29 February 2012

The Residency Process: Part There've-Been-So-Many-I've-Forgotten

March 1st is one of my favorite days of the year. It begins my favorite succession of months (ending in September), and I love to celebrate its arrival even if there are eight inches of snow on the ground. Because there's something about flipping that calendar page, about seeing April and May tagging so closely behind, that lets my soul breathe again. Although there might be blizzards a-brewin' on March 1st, in my heart it is already spring.

But can it seriously be March already? I remember this day last year: I was living in a bed and breakfast, coloring a sign to celebrate March's arrival. I was answering countless questions about when I'd be leaving for Spain, and I was getting really anxious about the fact that I still needed paperwork, that my stupid FBI check would be nearly expired again by the time I brought it to Chicago.

Last March, the long-awaited paper finally arrived. My parents made a special trip to deliver it into my hands, and I spent the better part of an hour with the church copy machine, churning out triplicate and fourthlicate forms so I could make the first trip to the sufficiently underwhelming consulate.

Last March, we got an actual snow day--declared a day ahead of time. On the day the snow was whipping so hard we could barely see into the parking lot, we stayed in school until 1:00. My little guy was huddled near a heater, and his sister mentioned that they wouldn't be back next year; my heart cracked in two. Last March, middle schoolers in Spain felt light years away. All I knew was that I'd spent all year preparing to say goodbye to one seventh grade boy, and now he was going to be the one to leave me behind.

Last March, I drove home from the half-day and cried--because I hate driving on ice and because my student was leaving. The following day, the preemptive snow day, was a balmy 50-something degrees, which everyone spent outside, in shorts, shoveling the last snow off their melting driveways.

Last March, I moved for the third time in a twelve-month period. I got rid of extra clothing. I stacked more junk in my old bedroom at my parents' house. I spent my lunch breaks in the library of a middle school that no longer exists (it collapsed beneath the floodwaters in June).


This March enters on the tail of a beautiful week, starting with the slight sunburn I received on my Sunday-afternoon walk. The fields across from the school are alive with green; the pungent pig fertilizer stench has finally stopped wafting down the hill. I am jogging (which never happens) in shorts (which never happens in March), and everything seems bright and full again because I am outdoors (which never happens before March). In this I am my mother's daughter: I was made for open spaces; I was made for long walks and the wide outside. Everyone at home is posting facebook statuses about snow days, and I feel completely disconnected from that wintry world. (I don't say this to inspire envy but to let you know that I may escape southwest for subsequent American winters.)

This March, I am an official Spanish resident with an official plastic card. (Picked it up yesterday! Just in time to start the renewal process! Oh, Spain.) This March, I understand that this is just how Spanish bureaucracy is, that I need to take deep breaths and flow with it. This March, I'm shocked every time I realize that my memories of last year happened in Spain.

This March, it is hitting me: the wide-eyed joy of having survived nearly a full school year, and the silent sadness that it's almost over. Last March, I knew nothing about these kids except for their names, and next March, I know I'm going to be treading the edges of emotion as I step closer to saying goodbyes. But this March, my heart becomes Spanish-sun warm when they stop by my room to talk, share their last mini chocolate cake, wish me a good weekend. The snow and paperwork crap and sleeping on air mattresses were worth every second of last March--because this March, I am full to bursting.

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