I am not one for sharing so much of my life –well, not so much in words, anyway. However, I am in the habit of recording events with my camera: anything from mundane routines all the way to special occasions. These captures tell the story of me, and of those close to me. I may not be able to recall events which took place during the year; but, when I look at the photos I have taken, they remind me of what went down this past year.
In January, Nicholas went back to school. At the beginning of 2014, when his frustration had reached its peak, Nicholas withdrew himself from Elizabethtown College. He needed time to think about what he wanted to pursue. He enrolled for the Spring 2015 semester at Northampton Community College to explore his options.
We bought a car. I was used to my dependence on Ralph for the last ten years. My daily routine didn’t require me to leave the house for the most part, so I didn’t really need to have another car. When we needed something done, we waited for Ralph –or, more like we waited for his car. The great thing about having only one car was that we did everything together. Now that Nicholas needed a ride to-and-from college, a car became a necessity. I also thought that it would liberate me, enable me to go off and do my own things. Not quite so. I ended up running errands, those for which we used to wait for Ralph and his car- and had ended up doing together. Having a separate car meant picking up Kaitlyn and Justin after school. It also meant that the two children signed on for more after school activities, because no: they didn’t have to worry about getting rides home. Forget liberation, I ended up being a soccer mom, except the only sport involved was me running in and out for the drop-offs and pick-ups.
Brendan also returned home after his eight months away. I don’t know how I forgot what that was like. By then, we had already given his room to Justin. Brendan took over the den where Ralph had set up his office. Ralph then moved his “office” out to our dining room. One can imagine the mess. Brendan also brought back his belongings from his Pittsburgh days from their storage space. The house became alive with all four children present –and, loud. We have three boys and Ralph, all with great baritone voices. Oh, my, do they resonate. Suddenly, our house got very crowded –both space- and sound-wise. Being me, the person who needed her own personal space, it felt like I was suffocating -drowning. I was happy that the whole family was together, but maintaining my necessary “space” was a challenge.
Not long after, Brendan wanted to explore the world, so he decided to go into teaching. The teaching institute based in Switzerland sent him to China. From March through July, it was all about getting Brendan to China. Everything seemed rushed and -now- blurry to me. We made a couple of unsuccessful trips to the Chinese Consulate in New York before his visa was granted. Brendan needed to get out and start his own chapter. There were times I was afraid that China would never happen. What a relief for all of us to finally get him over there and knowing that he got settled. He’s been there for half a year now, and all is good.
The house was quiet. The mess remained. We never seemed to finish any attempt to clean up after Brendan left. We moved furniture around, cleaned up the den for Nicholas’ art studio. Ralph moved his office up to the second floor, but my dining room never returned to its glorious state.
One night, I brought my pillow and started to sleep on the reclining sofa in the living room. It was because I’d wake up easily from any noise, but what really prompted the move was that when I woke up I would start sneezing. This would be followed by blowing my nose. As gentle as I tried, Ralph still woke up. To go back to sleep, he’d often move downstairs. I decided to remove myself so I wouldn’t have to bother Ralph, but I realized immediately that the air downstairs made it a better condition for me to sleep. No sneezing. No allergies. No sinus conditions. I can’t believe it took me ten years and a lot of doctor’s visits –not to mention the general grief.
I still wake up from noises. In fact, I hear more noises in the quietness of the night. They would come from the heater in the basement, from the kitchen –bread maker and dishwasher, from the wind chime in the back, and other outside noises. I also wake up from the sound when someone gets up to use the bathroom, to get Tylenol, etc. But I stopped sneezing.
We ordered a day bed. Since then, I have claimed the living room as my bedroom.
Justin and Kailtyn started school, and Justin is now a high school senior while Kaitlyn is a freshman. We get up at 5:30 to get ready. More school activities, more errands, and I still feel like a soccer mom.
One major event took place at the end of July after Brendan left for China. -I became an American citizen.
I have been over here since I was fourteen, and I went to college and grad school here before I moved back to Bangkok. Then, we moved here again in 2005, and we have been in the US since. I have never felt that America wasn’t a part of me, just as Thailand will never leave me. My friends from way back were surprised that I only just got myself the citizenship now. "Thought you did a long time ago,” they said. “I know: sometimes I thought I was already (a US citizen). I guess I forgot to make it official,” was my response.
I hadn't felt the need, for I did everything like everyone else: except I didn’t vote. I guess I could keep renewing my green card if I wanted to. At the beginning of 2015, it was brought to my attention that my green card needed a renewal. Ralph looked at USCIS Website, and he informed me that it would cost us $495 for another ten years of green card status; but, if I applied for citizenship, I’d pay the one time $680 and wouldn’t have to deal with it again. We opted for citizenship, then we started laughing. There are so many reasons in the world why one wants to become an American citizen – I have my few. I could have kept going with my residence status. And while I love being American as much as being Thai, we couldn’t stop laughing that our main reason for this was the difference of $185.
I told Ralph, though, that I’d hate to lose my status as a “guest” of America, and that I would become just “another one in the crowd.” My husband, along with my friends shrugged, “But you are one of us. Have been since we’ve known you!” This settled that, then.
The good part about being in this phase of my life is that I can pick and choose. On top of teaching math, Ralph also got certified to teach music. Currently, he is teaching at a chartered school. He also teaches voice students, as do I. I now teach more and perform less. One of these days, with the right timing and set-up, I will get up and perform... but not today. I find myself spending more time with the children, who are now more-or-less grown. I think back on those years when we were busy with whatever we were doing (really, what were we doing?) at our kids' expense; we can’t bring back lost time, but I’m happy for the time we have together now. Oh, yeah: Miss Kaitlyn finally decided to sleep in her bed in her room at the age of fifteen. No kidding. –That will be another story. Nicholas is happy being an art major; also, his interest in doing voice over is still going strong. Justin will attend Northampton Community College next fall, until his career goals become more real. Brendan also “calls” home often, and is happy in Dongguan.
Oh, and, my mouth was on fire, and my eyes were red from the Mexican chili.
This is my year in review.
Naturally, I could ask for more. -Everyone can ask for more. However, I like what we have.