Six a.m. on Tuesday morning Sam was asleep on the couch but dressed for school in a suit and tie.
"For 9/11," he explained, though half asleep, and with some disbelief that I should ask why.
But mornings always seem to begin like any other, even though as some days progress you realize, that by the time you lie down for bed, the world will seem like an entirely different place. I think after a few years of September elevenths I stopped bracing myself for the possibility that life might change again because that anniversary had arrived. But this year that thought crossed my mind, maybe because it was a Tuesday. At noon I pulled up to the middle school to collect Kyle, who had an upset stomach, and remembered when I saw that mournful, respectful flag, the weeks that felt like months eleven years ago, that it seemed there would never be a flag at full mast or an airplane in the sky again.
September is the most glorious time in Augusta. That September eleventh was the reason why people endure the dark, sunset at 4 p.m., cold, icy piles of dirty layers of snow all along the sides of the slippery roads, croup and cabin fever, and seasonal affective disorder Maine winters. Not even a warm day at Popham beach lined with sand dunes and rose hips, not even the lilac bushes in May, or the lupine fields in June, are as divine as a day in Maine just as Fall is approaching, and the air sparkles, and the wind smells like apple, and the blue sky is the color of crayons, with perfect, billowy white clouds, and everyone begins to fantasize about the orange of pumpkins, and an afternoon raking leaves. That was our September eleventh. And when my neighbor Tina, a sweet elderly woman, who most likely in all her years had never been so shocked, knocked on my door because she didn't know what else to do but tell me to turn on my t.v., I had to ask her to just tell me why, because we were still in that principled phase of parenting when you don't believe in television, and when she did, I could not believe that it was true, that anything that horrific and sad could happen on a day that felt like Heaven. But what did seem entirely possible to me were Christ's words from the New Testament, 'Today ye shall be with me in Paradise," because it felt like the angels were passing through Augusta that day.
As it turns out, even if the angels weren't passing through Maine, the hijackers were. Interestingly enough,
at least one of the hijackers made a somewhat mysterious trip from Boston to Maine the day of September tenth, and stayed in the South Portland Comfort Inn, and shopped at our Wal-Mart in South Portland where I used to buy diapers for Sam and Ben when they were babies, and boarded at the Portland Jetport, almost missing his flight. If only he had. And after the attack, his vehicle was brought to the state crime lab down the street from our low income compound, and driving by everyday, its presence felt like a very disturbing disruption to our obscurity. I just realized that there is actually quite a bit of googleable discussion about that Maine connection, that I would have the interest, but not the time to read. I can't let my blog be run by fact checkers.
Back to this Tuesday, by evening I was very sad and scared to learn that more attacks against the U.S. were happening in Egypt and Cairo, particularly because of our family's connection to embassies. Before state department life, I only thought of an embassy as protective walls, and never realized how much they represent friendship with the post country. That is just one reason why violence towards diplomats and the foreign service nationals, who are so frequently the first victims, is so sad and senseless. Inside and outside of the embassy, foreign service life at its best, for the officers and families, is about cross cultural bridges, not walls. So Wednesday it was encouraging to see this link to pictures of Libyans of all ages gathering in peaceful protest against the violence, and holding signs that said "Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans." If people understood that kind of friendship, on both sides-- that would be more powerful than violence or a hard line.
I actually didn't intend to write about that. This is supposed to be me catching up with our summer, so I'll get back to the only subject I can really talk about with any authority, and even that is questionable: my kids.
But on the topic of foreign exchange, it was Bethany that spotted the Sri Sri Radah Krishna temple in Spanish Fork as we approached. Mid July, I convinced the kids to come with me to their annual Llama festival. Bethany was excited because she thought it felt like we were in India. Grant was excited because it reminded him of the castle at Disneyland. We took a quick tour, but the crowds were too intimidating to spend much time with the llamas. Not surprisingly, the kids were also hungry and grumpy, so this field trip was not such a success, mostly because of my bad timing. Just a quick picture with Caitlin, and then everyone was eager to head to Grandma Julia's. Aunt Jocelyn was visiting with Uncle Nate and their children so the girls especially, had cousins on their mind. The Sri Sri Radah temple is breathtaking in that gorgeous rural setting, and worth writing more about.. but for another occasion, without the unwilling.
In July we celebrated Grandma Martha's birthday at her favorite Samoan place, Sweet's Island Restaurant. We love to brag about our Samoan heritage. The very nice man working there thought maybe we were related to the albino Samoans. Sadly, no. Our beautiful, thick, black hair just got lost in the gene pool.
And on the topic of friendship, I am grateful for neighbors who are also friends. We share a yard with five or six other families and among those year- round residents who have children at home there are three families with a combined total of seventeen children. I am grateful for the two middle school-aged sisters who rescue my runaway baby, practice spelling words with Mary, and captained our parking lot pick-up basketball games on late summer nights. The average age in our parking lot league is something like seven, because some of us are forty and some of us are two.
And I am grateful for my good friend and neighbor Marlene and her five children who were willing to take us out to ride their horses. It was a beautiful, slightly rainy, surprisingly cool for July day. My animal lovers and I had a wonderful time.
Sweetie, my favorite dog, was there too.
July 20th the kids and I drove out to our home teacher and scout master's ranch where the boys had been staying. It had been a week of free to be you and me man style, Don't smell don't tell, no changing clothes, no showers, in other words, boy scout camp.