To comfort the children before leaving, I told them a bedtime story about how my dad went away one summer to study in France. While he was away, everything was different. Mom gave us a bigger allowance, took us to a motel with a colour tv, and just ran the household fully her way. It was also the summer our dog Spiffy died, and that's when I remember missing him most of all, needing is strength, writing him about it on a big postcard with a picture of a mountie.
Now I'm that professional away dad (albeit with much more internet contact), and living it all over again from the other side. Just as I had hoped, Sarah's enjoying the chance to be The Parent, without the compromise and sharing that any partnership requires. I understand that I'm a particularly strong and involved dad, putting my stamp and energy on much of our family's patterns, from our breakfast routine to afterschool play/chore balance. Not that she's an absentee mother by any stretch of the imagination - she's always beautifully, integrally involved in our family - it's just good for the boys (and her) to hear just her voice clearly without any echoes of Papa bouncing around.
Maybe when I get back I'll even try to listen to it all for a while, see how to slip myself into whatever new form they've created before imposing my PowerPapa energy. Maybe I should do that once in a while anyways, take a step back from parenting to see what each of us brings to the parenting team... what all four of us bring to the family team.
And now I'm the one missing my boys (I assume dad missed me), and even more acutely feeling them miss me. In the middle of a stunted but lovely facebook chat with the boys, describing elephants and temples and food, Zekiah slowly, carefully poked out "I mis u papa." Crying in an Indian internet cafe, suppose I'm not the first.
When dad came back from France, we eagerly gathered the neighbours for the big slide show. Remember those big round carousels that you'd hold your breath hoping the next one would pop in? Dad had about 15 of them ready for us. And almost every picture was a statue. 10-20 of the same statue from different angles. He was so fascinated, and never really understood our laughter. Well, I look through my own photos and see a whole lot of temples, brighly-coloured Krishnas and Shivas, ancient stone carvings, all equally amazing. Many more photos than I'll share here, but here's a taste of the temple tour from yesterday.
This is a 3,500 year old mango tree in the courtyard of a 4,000 year old shrine. In Canada I live in a house that's over 70 years old and think that's cool. Thousands of years, just don't compute.
Why is Western religion so boring? Here's a carving in another extremely old "Temple of 100 Pillars", with great scenes like this, people dancing, gods on each others' shoulders, musicians, whole families in goofy polaroid poses. Paul in Corinthians would NOT approve. Yes Jesus turned water into wine and hung around with concubines, but we tend to gloss over that, not glorify it or even enjoy it. Song of Solomon is turned from a hot piece of poetry into a metaphor. Where are our Greek gods duking it out and wooing young maidens? Just like my posting yesterday about how people are so openly human, the Hindu religion is fun, playful, real (not to take away any of the sacredness).
This temple, over 2 football fields long, was carved out of a single stone. By hand. It's still not done - "no new Kings have come along to take on the project" explained my guide. When my boys become aggressive and artistic teenagers, I think I'll send them down here with a chisel to hammer out their pubescent angst.
This is inside one part of that huge hand-carved temple. Just mind-blowing to think of the work and care that went into this. Not exactly sure if there was an intended real use, or just an over-the-top art installation, but worthy of its World Heritage status.
Just as cool as the ancient monuments are the everyday, every block (it seems) shrines. This one was just along some road close to my hotel. People stop by for a quickie on their way to work or wherever they're going. I've been in also - it's a quick moment of Peace and orientation (for me, won't speak to what it means for them). The care and devotion to these shrines, as well as to their houses, decorations, sidewalk paintings little touches everywhere, just keep this place alive and beautiful.
One last photo from one other temple, just to prove that I'm not simply downloading internet images (thanks mom, for the hot pink camera, lets me be so discreet with my photo work...)
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