When I was ten my family moved to Belgium. The sound of ripping tape and the scent of corrugated cardboard filled our home for weeks as movers and my mom packed boxes full of our things. I marveled at the big men delicately packaging our dishes, my toys, wrapping couches and rolling rugs. Some of it would go with us to the town of Ohain, near Brussels where we were moving, some would stay in storage in Minnesota. To not be with our “stuff” for several months while it was shipped across the ocean was a baffling and wondrous concept to me. I kept imagining it sinking in the ocean along the way.
After months of anticipation and goodbyes to my friends, school, and neighborhood the five of us got on the plane, me, my brother, my sister, Mom and Dad. I felt more like a family unit than ever as we entered the unknown together.
When we arrived at the Brussels airport after connections, a sleepless night, and a massive time change to a foreign country where we would now live, my siblings and I were excited to see the signs we couldn’t read, the food we didn’t usually eat, and there, yes, in the airport a Pizza Hut we recognized. They have Pizza Hut here too!? We marveled amongst ourselves.
I can only imagine how tired my parents were after moving their entire lives and their 10, 8, and 4-year-old overseas. Even for a practiced adult traveler jet-lag is a disorienting experience, for us the strange mix of excitement, fear, and exhaustion was new. We must have eaten something, maybe Pizza Hut, and then checked into our hotel.
All five of us slept in the same room. This is adorable to think about now, it makes me love my young parents all over again like a child to think of us all in a small hotel room together. As soon is at was late enough to call it “bedtime” we drew the curtains closed and all fell asleep. Hours passed, or weeks, I wasn’t sure when I woke up alone on my cot in the pitch black room. I scanned the edges of the curtains for daylight. Nothing, it must still be night. My eyes landed on the digital clock on the bed stand in the middle of the hotel room.
“0:00” it read.
“0 o’clock?!” Where am I? I thought. Have I stepped outside of time? Entered another dimension? Will the sun rise now that it is 0? Will morning ever come? I wanted to cry out. I wanted my parents to comfort me, but the thought that they had disappeared in this new realm, on this new continent where time didn’t exist, stopped me from acting. That, and the fact that if my family was all still there somewhere in the dark, and I woke up my brother and sister, my parents wouldn’t be happy. I leaned into the darkness and listened. I heard their breathing, the four of them, in and out in the dark.
Even if time had ceased to exist they were there. We were there together.
I closed my eyes and sank back into the abyss.