Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Our Brazilian exchange student has departed for sunnier skies after her four month stay. I'm on the verge of wearing a black arm band or something, and I frankly was not expecting this to be even fractionally so difficult. My job being what it is, I didn't really shoulder the lion's share of the burden (what little trouble she was) while she was here, though I certainly tried to do my share on my weeks home. It's really Susan's life that has changed more than mine (and she is indeed quite sad).
But whether it ought to be or not, it's quite terrible! Susan and I spent some time today cleaning her room for another visitor coming tonite, and we were kind of blubbering fools at having to clean out all last traces of her life with us (the room still has a little trace of her smell). All the threadbare cliches apply (there's a reason they got to be cliches in the first place): it's like a part of one has been cut away; the house is empty and lifeless; now I understand what people whose kids head off for college feel like, etc. etc. In four short months I've grown accustomed to passing nearly every experience--movies, a new restaurant, a car test-drive, a pass thru a clothing shop, any random advertising, anything really--thru a filter of how she might react to it, both as a 16-year-old girl and as a Brazilian staying in America. And there is the whole angle of Susan and me, childless couple, exercising parenting skills (or at least parents' outlook) where there were previously none. A new world.
I now expect to come thru the door and find her working at her studies in the kitchen or draped over the comfy chair in the living room (with or without a protective pillow depending on whether she was watching "Friends"--her favorite--or anything remotely suspenseful), and instead the emptiness of the house is awful. How quickly one becomes immersed in some degree with what events are on her social or school calendar; we got to know quite a host of other exchange students, none of whom we'll likely see ever again.
It's silly, of course, since we knew the date of her departure from the moment she arrived, and she has returned in perfect safety to her loving family who were eagerly awaiting her return home--it's not as though something has happened to her!
But something does seem to have happened to us. I felt from the outset that we were ready and happy to do something to help out these exchange kids who were slated to come but who did not have families yet (Susan answered something of a distress call from the importing agency), and I never really thought about how it would affect me. It seemed like a favor done to someone else, and has turned out to be an experience for me.
I'm sure we'll see her again, either on a now-planned visit to Brazil or by her traveling up here to visit us (we made her promise to take some portion of her honeymoon someday up here!). But of course it won't be the same. She won't travel 5,000 miles to casually watch television, and we will no longer be privy to the minutiae of her daily life; indeed, we don't know much of her life away from Appleton, which, actually, is pretty much all of her life). So I'm so very happy that things went so well as they did and that we've had this chance for our paths to cross: we got so very lucky in our planetary alignment with her; but I'm rather broken up at this taste of a thing that goes on without one.
Farewell, Miss Dani. We will miss you.