Author Archives: Little Nesting Doll

Driving

This morning at the Massachusetts RMV I learned that because my Virginia license expired while I was living in England and could not be renewed online, in order to get a Massachusetts license I would have to take the learner’s permit exam, pass it, then schedule and pass a road test.

Like a 16 year old kid. 

I have had a driver’s license since 1995 and yet I was going to have to take the permit test to get a learners permit, which would then mean I could not drive alone in my car without an adult over the age of 21 along with me until I could take a road test.

I laughed out loud standing at the counter in the RMV, and I think the clerk was relieved that I found this hilarious instead of frustrating beyond description.  Luckily the kids aren’t in school yet, sports haven’t started up, and both Matt and I work from home, so me not being able to drive isn’t THAT big of a deal.  I laughed and laughed and paid the $30 to take the permit test that I last took when I was 15 years and 9 months old.

And then I failed the permit test.

I laughed out loud again, but more in shock than in humor.

I failed because I did not know what the punishment is for a first time speeding offense for a junior operator between the ages of 18 and 21 in the state of Massachusetts.  Or whether your license can be suspended for 30-, 60-, or 90-days for being caught using your cell phone while driving.  I also did not know whether the fine for not wearing a seat belt was $15, $25, or $50.  I did not know 8 questions like that and so I failed the test with a score of 17/25 when I needed 18 to pass. 

I wish so much that I had taken a picture of Matt’s face when I walked out of the permit room and informed him that I had failed.  It was a sight to behold.

I went back to the clerk and shook my head and he also looked quite surprised and I asked if they had a book with some of the info on fines, punishments, and suspensions that I could maybe glance at. They provided me with a copy of the book you get in Drivers’ Ed and I found the appropriate section and I memorized as many fines as I could in ten minutes.  I went back to the clerk, paid another $30, and passed the test in the first 18 questions, thank the gods.

And then, at age 39, I received my learner’s permit, which I will literally frame once I take and pass a road test and get a real license.  Until then, hopefully Matt will let me drive while he sits in the passenger seat so I can get some driving practice.   Just in case the last 23 years wasn’t enough.

Double Digits, Eleven Days Late

Eleven days ago, on July 15th, I missed posting about your birthday. I’d like to blame technical difficulties (I did forget to bring my laptop to Nana & Pappy’s cottage), but the truth is that four days after arriving in the U.S. I was just too overwhelmed to write a coherent sentence.  A lot happened this month.  That does not, however, mean we didn’t celebrate your birthday as hard as ever, and it does not mean you don’t get a birthday post (I haven’t missed one in years!), but it DOES mean that, like a lot of things right now, we had to adjust our schedules and expectations a bit. 

So, eleven days later, let me wish you the happiest of 10th birthdays.  I know it was a good one because at one point in the late afternoon, in between you opening presents, spending most of the day swimming and kayaking in the pond, playing wiffle ball with your cousins, and eating a cupcake the size of your head, I leaned over and hugged you and said I hoped your birthday was fun and you gasped and said, “I forgot it WAS my birthday! I was too busy to think about it!”.  Pretty much that’s how birthdays should always be.

This past year was a strange one for you and for all of us.  We knew it was the end of an era – the final year in the grand adventure – so we talked a lot about what we’d done during our time in Europe, what we’d miss when we left, what we were looking forward to when we got back to America, and how it was the “last time” we’d do X, Y, and Z.  Although our focus was often on the past and the future, you managed to concentrate on the present and you made your last year in England your best year yet.  You absolutely killed it.

You got the best grades you’ve ever gotten, hands down, and made a concerted effort to overcome your reserved tendencies and speak up more in school.  I know that’s difficult for you and it makes you uncomfortable, but you did it anyway and your effort marks reflected that; I’m so proud of you for reaching beyond your comfort zone. You worked harder and more diligently than I have ever seen you work, and your attention to detail was better than it’s ever been before.  I know your teacher made a huge difference – he helped your Dad and I understand the you that we don’t see in school all day and he helped you be the best possible version of that kid and we owe him a debt of gratitude for that.

You absolutely thrived on the football pitch/soccer field where you played up a level alongside kids that were often two years older (and bigger) than you.  You were never intimidated at all, and your natural speed and athleticism and inherent understanding of sports strategy made up for your lack of size.  You made it clear that you belonged on that team of older boys and your dad and I were so proud to watch you play and grow as an athlete. 

You did the same on the cross-country trail, running with older kids and making it clear that you belonged right there with them.  I was as excited as I’ve ever been watching a sporting event at your cross-country relay this past spring when you came first in your leg — I screamed and jumped up and down and generally acted like a crazy person as you helped your team win a medal.  Who knew cross-country could be so much fun?!?!

