A couple of bits and pieces from my notebook:
May 12, 2014
So this is Sam’s fourth trip to Budapest and my first without my parents or any other relatives being here. Once you are not greeted by family at the airport you really do become and feel like a tourist in your own country. I really don’t want to get all melodramatic again about who I am, where I came from, etc. I need to get use to the fact that this is it. It should be OK and it should be enough.
May 13, 2014
The air is warm but fresh, unmistakably Budapest: hints of trees, pollen, dog poop, metro station vents. People are bundled up on the metro where the air is stuffy. They wear coats and boots and scarves. I am only wearing a t-shirt and a light sweater. It’s like we are in different climates from everyone else. I look at my reflection in the metro car’s window — it feels good to stretch my arms as I hold on in the swaying car. Then I realize that the reason I am dressed so differently is because to me Budapest is always in full springtime bloom. My throat tightens at the thought. I look away from my reflection at the somber, sober faces behind me. My face becomes invisible as we reach the station and leave the darkness of the tunnel. I am OK with that. I don’t live here anymore.
May 14, 2014
Rainy day in Budapest. A couple of years ago when we were in London and it rained I remember thinking that the rain felt different there somehow… wetter… or something. I have the same feeling about Budapest rain. It’s more desperate, grayer, colder, yet also makes you feel cozier. There is a certain sound to it as the drops hit the tiled roofs. I remember it from my childhood well. The rain does not sound like this anywhere else in the world — at least not for me. The trip is going OK. I think this is really the first time that the three of us are on a vacation tother that does not involve visiting family members. It’s both exhausting and exhilarating — the freedom of it all. I am trying hard to read Sam to see what he thinks, how he’s doing. He whines a lot and if it were up to him we’d stay in the hotel room all day, every day. I am not sure if it’s because he’s four and half, or if it’s because he is overwhelmed by everything around him. I’d guess it’s a little bit of both. I want to treat him kindly and gently, but I also want him to buck uo and pull it together. I want him to not be fazed by change, by travel, by strange foods. Is this the way to do it? Start him early, throw him in the deep end? I hope so.
May 15, 2014
The minute I start walking the streets of Budapest my first instinct is to go home and put on some makeup. I always feel so schlumpy and underdressed — so American. It’s not that Hungarian women are so glamorous. They are on buses and in dingy metro cars, dragging grocery bags and kids. But man, they do have their nails done. And hair. Even if their clothes are not that fashionable, or don’t fit right, they are still put together. You can tell that effort went into their outfits — there’s a scarf or a pin or a hat — something that says “style.” A lot of them look tired, defeated. Maybe their clothes and makeup are the last things they can control and use to say “fuck you” to the world. I totally get that. After our trips here I always vow to do that more — to doll up, no matter the occasion. But then it just becomes too easy to throw on a pair jeans and put my hair in a ponytail.
May 18, 2014
It’s our last night in Budapest. Strangely, I feel a little less sad than usual — I think it’s because I know that we can come back here next year. It’s not like I don’t know the next time I’ll be able to make it here. I think the trip has been good for Sam — he always seems to grow up a bit when we come here. I think his Hungarian improved even if he didn’t get to speak as much as usual. Today at the museum he was giving instructions in Hungarian to a Hungarian grandma on how to use a remote control. So there was that… My class reunion was last night and I am still trying to figure out how I feel about it. Nobody seems to have changed — including me, I guess. Everybody seemed to play the same roles: the pretty girls, the class clown, the smart boys, the drunks, the quiet girls… In a way it was like being in a room full of strangers. There were people who were happy to see me who I don’t think ever spoke to me during high school. People were surprised that I came home for “this” and that my Hungarian was still good… The person I was most interested in was my high school crush and he was there in all his glory. This is where I realize that at heart I am still 18 and awkward because I could not think of a single intelligent thing to say to him. Ugh. Really? I am smart, accomplished some things, have a fairly interesting life and I had nothing to say. How stupid is that? High school is never over…