Several of my friends as well as acquaintances in Riyadh had departed without their children in tow, returning to various locations around the globe. While the choice to leave appeared to be voluntary none of us knew the circumstances that had lead to their decision. Marriages that had fallen apart, abuse and the inability to legally remove youngsters from the country resulted in little ones who were left behind. Memories of dear friends separated from their toddlers as well as teenagers were still fresh in my mind and so the tiny window that gave a view from the walkway into our apartment had been spray painted and covered by a piece of printer paper. Although we had made it back home, the idea of losing my children kept anxiety out of control for years to come.
Summer faded into Fall and a routine that was oddly familiar took shape. The tiny townhouse had come together with furniture that had been procured from the Union Gospel mission as well as odds and ends from mom and dad’s wood house. An alarm buzzed and prodded until we climbed out of bed and readied ourselves for the first day of school. There were no more long trips with a driver and the past few years of homeschooling had been exchanged for a public school that could be seen from the upstairs apartment window. We were together and no one had been left behind in Saudi, making it seem as if somehow all would be well.
Documents and papers were shuffled and stacked until everything was finally in order. A quick trip to the school meant walking out of the apartment door, into the parking lot and through a rickety wooden fence. Vaccination records were not available and birth certificates had taken weeks to arrive, being classified as a Birth abroad report from the consulate. I had met with the principal, teachers and office personnel but still felt that this was somehow wrong and I was at the center of upheaval and a leap into uncertainty. Mother reminded me that it was for the better good and school was part of a new freedom.