If I need to settle a traveler, to calm or comfort them, the story of their birth is always a sure thing. They love it. The second little traveler loves her story because it involves just her and I. I see her eyes light up when I say "It was just you and me together in the hospital in Kuala Lumpur. We did it together. Every time I got frightened about being away from home, I just looked at you and knew we'd be okay".
She has that effect on people. You get the feeling with Annie that no-one will push her around. When she was three her playgroup teacher told G and I that she had qualities you'd be happy to see in a sixteen year old girl. That was her polite way of telling us she was determined and willful.
She's a planner. She likes structure and continuity. She needs to know exactly how it's all going to pan out and she'll be the first one to tell you if you're not following the rules. Her laugh comes from deep within, it's not a giggle, it's an explosion and EVERY time we hear it, either G or I will smile and say "listen to Annie".
Jokingly I asked her last night how she felt about the last ten years. Is there was anything she'd change? "No, you've done a pretty good job" she giggled "I like the way you've mapped it all out, let us know what the plan is".
I was horrified. Was I really that controlling? Did they feel their futures were mapped out already?
Annie made her first move at three weeks of age. She was on her third move by the time she was two. She's been to three schools and talks about her friends in sentences like these "You know Holly from New Zealand? Who used to live in Qatar? Can we go and visit her in Kenya?" She talks about the house with the sand, the house with the hot tub, the house with the pool and now the house on the compound.
"I like the way you've mapped it all out".
There was no mapping. Anyone who worked for The Big Blue (that's the company G was with for 11 years, and no that's not their real name) knew that there was no mapping. There was no strategy or plan. It always began with a rumor and ended a few weeks/months later with a farewell party.
Here I was worrying that the travelers would feel disjointed and confused. Here they were telling me they liked the way we mapped it all out.
It has occurred to me this morning that while life has been chaotic, we have always talked of possibilities and plans. How long will we stay? Which school shall we pick? Which area shall we live? I guess to a child it looks like constant planning. And they're right, there was always a choice and an element of control. We planned what we could. We took control when it was possible.
My plan for you dear Annie, is that you continue to laugh from that deep beautiful place that is your soul. I plan for you to continue to smile while you run, because you're the only person I know who does that?! I plan for you to always be by my side whether it's physical or in my heart. I plan to fix that chip on your front tooth. And I plan to let you have as much sugar as you like tonight for your birthday dinner.
I plan to celebrate our luck, for that is how we feel when we think of you.