We can’t know what things we will discover about ourselves or our culture on this sabbatical, but we know already some things that we will miss. We even seem to be preemptively missing some of them before we go.
The other night we made fine use of our gracious, dependable, and comfortable built-in babysitters. Di's parents are both near to us and amazingly helpful and generous people. It was not long before this night that we had the “sit-down, this-is-real, we're-really-going” talk with them. We had dropped the possibility in conversation several times before, and they did watch the kids for most of the time we did our two-week scouting trip. You can't say that this was a real surprise to them, but given the kind of people that both Di and I are, you also can't blame them for holding out hope that we just had burrs in our saddles that we had to work out...fantasize a little...catalog shop...and then come back to earth and stay in Minturn.
So it may still have been a dash of cold reality in the face. We're taking their grandchildren away from them for two years. Even if they do come down to visit, it will be far less time with the kids than they have now, and far more work to have it. And they aren't feeling quite as springy in the step as they once did. And the thought of a primitive, third world South American country must be daunting.
They are shining examples of postwar America, the product of the Greatest Generation: unwavering values, dependable friends and neighbors, generous but modest, hardworking. And they have a comfort in life unprecedented for a middle class in human history, that was certainly earned for all those listed reasons and more.
Everything that postwar America brought to us and the world--all that comfort, clear reward for hard work, a chicken in our pot and a car in our garage--we're eschewing for...what exactly?
But Bill and Jan are not people to interfere or criticize, no matter how crazy or inconceivable an idea might seem to them. So they grin and bear it…and pray that we'll come to our senses. Our hope is that they do come visit, realize what a wonderful place Ecuador really is, and decide to stay longer. We are both hoping against each other's nature, I suppose. But we hope.
That night out that Bill and Jan gave us was spent out for a friend's birthday dinner on the patio of a favorite restaurant. Charlie's family was there as well as some friends we knew and some we met that night. It was simple, engaging, relaxing, friendly, and dozens of other adjectives that we know we will have a harder time finding in Ecuador, where we have no such friends, relationships, or even the ability to so easily converse in the same language.
But because we know we will miss evenings like this, we already appreciate them more. And it is one thing to imagine, but another thing to live. So we are embracing the challenge of not having those things, and the other things we will miss but have not even imagined yet. And we are also excited for the unexpected inspirations and undreamt of discoveries. It is this willful abandonment of comforts and joys that we know, for the challenges and surprises we don't know, that gives us confidence in pursuing lives less ordinary.