Moving Fragments

Sort the things, rip tape off the strip. Packers come tomorrow. We will have temporary furniture loaned from base for a month, then into a hotel for a week, then camping gear on the floor of our new home. Must leave out the sleeping bags and our second-best sheets.

I don’t want to move. I love it here. Our lives are here.

What do we need for three months without the bulk of our household? School is going to be fully unschooling for the next while; art supplies, surely. But not in the organized caddies they’re currently housed in. All the markers, crayons, pencils go in gallon baggies labeled “Do Not Pack.”

I miss my family. I miss America…I think. Do I know America anymore? Hawaii is America, legally…culturally, not really. Eight years away from mainland America is a long time in the field. I miss my nephews. I miss my nieces. I don’t really know them well. It’s been three years since I’ve seen Owen, Avery, Lillian. A year since I’ve seen Philip. I’m ready to see them more often. 

“Mom, I’m scared of the moving truck. It’s too big.”

“Mom, when are our friends here going to visit us in Maryland?”

Why are we doing this to them? Wait, doing what? Providing them with a lifetime’s worth of travel and cultural richness in just five short years? Giving them the bedrock of financial stability gleaned from getting overseas housing allowances and banking our savings?

Uprooting their lives, that’s what. Uprooting all our lives.

We’ve done this before. It’s ok. You KNOW it’s ok. Think of all the beautiful, well-adjusted, happy field and military kids you know. They are amazing. Your kids will be, too. They already are. It will be hard. Hard things happen. They can be dealt with.

I don’t want to go home. I am home. I want to go home. I don’t know what home is.

I’m going to be really tired of these few outfits I’ve left out for myself by July. It will be fun to shop at my favorite stores in person again. It will be fun to get Starbucks drive-through. It will be fun to buy a new car. Okay, maybe not fun, but it will be nice to drive on wide roads and smooth, beautifully laid out highways again.

I wonder what our house looks like when you really walk through it. I wonder what kind of a person buys their first home sight unseen with only her husband’s word and a few photographs to say it’s good. I trust him. I still wonder.

“Mom, will my Legos go to America?”

“Mom, can I take my costumes to America?”

“Mom, will we get to visit Florida when we go to America? Will we get to go to Assateague to see the wild ponies? Mom, will I get to have a pet fish in America?”

So many promises, bartering away anxiety with assurances and gleeful descriptions of time with cousins and future trips and betta fish tanks. Bright, chipper smiles layered over tight throats and watering eyes. We all have pinkeye from the dust.

“Mom, are we going to see our old friends who moved already?”

Yes. We’ll all see old friends, and we’ll need to talk to the ones who have been home. The ones who understand you’re not trying to be pretentious when you talk about what you’ve seen and done while you were abroad. The ones who understand how hard it is to go home. The ones who understand how much the country, and you, have changed. The ones who don’t say and think “But you’re home now!” I was home. I will be home again. But there is a time in between, and in that time, we won’t be anywhere until we get our feet under us. 

“It’s okay to be sad. Mom and Dad are happy, but we’re also sad too. You can talk to us and cuddle with us any time. It’s hard. We know it’s hard.”

Understatement. “A vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend.” – Willow, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

It’s hard. It’s sad. We’re going home. We are home. I’m sorry. I’m excited. I’m scared. We’re fragmented.

I rip off some more tape, and I move on.


Closing Time

Where were we? Ah, yes, moving.

But first, a bonus photo of my three girls. Aren’t they lovely? I like them very much, which is good because I checked and you can’t rehome occasionally obnoxious children. (I kid.)


When we last checked in, Tom was scheduled to go off on a 10-day trip to Maryland where he would do various worky things (ostensibly the purpose of the trip) and the rest of the time he would hop and run to sort out various administrative items related to our move. Specifically, test-driving cars and touring houses and neighborhoods.

For my part, I held up the home front while he was gone and I am pleased to report only ONE child threw up, and only once, while I was managing all three girls solo for the first time.