You continued to make us all laugh with your sophisticated palate and ability to eat like a grown man on pretty much every trip we took – from consuming your weight in wiener schnitzel in Austria and Germany to inhaling half the seafood in Spain on our Barcelona trip.  We’ve come to accept that you’re never, ever ordering off the kids’ menu again.  I don’t understand how you’re as skinny as you are when you eat more calories in a given day than I do, but man you are skin and bones and ridiculously strong little muscles and that’s it.

You made such great friends in England and I was so glad to see you have your OWN little group instead of tagging along with Gabe’s friend like you mostly had in Virginia.  I really hope you keep in touch with them all (I think you will) and I hope that you make as good a group of friends here in Massachusetts when school starts this fall.

And, as you always have, you continued to impress me this year with your willingness and openness to try new things, see new places, and really think about how those experiences fit into your life and the world you know.  You make great observations on our trips: comparing and contrasting the canals in Venice to those in Bruges and Amsterdam, pointing out the similarities and differences between Menorca and Greece, and proving to your dad and I that you really were taking it all in on these million trips and that it was changing you in such a positive way.  We love hearing you talk about what you’ve seen and what you hope to see in the future.

So now, as you hit double digits, I just want you to know how very, very proud I am of the hard work you’ve put in over the last year, how much I’ve enjoyed watching you grow and change and mature, and how very much I love the boy you are and the person I see you becoming.  You’re a complex guy, and it’s so much fun to see all the different little sides of you in different situations.  Happy birthday, my bug (eleven days late). I love you to the moon and back.

Liesl and Smee

Her first lead role, with solo singing and several costume changes and (yikes) almost-kissing a boy.  Since she hadn’t really practiced at home, and certainly not at top volume, her first song caught me almost entirely off guard. 

I am sixteen, going on seventeen…

I knew she could sing, but I didn’t know she could SING. She danced across the stage, graceful and so composed and she just nailed it.

My heart couldn’t have been more full.  That she received rave reviews from people who are not me was gratifying, because I often think that my unabashed adoration of my children is the result of maternal bias. Other people telling me that they are, indeed, as amazing as I think they are is reassuring.  And my goodness, she was just so good and she loved it so much.

And then, a week later, his first speaking role too.  At eleven years old it’s easy to imagine he’d be embarrassed or think it wasn’t cool to put his whole self into it, but this boy does nothing halfway and he loves what he loves wholeheartedly and without reservation or pretense.  He was INTO it. 

He was so excited about the costumes and the make-up, and he kept it all a secret even though he is the actual literal world’s worst secret-keeper.  Striped shirt and rosy cheeks and thick mutton-chop sideburns and the obligatory specs perched on the end of his nose, and he loved every minute of it.

He played his part so well, the comic foil to an amazing performance by Captain Hook, who  also happens to be one of his very best friends and favorite people. 

And then as the cast marched down the center aisle to exit the stage on the last song, spotlights bright on their shining faces, he blew me a kiss when he walked by me and I could see the pride and joy and excitement shining in his eyes through the tears glistening in mine.

My babies. On the stage.  Owning it and loving it and my mama heart just bursting with pride because they had done it all themselves.  I didn’t help them memorize lines (they helped each other, actually – even better!), I didn’t force them to rehearse or practice even one time. 

Every second of glory is theirs, and all I can do is stand in awe.

Empty

Other than a few thrift-store-bound coffee mugs we saved to use until we leave and the appliances with UK plugs we can’t take with us, my house is empty.  Our things have all been packed away, wrapped up and boxed up and, as I write this, they are being loaded on a truck bound for a ship bound for America. 

My house looks like it did the day we arrived: a blank slate waiting to be filled up.

I know this house was never really mine, never really ours, but for three years we made it so and we loved it like it was.  It has seen us through one of the biggest transitions our family will likely ever know: becoming expats, finding our new selves in a new culture, creating this life in England and all the changes it wrought in all of us. 

Places become part of you, part of your story, and this wonky old farmhouse with crooked walls and wavy window glass and an 800-year old church next door is as much a character in this chapter of our lives as the people we met and came to love.

All I can think of as I look around the rooms stripped bare is the overwhelming anticipation and fear and hope I felt during our first days here.  The empty rooms were waiting then to see what story we’d write here, I was waiting to see what our life would be here, we were all waiting to see what would happen here.  And now, we’ve reached the end and the rooms stand empty once again.

We’ll stay in this empty house for the next few days, sleeping on air mattresses and eating off paper plates like we did when we first arrived, and I will say goodbye to all the things I love most about it: the light-filled hallway outside our bedrooms, the view of the sunrise from my window, the kitchen island where we have breakfast every morning and snacks every afternoon, the gorgeous fairy tale garden surrounded by the moss-covered stone wall. 

For the life we built in this place: grateful doesn’t cover it, fortunate doesn’t cover it.  Moving to England was, hands down, the best choice we ever made for our family. 

My heart is full.

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