I went into the city this afternoon, little Noah in tow, with four objectives in mind: to meet up with a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in over a year, to have a cupcake at the sole cupcake shop in Ghent, buy a birthday gift for a friend’s three year-old daughter, and to buy a Valentine’s Day gift for my husband Davy.
Did I succeed? Yes, in all four, in four hours without so much as a pee break for myself. But a perfect little cupcake I did manage to procure as a reward, at Julie’s House.
Suffice to say, it’s been a long day and I’m exhausted right now. But it was a more good than long.
Watching Noah take in the sights outside the tram window and squeal every other wondrous minute, I realized just how much he’d grown up. On our last tram ride into the city, he’d been more interested in chewing on his blanket. At nearly eleven months old, he is now well aware and downright nosy about everyone and everything. And speaking of everyone and everything, my girlfriend Rosella, was to meet Noah today for the first time.
Rosella and I both moved here around the same time, and met in a classroom here in Ghent, both students in the Dutch language. We’d moved here for neither asylum nor mail-order-marriage, but just simple love, she from Spain and me from America. To me, she was young and gorgeous but most of all, ballsy. Ballsy is what I am too. And so together, we were known as “the crazy girls” at school. Because “crazy” is what boring people use to describe those who are the opposite of boring.
And so, through two semesters of Dutch and countless conversations in broken Dutch and English, we came to understand each other no matter what our mother tongue. Midway through our third semester Rosella and I stopped at a pharmacy to buy a pregnancy test, for me. The next day at school she was the first one to know, after Davy and my mother, that I was pregnant.
I never finished my third level of Dutch, because vomiting through my morning sickness was not something I wanted to do in front of my classmates and teacher. I dropped out. Rosella and I kept in touch consistently but we never managed to get together again until, fast forward about a year, today.
And she is still the young and gorgeous young lady from Spain I remembered, except she referred to herself as “crazy”.
During our time apart, Rosella had broken up with her boyfriend and struggled with one hit after another, both big and small and recent. Break-ups fuck with your emotions, no matter how peaceful they end, because you are still left out there all of a sudden and newly single. Being raw and waiting for the world to throw some alcohol on your face is not a fun place to be. But multiply that with the fact that you are in a foreign country divided by three official languages. You’re feeling like shit that much more. Add, losses in translation and losses in life close to you (maybe even that of someone who’s been inside of you). Many tears dropped for every good reason.
Doing the math, it all equals to a warm and generous, sincere and beautiful woman with a family that supports her all the way from Spain, and whose talents and virtues outnumber all the tears dropped in this last year. And if she stops for a few minutes and takes a breath, she can see more of what I see in her. And what I saw in her today.
I saw in Rosella, today, a lot of hurt. But I also got to see her signature little girl big smile. And her balls, because she stayed here instead of returning back home to Spain like everyone thought she would, even taking a cleaning job to make so many ends meet. That is ballsy. Period.
And I hereby swear not to wait too long to see her again.
~ Thank you to Julie’s House. The wait for a table was worth it, and the staff was simply freaking awesome. And baby friendly, as the staff warmed Noah’s Tupperware of baby food for us. Noah thanks you! The hot chocolate with house-made whipped cream was like a warm sweet meal in a mug. Hello! Noah is eyeing my cupcake in this photo: