Following Brandon’s graduation, a job prospect came up that had the strong possibility of going overseas. We talked about returning with excitement, and impatiently waited through the months that stretched into a year and half of process before we were abruptly told that Brandon was no longer being considered for the job. And so we made other plans, and stopped thinking of Cairo. But then, the week after Sophia was born, Brandon found out that he might have a chance at joining the Foreign Service. And the dreams of Cairo began again.
After his third day of work, Brandon showed me the bid list, the list of possibilities, each one a different two years. Cairo was on the list not once, but twice, and with a perfect timeframe for us. On Flag Day, Brandon walked back to me, Kathleen, and Sophia with the Egyptian flag triumphantly clutched in his hand.
A few months later, we got off the plane in hot, crowded, busy, but no longer so bewildering Cairo. Almost three year-old Kathleen clutched Brandon’s hand while we waited for the vans that would take us to our new home. I held fourteen month-old Sophia on top of the bulge that was 20 week-old Edwin.
And when we walked back into the villa on road 17, we knew we were home again. The carpet was green, and the walls were yellow, but it was the same spirit of the Cairo branch, waiting for us. And indeed, it was some of the same branch, with the entire branch presidency known to us from our time four years earlier.
This time in Cairo has been different that last time. We have come with a job, and an organization to take care of us, provide our housing, arrange our travel, and even give us access to Breyer’s ice cream. We’re no longer stepping over puddles of water cascading over the bathroom floor each time a load of laundry is washed. I have an apartment that is my home with all of my things, and as much feeling of permanence as one can have in two years.
But our time in Cairo has also been a real beginning of our time as a family. When we came, we had one child who could talk and one who was still a baby. I felt like we were a married couple with some appendages that made life difficult most of the time and perhaps occasionally funny, but not usually pleasurable. They both went to bed early, and parenting consisted of maintaining basic needs.
Now we are a family of five, with an almost five year-old, a three year-old, an 18 month-old, and a baby on the way. We have all grown up. I now have children who are old enough to do chores and play elaborate games of make-believe. My baby is old enough to go into nursery in a few weeks, and enjoys swimming at Maadi House as much as his sisters do. I actually mostly enjoy my time as a mother and now truly find pleasure in my children.
I feel that this time in Cairo, just as the last time, has been a time of transformation from one state to another, from harried mother of small children to not-so harried mother with a real family going. I’ve grown very much over these two years and feel like I finally have things under control. We’ve gone through two evacuations – one for Edwin’s birth, and the recent one for unrest – and I’ve reluctantly grown as a result of those also. I’ve realized that I can indeed handle whatever has been thrown at me, four solo transatlantic flights included, and even handle it with a small bit of grace. Brandon and I have grown closer and more appreciative of each other because of the separation, and I know we’ve grown even better suited for each other than when we came. It’s been a good two years.
And now we leave, and in a way, leave a phase of our life, one that last lasted since our marriage. Always we have come back to Cairo, but now we’re done. When I was talking with the girls about Baku, they asked if then after that we’d come back to Cairo. I shook my head, and told them that no, Cairo wasn’t going to be our home anymore; we would have a new one then. It is strange to know that we are leaving Cairo and leaving the beginnings in our life; the beginning of marriage, the beginning of family. It’s now time to move on to the next part – the middle – with all of its excitement, difficulty, new challenges, and new pleasures. But never again will we have Cairo, and it will stay with us always.