These pictures are from the very first day of school for my kids, in 2011. New school, new apartment, new city, new country, new life. Standing in that parking lot, saying good-bye to the little faces as they sat on the school bus, I could have no way of knowing that nine years later, we’d still be here. Who knew, then, that we were at the beginning of a nine-year adventure (and counting), or that we’d switch the boys from a US-style school to a UK school, that one kid would end up in school in England, and that the other one would start his junior year of high school…

…from a laptop in his bedroom during a global pandemic.

The sad-faced little boy in the bottom photo is now taller than I am; he doesn’t look sad very often because he plays his emotions pretty close to the vest. But yesterday he told me that a dear friend of his is leaving the country (and online learning) for in-person boarding school in the UK. It’s the third friend in two months to leave, and another is thinking about going soon, if in-person teaching doesn’t resume pretty soon (the covid numbers are very low here; in person schooling doesn’t seem as risky here as it does in other places).

The other thing that none of us knew, standing in that parking lot on the threshold of our expat lives?

We didn’t know how much of expat life was about loss. But covid–with its enforced distances, ubiquitous screens, and endless iterations of losses, both great and small–covid has made expats of us all.

I took this picture on the first day of school, as I stood outside the little bus peering in the window at Liam and Caleb.

The boys were in very different states of mind. Here’s Liam:

And his brother: