That Three-Month Milestone

Earlier this month Mike, Mattie and I celebrated my birthday at Paesano’s, an Italian restaurant in north San Antonio. Paesano’s is a very pleasant and restful place, with a bubbling fountain, a pond full of goldfish – and usually at least one large, wealthy Mexican family chatting at a long table, which always reminds me of a scene out of ‘The Godfather’.
After the waiter had brought our drinks, Mike smiled at Mattie and me and remarked, ‘Well, you’ve all been here a little over three months now, what do y’all think of it?’
Mattie promptly replied that she definitely wanted to stay, and that there was no way she wanted to go back to school in England. She added, later, that she wished she could have brought cousin Mei with her, and Nannie. I said words to the effect that if we were half-way through a house renovation project and still getting along, then things must be going all right!
Mike’s words reminded me of a passage in ‘Dear Mummy, Welcome’, when I noticed how Mattie, three months after moving in with me, seemed to be so much more settled. I have just managed to find a copy of my book, in amongst all of our still unpacked bags, and turning to the respective page, I read how Mattie’s confidence in her new situation grew back then, how by three months she became more confident, and that although she still would bring out her clutch of photos of life at her foster home, it was less frequently.
Strangely, all these years later, I see some parallels in my own situation in coming to the US, with those of Mattie coming to live with me. I realize how my own confidence in my new situation has grown since arriving; how, at almost exactly the three-month mark I felt more settled and my pangs of homesickness diminished. There had been times – opening bank accounts; obtaining social security IDs; dealing with unfinished administration in the UK; the ongoing emigration process; finding a hairdresser and dentist, etc – when I would think how much easier in some ways it would have been to have stayed put. But just because something is easier does not mean it is necessarily the path to follow; and I am reminded of the Dr. Seuss book that my sister, Caryl, gave Mattie as a farewell gift:
‘You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.’
Turning back to ‘Dear Mummy, Welcome’, I remember, too, the words of Mattie’s lovely play therapist, Fiona: ‘There’s been a lot of change in your life. A big change, but it’s only a change.’ An obvious thing to say, but sometimes it’s the obvious that one overlooks. Emigrating is nowhere near as big a change as adopting a child on my own, but much change there has been … and for all three of us.
I read on a little further: ‘Mattie is like a flower that’s blossomed,’ smiled my neighbour, Jo around that three-month milestone. And Mattie is blossoming yet again! At a recent get-together at a local restaurant, one of our new neighbours complained that Mattie hadn’t been by to see her recently. And yesterday, when Mike and I went to pick up a piece of furniture we had put aside in a shop Downtown, the shop assistant asked, with a disappointed look, ‘Where’s your little girl? … She’s too cute!’

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