Ethan and Axel were watching Finding Nemo. Emma had gotten off the phone and I had just set up my ironing station. Darn these wet towels. Darn that rain yesterday and darn on me for not noticing the rain until it was too late. This country is not exactly hot. Or clever. In all my years of living here, not one place has had a dryer. I have come to see it as, rich people have dryers. We aren’t rich. What makes a person rich? A dryer.
“So what did they say?” I, the nosy big sister, asked as she sat down next to Ethan and gave him a cuddle. Why was she half pretending no phone call happened? Why did I have to instigate this conversation. She used my phone so I should know. She was irritatingly calm.
“How come you don’t hang the towels outside?” She asked as Ethan offered her his bottle of juice. She shook her head no with a giggle.
“This morning, I put in another load of laundry not realising the towels were still this damp. There is no more room on the line outside and I need those clothes to dry too.” Such complications. It’s just laundry. And yet I felt myself increasingly frazzled. I reached for the chocolate chip cookies. Ethan heard the rustling wrapper and ran to me. I offered him one, but he shook his head no and ran back to Emma’s lap with his bottle. Those are the moments where I honestly do not understand my kid.
“They misunderstood my application. They missed the part where I said I am not a Swedish citizen anymore, which is why I am applying for the work permit. The lady said to go ahead and keep working and reapply.” She continued to sit cross legged on the floor in her new tight jeans.
“Dory! Shark!” Ethan had the bottle in between his teeth as he spoke. He needed to point out these beloved characters so that I could reply with, “Yes Ethan! Dory! Shark!” I turned my attention back to Emma.
“So we over-reacted yesterday huh? I panicked. I even looked at flights and everything for you. I sent mom a crazy email. I’ll have to remember to tell her to ignore it as it is all irrelevant now.” Wet towels do not dry with an iron. I had hoped they would, kind of like how girls can dry their hair with a straightener. I grew irritated. Over wet towels.
“I panicked too. But I pretend nothing happened.” She shrugged her shoulders. Still so calm. But I loved this quality about her. She helps me relax.
“Oh not me. My mind races immediately and I come up with options. Choices. Looking for the most attractive solution, like a new adventure. Where have I always wanted to go?…Where do you want to go Emma? If you could choose anywhere in the world?” I turned the iron off but stood by until it cooled so I could put it away. Danger zone for a curious toddler. If nothing held me back, I would choose several countries and live there six months at a time. For the experience and the food. I’d start by going back to Sweden. Then Greece. To eat another gyro by the beach would be awesome. Or drive past a watermelon vendor. With my handyman husband maybe we could finish building one of many abandoned half built houses somewhere. And I’d be tan. I can’t remember the last time I had one.
“I don’t think like that. I am where I want to be. With mom. That’s all.” Ethan had left her lap and begun climbing the couch. She came and sat at the table with me. Eyes down. My little sister all grown up. Making big adult decisions. I remember the night she was born. I was eight years old and loved babies. Little Emma has a life of her own. Flashbacks came to mind like a collage of memories. I used to dress her up as a princess and used my fancy pearl necklace as her crown. Sunday mornings we curled our hair and she loved walking around in my fur collared coat. She inherited my ‘first day of school’ outfit from the tenth grade and wore it to her first day of school in the second grade. We’ve shared clothes for a long time. Gosh I love my sister. So many wonderful memories. And today would be another one.
“Immigration is so complicated. Remember my big thing with May 13th? I got it all wrong. But then sometimes I think, maybe I stopped sweating over details because I officially moved on with my life? Who knows. Hmmm.Well, the sun finally woke up. It is looking to be a better day, let’s take the kids outside.” Me in my pyjamas. The kids in theirs. Oh well. We went out to the backyard for a little while and let Ethan have the time of his life in the big crunchy fallen leaves. Axel was quite content sitting in the sling. I held Axel in the direction of Ethan so he could watch his brother. The neighbours are used to seeing me in pyjamas. They might label me as “lazy”, but I know it is more a matter of sleep deprivation and not giving a hoot. Who knows what people really think. Maybe they’re in their pyjamas. I should stop thinking so defensively. Why do I always feel like I am being judged? I will pick that apart later. Thanks UEL for teaching me how to analyse so I don’t need therapy.
“I need to get going. I got work at noon. Come on Ethan! Hold Aunty Em’s hand!” My heart sank. I loved visits from Emma. We always have such a good time. Ethan refused. He loved playing outside. Everything outside was exciting. The spiderwebs in the tree. The mushrooms that grew randomly. The airplanes in the sky. The laundry that hung.
“Ethan! Mommy is going to have a bowl of cookie crisp. Inside.” We walked to the backdoor and Emma reached in for her bag. Ethan came running, little cookie monster.
“Bye bye Emma!” I said waving enthusiastically. Ethan did not join in. I took his boots off and he climbed up onto the barstool.
“Thanks for letting me come by and sort things out. When I get my work permit maybe I will feel as free as you did when you got your visa. I’m jealous you are going home for Christmas.” She gave me a hug and waved bye to Ethan and Axel. I slid the door closed and turned the lock. I watched her as she turned the corner and was no longer in my sight. Then Ethan came running to the door, looked outside, waved and said happily, “Bye bye Emma! Bye bye Emma!”
We hadn’t had lunch yet. This was going to be a long day. I could feel it.