February 23, 2008

When Mama Ain't Happy...

Christianity teaches that "The woman is the heart of the home." This, I think, is a delicate euphemism for the old adage... If Mama Ain't Happy... Ain't Noooobody Happy. (I refer you to the photo at left.)

Round about the sixth day afer we arrived, if anyone in my family dared to crack a smile in my direction, I'd a slapped it right off his or her face in a most unChristian manner. No turning the other cheek here ... unless it's yours! and you want me to slap it. Okay?

Sounds harsh, I know. But the truth is that after all the cool and calm organizing it took on my end to get us here, Miss do-it-all, Plan-it-all, Smarty Pants Me became ... well, rather unhappy. I learned, quite simply, that it is possible to do too much!

Arriving here was long but mostly seamless journey, thanks to Larry's excellent travel agent skills and some good luck. Plus, our friend Rodrigo Marciac, who owns the lovely Villa Marita, where we used to stay, had himself, along with his assistant Lelis, planted three beds inside an otherwise empty house, as well as sheets, towels and soap so we didn't have to sleep on the floor. What a prince that man is! Save for the beds, we were in an utterly vacant, echo Echo ECHO filled vault.

It is not easy to find items to that turn a house into a home.What would normally be a $5 plastic chair from our local Dollar Store is, in Panama, a $20 item! Trust me when I tell you a Walmart would not only be a welcome Oasis, it would be fairly high end stuff.

Also, if you want to just pick up some, say, Tums or Rolaids? Not so fast. You have to ask for them at a pharmacy, where you are presented with many boxes of antacids...then purchase them ... pill by pill . The brand? Who knows? This method follows for other, more personal items. (Yes. I'm having to give up control, pill by pill, tampon by tampon).
And while we now have beds of our own, plus our major appliances, some dishes, a coffee pot and a few sofas (all acquired miraculously withing 8 days or so), we are still utterly without curtains, carpets, and other necessary furniture. (Larry and I did actually encounter some kind of ready made drapes at one store, but we both assumed we were looking at a display of shower curtains ... and it turns out they were for the living room! Egad.) The house still echoes enough to make my brain vibrate, which places some urgency on acquiring curtains. But these challenges weren't what sent me over the edge.

Getting robbed.
The trouble was that when you take the daily stressors involved in getting settled, and add to them the robbery, from our home, of my valuable Allstate computer (along with an apparently lovely gift from my sister, Madeleine, that I was saving for my birthday), unexpected credit card denials, right when you are making the big purchase, troubling bank alerts, police reports, and a whole lot more ... well it just became too much. Mama C-r-a-c-k-e-d. Then snapped and popped!

The robbery was particularly upsetting. It is just a sinking, unsettling experience that leaves one feeling betrayed and unsafe. Both items taken were valuable, indeed, they were the only things I had carried with me on the plane to protect them, and both were entrusted to me by others. But, given the assortment of workers who had trafficked in and out of the house over the last year, we should have changed our locks upon arrival. Because, sadly, is appears as if someone had copied a key. Se la vie. Or, rather... Asi es la vida!
So. There I was, about 7 days into the trip, which coincided with the anniversary of dad's death, alone in the empty house, save for the plastic covered mattress I was sitting on. I picked up the only book around ... Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Big mistake. (Don't read this book if there is a razor blade nearby and you are low on Prosac.)

After plowing through just the first, then last five pages, I was a depleted mess. I dissolved into a heap of tears. Not the gentle soft, feminine, weepy tears. I dived straight into the sloppy, drooling, slurpy sobs, complete with those unattractive, wet stuttering Gulps children make. Lovely.

Following this, and for about three days afterward, I turned into a bitter witch and was successful in turning Larry's and William's life into a living semblance of of H E L L.

Help arrives.
Thankfully, our phone and other computer were up running. So, my Siblings (Madeleine, Claire and Nicholas), their family and some close friends rallied to the rescue. They called, comforted, coddled and suggested. And I was able to pull myself together. Phew! After a visit to... Dr. Sue!

Madeleine strongly suggested a doctor visit for prescription refills, BP check, etc. So one day I'm walking in town and I notice a young woman in a white coat hanging out on the stoop of a medical clinic. I paused and she waved me in.

She introduced herself as Doctor Sue and apologized in the same breath for her youthful appearance, assuring me that she had a medical license and that she was 30! Then she spent most of our appointment chatting like a teenager in that rapid, non stop, valley girl voice on her cell -- in Spanish -- stopping occasionally to ask me for vital information.

When at some point I suggested that some of my stress may be hormonal and possibly connected with Menopause, she looked up, cell phone in her ear, clearly stumped now, and let out a "Huh?" When I advised her that in a few days I would be 52 years old... why... she didn't even blink an eyelash! (I instantly whispered to myself in my mind "Bitch! That's right. One day little Miss Doctor-Girl will reach down to check her hemline and find her bosoms bouncing around her kneecaps.") Nevertheless, Mission Accomplished. Not only did I get my necessary refills, it seems I'd lost 4 pounds. A doctor with a decent scale is worth the bucks.

So for now, 17 days into the move, we are still without curtains and rugs. But otherwise developing a new and mostly easy rhythm to our family life. Larry, who for the past 10 years has been working a serious night shift (or recuperating from it), homeschools William during the morning hours while I work for Allstate. He makes house repairs and runs errands, while I walk to town to make my purchases. William plays happily with the local neighborhood kids all day long. He wouldn't care if they spoke Chinese, as long as he has playmates! On March 10 he will audit 3 hours of 4th grade at our local private Catholic parochial school. Three days a week he will have sports with a group of other ex-pat children.

Most Saturdays we spend at Jenni and Steve's, a couple I'd met over the internet before the move, and who live about 20 minutes away (they have 4 kids). They generously host a weekly pot luck gathering of American and Canadians who are lovely and helpful. The kids run around like indians and have a ball. This group of ex-pats organizes a good many events for families and we are rarely without something to do.

We are also getting to know our neighbors and local merchants. To that end, I plan next Sunday to attend our local Catholic church services in Spanish so I can get to know some of my Panamanian neighbors.

Larry, who is a genius at fixing anything, has fortified the house to the max. Between the schoolin' and the fixin', he's busy all day long. And not only that... he's here for dinner every night!

So ... little by little, or as we say here, poco a poco , we are settling in to our Panama experience.

No comments:

News About The Boys

Mrs. Bliss told us there is a caterpillar here that is pink and fuzzy, and, if you touch it, its fur will stick in your skin and sting you! This happened to her daughter, Aylana. It was very painful and they had to pull the fibers out using tape! There are also scorpions and snakes, but I think there are more poisonous snakes in Florida.

William is busy, busy. In the morning he does his home schooling (Dad is his teacher!). Then, around 9:00 he rushes happily off to the local, Catholic, Spanish-only school where he audits the 4th grade! He's been doing some skim boarding but we are seriously missing the skating. Surfing looms in the near future. For a change we finally have kids on our street to play with, (not to mention dogs and roosters, snakes, toads, etc.) and it is wonderful making new friends. Still, William really misses his friends and family back in Sarasota. It's wonderful to get messages from the folks back home.

We send a special "Hello How Are Ya?" back to Nolen, Max, Connor, Emily W. and Teah!

Larry is Mr. Handy! Between homeschooling and making repairs on the house, he is never without something to do. And we have gone from never seeing him, to having him around all the time. Hmmmmmm.....

Blog Archive