Fifty-one down. One to go.

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.

Us with our village behind us

Us , in Karavostamo

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25 comments on “Fifty-one down. One to go.

  1. sue mikolajczyk says:

    🙂 !

  2. Erik Mentzer says:

    Great sentiments. Sounds like you had a great experience and I followed it as much as I could on facebook, etc. I guess the key is to not let the rest of those 52 week capsules fly by so fast! Have a safe trip home.

  3. Roy says:

    Thank you for opening a door of possibilities to Greek Americans that miss their ancestral land! I would love to do what you did.
    What next?! Looking forward to your next journey!

  4. Phil J says:

    This was your best writing to date. Thank you for sharing your life with us this past year.

  5. newellyaya@comcast.net says:

    Just beautiful Jackie. I envy you for your bravery. Just today I almost cried after getting in the car for about the 10th time to run somewhere or pick someone up. Then once I have a sec to myself, I think I’ll shoot myself if I hear sponge Bob’s laugh again, and I look around and everyone’s on their phones or locked away in their rooms. It’s just dumb. Constant practices, constantly needing to be doing something, never a sec to just…”be”. I keep saying “let’s just live in the moment and enjoy what we are doing”. Sometimes they’ll say “let’s go..mini golfing (example), then when we r doing it they’ll ask what we r doing next. Guess I’m just venting. But I’ve loved your blog, especially this one! Can’t wait to see you! S

    • jandcfox says:

      I understand. And that is what frightens me the most about returning. Giving this time up with the kids and always running and rushing. I have to make this life for our family at home. They have it right here. Family first. Maybe we can start a movement to change the perspective of things there. You in? 🙂

  6. Jill sherman says:

    Jackie, that was simply put and simply beautiful! Huge lump in my throat! I can’t wait to see you! I admire you so much for what you did… You and your kids will be better for it and that will always be something you will share. Maybe they will do it with their own kids some day! Safe travels home. Jill

    • jandcfox says:

      You have to let me know when you will be back from your second amazing vacation of the summmer, and we’ll get together outside of the “office” in order to catch up! Thank you for being one of my cheerleaders!

  7. Aunt Stella says:

    Jackie, that was beautiful and heart wrenching. You have lived your dream and so many have not even dared to dream. Everyone is so proud of you all for taking the chance and proud of Chris for agreeing to let you. Back in the day we always ate dinner together and it was wonderful. It doesn’t have to end there Jackie. You said it all. Family is what is important. Safe journeys to you and I am looking forward to seeing all of you soon. Love and kisses…

    • jandcfox says:

      Thank you again Aunt Stella….I’ll count you as one of the ones who thought I was crazy to begin with! 😉 Yes, we try hard to eat dinner at home together nightly but with the kids sports and Chris’s schedule, it isn’t always easy. It is something I have always strived for and will continue to do so. Will see you soon! Hugs!

  8. tim says:

    Long time lurker. First time commenter.

    Sounds like a fantastic year and your summary couldn’t have any better. Its been a great learning experience for all of us just following along. Have fun, yet safe travels back to PA!

  9. Penny Bouris says:

    Loved it and the photo!

  10. Sophia Facaros says:

    Dear Jackie,
    2012-2013 will forever affect your lives in a positive way. Yes, time goes by quickly when your children are little and the times together will be even better as they get older. You will always reflect on this year and the return trips will be so much sweeter as you see those you had so much fun with! We are all anxious to see you and the children. Will you be at Boston?
    Love,
    Theia Sophia

    • jandcfox says:

      Yes Theia, I agree completely, which was part of the bigger plan…giving them friends to come back to when they return! I am not sure about Boston, but thinking about it. When are you coming to Ikaria?

  11. dadinJapan says:

    Reading your post has made me look at my rather crazy life here in Japan, focusing too much on work, worrying about money, and at the same time seeing my daughter grow up so fast right in front of me and just not being with her enough. I realize that I do not spend enough time at home, but it is all these small and sometimes ridiculous commitments that take up time on top of work–running from place to place, having to pick up something or someone, answering inane text messages from friends who have nothing better to do, etc, that also complicate things. This was a great post, you have made me think a lot.

    • jandcfox says:

      As a parent you often hear that your children grow up way too quickly and to enjoy them, but this year I really understood what it meant to enjoy them. I hope to make changes in the lifestyle I had in America before I left and continue to find that “time” for my kids. It may mean turning off my phone and learning to say no a little more often–which all may take some practice, but I want that lifestyle change. I am glad that you have read my story, and I hope that you have gained something that will make you happy!

  12. Chris Farr says:

    I have found in my innkeeping experience that adults who lived abroad as children are able to converse with confidence and interest. Their share their experiences fluidly and with imagination. Jim and I enjoyed our short trips abroad, and I my year country hopping as well as living in Birmingham, UK. We relive those memories often, and suspect Ikeria and your wonderful year will be on you minds the rest of your lives. Congratulations on living your dream.

    • jandcfox says:

      Thank you Chris! It’s wonderful to hear from you again and know that you have followed along. I do hope that we can spend time together this coming year. Chris and I should make a trip to Churchtown for dinner one evening!

  13. roula cochran says:

    Dear jackie, congratulations to you, to the children and Chris for completing your year in Ikaria and living your dream. What a great achivement! and yes, quite a few locals thought that you won’t last the winter out!
    They hadn’t realised how strong,able,resourceful and lovable you were. they know now and the whole village admires you. they embrased you and your family like you embrased them.
    We have all learned from your experience and i wish i had done thesame when my chilren were young.
    I will miss reading your blog and follow your progress.
    Have a safe trip and hope your olive oil makes it home!
    Love
    Roulax

    • jandcfox says:

      Thank you for your kind words Roula. I do hope that the village knows just how much their support and open arms helped us over the year. Everyone is so warm and wonderful, and I feel very fortunate to have met each and every one of them. Even if I couldn’t communicate with them well, their smiles and the eyes let me know I was welcome here.
      Filakia

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