Despite it being overcast and grey – which a few weeks ago meant freezing – I’m sitting next to the lake in a single layer of clothing. To my right is a cyclist, dismounted from his steed, peering through binoculars. He’s either viewing the nesting waterfowl I’ve just walked past or the nudist beach slightly further along. It’s blustery but warm, and the masts on the nearby moored boats are making a pleasant clanking which harmonizes nicely with the chatter of the ducks. I’m taking in deep breaths of the always pristine air, laced with the occasional waft of miscellaneous springtime florals, and relishing – probably for the last time in a while – not rushing to be anywhere.
After nearly four and a half years of Hausfrauing – some of it wretched, some of it marvellous, all of it unexpected – I’m returning to full time work this week. Gainful employment. Obligation to do my hair (by which I really mean shower). Excuse to go work wardrobe shopping. Not gonna lie: I’m super exited (apart from the regular shower thing).
Yesterday afternoon was Swiss spring perfection. The kids and I walked our well trodden path: down the street past the hyacinths, daffodils, buttercups, dandelions. Past the ‘big kid school’ that my own big kid can’t wait to attend this summer. Up and over the hill that starts as a forest and clears into breathtaking views of the lake, the mountains, the sky. We met some friends at the park, people we’ve been meeting almost every Wednesday since we arrived here, longer than my little boy has been alive. We sat in the park while the kids ran amok. The lake was a broken mirror, each shard its own story. The time Yves jumped into the fountain. The time I asked them all to come over for Pudding Day. The time Sebi and Ads said a lisped ‘sorry’ and held hands after fighting all afternoon. The time my non-hugging friend whole heartedly hugged me. Every now and then a gust of wind descended from the still snow capped Alps, and the blossom tree next to us would shudder, shaking its petals into our laps, our hair, my boy’s eyelashes, our cheeky afternoon prosecco. Mesmerised by the delicate transient white on blue I heard my daughter exclaim ‘Spring snow! Teddy, look, it’s spring snow!’.
I feel nothing but excitement about returning to work. Actually, that’s not strictly true. Excitement, and concern about how the hell our laundry will ever get done (that statement implies it gets done efficiently now. It does not). But I have no guilt at all, which I always assumed I’d feel at least to some degree (and have been told I ought, which is another matter altogether). When I was going through the interview process I (fairly arrogantly) came home and declared I felt had done well. My Addie ran across the room and threw her arms around me and said ‘Mama! I’m so proud of you!’. I don’t care if it was due to the interview, or to my self-proclaimed amazingness, or whether she’s just four and knows no differently, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll take it.
I’ve only a few days left before I return to drying hair I have actually bothered to wash, putting on makeup, wearing clothes sans stains (I hope, but I am prepared to admit I’m aiming too high). These four and a half years have been, in so many ways, the very richest of my life. Those chubby hands that lunge for snacks, tentatively explore all the things, reach hopefully yet confidently for mine. Those little bodies, a breathtaking juxtaposition between frenetic energy and complete deadweight exhaustion. The inconceivable depth of feeling: not just the love I have for them, or theirs for me, but the way this has augmented and shaped every other relationship I have. Those little voices, finding themselves in every way – sounding out, making sense, articulating, owning. The privilege of tired hot breath on my face, of innocent secrets whispered, of witnessing every small increment grown, of the purest of intimacies. These moments, experiences, days, years have floated by, petals on the wind. White on blue, the act of a mere moment. Impossibly fragile and imprinted on my mind forever.