Seven days. That’s one more Thursday, one more Friday, one more Saturday, one more Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and one more Wednesday. Then it is all over. Just typing these words caused my eyes to well up with tears. I was given 52 of each of those days, and I cannot believe I am down to my last ones.
In the fall of 2009 an idea popped into my head. I began to toss it around and eventually became brave enough to share it with Chris. We shared it with a few others in the summer of 2011. Then I let it fade away, because it didn’t seem possible. But the idea didn’t die. It kept resurfacing, and I had a choice to make. And the choice wasn’t would I bring my children to live in Ikaria for a year or stay in America. The choice was do I follow a dream or do I regret not following it?
I don’t like regret. So I went for it. With all of the support and love of my husband, I moved the children 5000 miles away and stepped back in time to live in Ikaria. (Beautiful, beautiful Ikaria.) Friends and relatives alike questioned our decision. Many wondered if Chris and I were having marital problems, and some thought we’d never make it here the whole year. Those from Ikaria thought we were crazy, and they often thought they misunderstood what I said. (“You mean you are living in Athens for a year, not Ikaria, right?”) But we weren’t, and we did, and we aren’t. And now that it is over, I know that we made the right choice.
My children came to Greece knowing almost no Greek and are leaving as fairly fluent speakers. They lived without fast food, malls, and movie theaters, in exchange for connecting with a village, swimming in the sea, and playing outside unsupervised. They experienced cultural differences and similarities, and they faced situations where they knew nothing going in but came out the other side successful in one way or another. The education they received didn’t come solely from the 6 hours they spent daily in the school or the 2 hours learning afterward. It came from their interactions with their teachers, their classmates, their cousins and relatives, the yiayias and papous of the village, the store owners, and each other. Their lives have been enriched in more ways than I ever could have imagined.
We were also given a gift this year–completely unexpected and unpredicted, We received the gift of time. In America I work. I cook and clean. I shop and run errands, and I taxi the kids from place to place daily. I talk on the phone and text. I go out with my friends and away with my husband. I rush from place to place and event to event. I didn’t do that here. For an entire year I did nothing other than give my attention to my children. We ate dinner together every. single. night. Three hundred forty-eight days and counting. We played games. We went on hikes. We held hands as we walked down to the platia. We cleaned together and folded laundry together. We watched Little House on the Prairie and a documentary on Elmo. We sat by the fire and read. We visited new places and explored the area around us. We talked about what we missed in America, and we cried together when we ached too much. We gave lots of hugs, and we even fought now and again. And one of our favorite things was that almost every night we gathered in the bedroom and I read to them. Children grow quickly and the time we have with them is only a fraction of their lives. I am so thankful that I was given this year with my kids in a way I wouldn’t have had , had we spent the past year at home.
Is it any wonder that I can’t bring myself to think about packing or leaving? It’s not that I don’t miss my family and friends. I do! And it’s not that I can wait for the four of us to be reunited with Chris–I can’t! It’s just that I had a dream that I didn’t know if ever would come true, but it did. And I was able to live it. And I loved it. And I am just not ready to see it end. A year sounds like a very long time. But 52 weeks fly right by.