The night before he flew, we noticed a listing for a compact-but-stylish little townhouse in an area we had considered both for its affordability and its proximity to very nice schools. We were careful to eliminate neighborhoods where the Really Amazing Schools were, because we can’t afford them and also we couldn’t afford–financially, mentally, and emotionally–to Keep Up with potential neighbors. Ours is not a keeping-up family. Example: Tom bought me new leather slippers for Mother’s Day last year because “It pains me to see you pregnant and walking around with giant holes around your toes.” “They were comfy, though!” We made plans for Tom to see it.

At the end of those ten days, we put in an offer on the compact-but-stylish townhouse.

Since then:

  • I lost the van in a wreck (nobody hurt; girls weren’t with me). I can’t talk much about it because it’s still in insurance processing, but there went our plan to drive the van to the very last day and turn it over to the junkyard. I mean, we DID turn it over to the junkyard, but now we have to deal with car rentals when we return to MD and buy all new car seats (none of which is covered by insurance when you have a liability-only policy on a van that old)
  • While cleaning out said van at the junkyard with three little girls crammed into my Honda Fit, I was at the height of my experience with this year’s flu (I even had a flu shot, dammit!) and had a fever of 101, AND it began to rain and hail
  • We hosted Maggie’s seventh (!!) birthday party (letter to come)
  • We hosted my dear friend Catherin for a brief visit, which was a delightful high point
  • We did a 10-day trip across central Europe, which was another high point (and one I really ought to post about)
  • Tom’s wallet went missing, believed stolen
  • The trunk of the Fit randomly filled with water. We think it was a leaky bottle, since it hasn’t refilled

So…that, plus the normal headaches involved with buying a property when you are in one country and the property is in another country AND it’s in a part of the country where you do not have any family you can impose upon to go to closing to act as your power of attorney…

It’s been a month. Two, actually. I don’t mean to list all those things as a complaint, since there are some fantastic things that have happened alongside some of the petty and not-so-petty irritants. It’s just that there have been a LOT of balls in the air, and I feel like we’re only slowly starting to remove some of the balls from our juggling act.

Balls is a funny word.

^ That’s about where my brain is right now.

In the interim to try to keep our spirits up during appraisal discrepancies and reconfiguring financial estimates and dealing with five-hour time zone differences when contacting all the players in this game of real estate whack-a-mole, we’ve been looking at the Sherwin-Williams site. This part is known as “I just want to get to the end and pick out some paint chips already!!”

We allowed Maggie and Moira to pick out colors for their bedrooms. It’s a three-bed house with an option to put a fourth downstairs in the finished basement someday, but for now Moira and Minna will share. This was decided in an argument between Maggie and Moira wherein Maggie yelled “I don’t WANT to share with you anymore!” and Moira responded with “BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE!!”

That was always going to be the roommate configuration, actually. Maggie, for reasons largely related to her needs as an autistic person and slightly related to being the oldest and the only introverted child in a family of three (loud) girls, HAS to have her own room. She chose a tasteful and trendy minty green color; it’s soothing and matches an accent color on her lovely Paris-print (of course) sheets. She hopes to keep a small fish and wants to hang a print of Audrey Hepburn above a decal of Audrey’s quote “Paris is always a good idea.” AS YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE SEVEN, I SUPPOSE. It sounds like a nice, soothing little sanctuary.

Moira…well. I hope you like pink, Minna. Moira chose Sherwin-Williams “Exuberant Pink,” a paint name that I cannot improve upon as a measure of both Moira’s personality and the retina-scorching properties of this pink pink! PINK! IT’S PAAAAAANK, Y’ALL paint color. I have talked her down to using it on only two walls as an accent so as not to blister the one eye I have left, and we will not be repainting until she is old enough to wield a brush and primer herself. As a concession, the theme of her room will be “ice cream” and I am ordering (removable) wall decals in the shape of sprinkles.

Ultimately, our closing went fine. The funds have moved hither and yon, and we are beyond grateful for the five years we spent in the field that made putting a down payment away (while preparing three children for college and ourselves for retirement–as my friend Calli says, “There are no loans for getting old”) possible. We have a place to hang our coats and a spot to lay our heads, a home near the gorgeous Chesapeake Bay and halfway between Annapolis and Baltimore, a home that’s ours and no one else’s.

After eight years in the field…we’re coming back to call the Chesapeake home.