Tag Archives: moving

The Things We Keep

Back in September, Matt and I went to Virginia to get the rest of our stuff that had been sitting in a storage unit since 2015 when we went to England. 

We rented a box truck knowing that the volume of stuff was pretty high — we remembered the 10×10 storage unit was pretty full.  Other than some big furniture pieces, though, we just didn’t remember with what.

The contents, it turned out, were a testament to both our sentimentality and our practicality. 

The bulk of the space was taken up by a dining room hutch (which we’ll use in our new house as soon as I sand it and refinish it), Bridget’s childhood dresser (which was my childhood dresser and my mother’s before me and I will therefore keep it until I die because I cannot be the one who got rid of it), and boxes upon boxes upon boxes of books (baby books and grown-up books, textbooks from Matt’s masters program, and ALL my Russian language books from DLI).  Items worth saving.

The sentimental pieces I discovered with varying degrees of joy: a baby blanket embroidered for Bridget by a friend’s mom who has since passed away brought tears to my eyes; the entire box of trophies, plaques, and ribbons from swim, baseball, and soccer teams I wanted to throw right in the dumpster at the storage place (sadly Matt told me I couldn’t so they are currently still in the box in my garage because I’ll be DAMNED if I’m bringing that stuff in my house).

There were snow shovels, which was good I guess because we live in New England now and we’ve already used them and it saves us going to buy new ones.  Frugality for the win!

There were six full-size pieces of sheet rock that were leftover from when we finished our basement in Virginia in 2011.  I am not sure why we kept those, for surely we should have donated them to ReStore or something.  But we didn’t and because we paid $100/month for three years to store them so I’m keeping them now on principal and I’m sure we’ll need sheet rock for something eventually.

There were boxes full of cords and random chargers for who-knows-what and tops of tupperware containers and half-used rolls of tape that reminded me sharply and suddenly of the chaos of the last few weeks before we moved to England, when earnest sorting and packing morphed into stuffing shit in boxes and dumping those boxes in storage because we ran out of energy and caring.

There were boxes of Halloween decorations and Christmas decorations which we’ve since unpacked and greeted like old friends; the chorus of “remember this?” and “my FAVORITE!” and the small joy in the realization that trimming the new holidays with memories of the old makes yet another transition a degree or two easier.

All these things we stored for three years and then dragged from dusty piles and loaded, sweating and swearing, into a rented truck and lugged 500 miles from Virginia to Boston in a box truck on I-95: the stuff we couldn’t part with–can never part with–because it brings to mind tiny babies who are now high school freshmen and people we loved that are gone now, the stuff that is really too useful to get rid of and we’ll-probably-need-it again-anyway, the stuff that was trash when we stored it away but we were too tired to care and so we pushed off dealing with it for a year or three.

A balance between the precious and the practical, the useless and the priceless, these things we keep.

Unsettled

People keep asking us how we’re settling in and I keep saying really well.  It’s all going good, I say.  Still boxes to unpack of course, but we’ll get there.

But that’s not really the truth.

Some days I feel completely unsettled.  About as unsettled as you can get in a place you’ve known your whole life.  It’s disconcerting.

Some days I will be driving down the street (I got my license last week so, yay, I can drive now) and look around at just be so, so excited to be home.  And then on other days I look around and wonder why we ever left England.  I’m not settled.

The kids have been so excited to see their cousins all the time and meet the kids in the neighborhood and on their new teams and in their classes.  But they don’t have close, good friends yet.  And they miss their friends in England.  A lot.  And they really, really miss their school.  (So do I.)  They’re meeting people and they’re adjusting, but they’re not settled.

Matt’s on a new project and works mostly from home now for the first time ever.  He doesn’t know all the people he’s working with yet, he’s still getting spun up on the project, and he’s definitely learning that working from home requires a different kind of time management and that it’s super easy to get sucked into working ALL THE TIME when your office is next to your kitchen.  He’ll get there, but he’s not settled yet.

Our new house is amazing and gorgeous, but we’ve got rooms to paint and lots of furniture to buy because this place is much bigger than any house we’ve owned before and we just don’t have enough stuff to furnish all the rooms.  Almost every room still has at least a few unpacked boxes sitting in a corner while we wait for furniture we ordered to arrive or for us to have enough free time to paint the walls before we unpack the rest of the boxes.  I certainly didn’t expect to have the entire house in order in six weeks, but the unfinished projects and unpacked boxes are starting to weigh on me.

We’ve had three years in England of having a gardener who took care of our yard and now we’ve got a yard three times as big as the last one we had to care for ourselves.  And a pool that we didn’t know how to maintain.  We haven’t quite incorporated yard work into the schedule correctly yet.  It will take time, I know. 

The kids have had about two weeks of school now and while they’re happy, it’s just not the same. It’s not what they’re used to.  There’s a lot more sitting and less changing classes.  They bring lunch everyday, which means that instead of getting a delicious hot meal handmade in the school, they’re eating ham and cheese sandwiches and bags of pretzels.  There’s no sport in school and they only have a single hour a week of P.E., and I feel like they’re climbing the walls a bit when they get home.  

So we’re happy to be here. We’re just not settled.

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.

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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