the traffic all the way – or hear them complain about how they only had a bit of time off work and they had to spend it driving. Maybe they didn’t – because that was how much we loved our family gatherings.

We would pull up outside Nana’a house, and there she would be with a massive smile and an egg basket, because the Easter Bunny had left the eggs for the hunt at her house. My brother, cousins and I would madly hunt for the eggs and try to sneak a few in before we had to sit down and share them out equally. Then we would go inside, talk, play and eat chocolate before having lunch in the cramped back room – but we didn’t even care about that.

After lunch we had a traditional Uno competition. When Uno Attack came out, all bets were off! I remember the laughing, the full stomach, and the familiarity of it all.

About ten years ago, possibly more, my Mum and brother had a massive fight – of which I feel partially responsible for sometimes – and that was really the beginning of the end of our family gatherings. Slowly, as tensions seeped into each birthday or Christmas where my brother wasn’t there and my Mum was silently blamed for not doing anything to fix it, we stopped wanting to spend as much time with each other.

It became a thing to turn up an hour before lunch and leave straight after. Uno was never brought out anymore.

I held on tight as much as I could, and when the day came that I realised that all our family gatherings were over, I was devastated.

Pop had died, and Nana moved so far away that no one could justify a drive for just a lunch. My Mum and her sister don’t have the type of relationship where they could still organise something between themselves, and I didn’t have a house big enough to accommodate everyone. And I didn’t think anyone would come anyway.

Today, I’m sitting here thinking about the memories my children will have of Easter. My partner is overseas and will only get home the night before the Easter Bunny makes an appearance. We have no plans to see either of our parents on Easter Sunday, we aren’t religious, my brother may stop by, a friend who doesn’t have her children on Easter may pop in too.

They will have a very different memory to mine, and I feel like it’s less because of the lack of family involvement. I can’t change it because I’ve tried and failed at that before. All I can do is make the day special in our own way. We add chocolate to our breakfast, we get ready for a small gathering of whoever happens to arrive, and we have fun with the people that are here. We will all be happy to see my partner after a long week with him away, that will get wrapped up in the day too.

Family is a strange beast, and as I’ve gotten older I understand why there are so many family drama shows, movies and books made. There is no road map to how to deal with family, or how to behave when all of a sudden it doesn’t work. Those shows, movies and books provide at least some type of comfort that all families seem to have drama associated to them.

I really cherish my memories of Easter, and I’m so sad that I won’t be packing my children into a car Sunday morning to battle traffic. Because I would love to be taking them out to a big family gathering like the ones I remember.

Happy Easter, I guess.