This new place expands around me at first. It feels overwhelmingly vast so that I’m disoriented and can’t work out which way I’m trying to go. I have the sense that there are things happening just beyond my perception. The games room my son keeps disappearing to seems confusingly far, and never quite where I think it should be.
But once I walk the paths a few times and find my bearings, when familiarity sets in, the spaces begin to shrink. They become navigable, I can sense the layout, the extremities. This expanding and shrinking is my mind trying to find comfort, reaching out and seeking to hold onto what it knows.
Now, after a few days, I have a handle on the place. I’ve mapped its shops, activities, its corners. My son, reunited with his friends from home, has happily spent his time swimming, playing soccer, competing, exploring and eating with them – and I’ve let him roam, secure that he is somewhere within the walls, that our paths will cross at some point before bedtime.
I feel ridiculously joyful each time I see him pass with one of his friends. This desperately social only child of mine has, for this week, more or less joined an expansive family of five kids. He is the missing sixth and part of an easy pair, though they all form and reform, finding friendship in all combinations. They look for him, he looks for them and they run-ramble-roam in timeless abandon.
My husband and I may struggle with the concept of a resort, a mall-like compound full of people and divorced from the land itself, but this one joy makes my mothering heart soar.
Despite all the things I find wrong about a place like this – a place that degrades and infringes on the natural environment and displaced local populations – I find myself falling into step. Not embracing it, no, but finding the positives. The sun, the safety, the easiness, the kids’ freedom. I try to ignore the unease I feel at being able to do this, to ignore the blatant wrongness behind it all.
I am well aware that kids could just as easily roam free and safely in a ecologically and culturally sensitive resort. I’m here, though, and happy to be with our friends, the parents of the five, watching them get married.
Moreover, I’ve left last week behind. It was the culmination of months of mounting stress and pressure at work to pull off an important meeting between our Deputy Minister and the head of an important organization. I felt uncomfortable leaving before the meeting, before everything was done, but I felt pride, too, the pride of knowing I had poured all my effort and my most analytic and strategic thinking into the preparations I had seen to over the days, weeks and months leading up to it.
So, here I sit poolside, with no questions to answer, no worries, no pressure – just sun, breezes and a son happily roaming. It’s hard not to just let go and relax into it, no matter how guilty or incensed I maybe should be.