It’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep because one of my children will be leaving in two days and I won’t see him for a year. Or so it seems.
In January 2012, I read an email that said, “Marceau is 13, lives in France and is looking to stay as an exchange student.” I thought it would be fun for my son to have someone around who also enjoys sports and is the same age. I spoke with my husband, who agreed, and immediately responded to the email.
Two months later, Marceau and his family were at our front door to meet us. They were a lovely family, and while Marceau was quiet and just learning to speak English, I could tell he was a sweet boy, as described in the email. They returned to France, and via Skype and email we planned for his stay with us in the coming summer.
July 2012 brought warm weather, my son’s birthday and Marceau. The morning Marceau and his parents arrived, I learned that my friend was moving out of the neighborhood, and I knew deep down that the friendship was also moving out of my life. But in some cosmic way, one relationship was being exchanged for another.
I remember Marceau’s mother’s face as she said goodbye to her son. Leaving her child in the home of perfect strangers rendered her excited, but sad and unsure. Just as they were about to walk away, I told her that I would care for him as if he were my own and that he was in good hands. I watched as relief washed over her face, and that was when my attachment to Marceau took root.
We were excited to show Marceau as much as we could while trying not to cram too much American culture down his throat. At first I tried to figure out things he liked to do and eat, but I quickly realized that he just wanted to experience life as we do.
Each day unveiled more of his personality, and each day wove him closer into our family. The morning kisses I delivered to my children were followed by cheek kisses, one side then the next, to Marceau. And each night ended the same way.
We were bonding with this sweet-natured boy. With very few words spoken between us, we could feel the connection that would be undeniably difficult to let go in the coming weeks. But the time came to send Marceau back to France. At the airport, we checked him in and stayed until the flight escort arrived. Walking through security, he looked back often while our hearts grew heavy with sadness for missing him.
We kept in touch with Marceau and his family through Skype and invited him to stay with us again this summer. As the day of his arrival approached, I felt as if my child were coming home.
It’s incredible that people living nearly 6,000 miles apart, who have spent only a few months together, can love each other like family. I didn’t know what to expect when I answered the original email – I took a chance – but I certainly wasn’t expecting to feel this way about another child. It’s not easy for me to let another soul close to mine, but once the bond is made, it’s nearly impossible to break.
Marceau leaves for France in two days. His English has improved, and I know he feels at home with us. I will miss him and his sweet laugh. Several days will follow before we adjust to our home without him, but in my motherly heart, there will always be a spot reserved for Marceau.
It’s 2:50 a.m. I should try to get some sleep.