Tag Archives: moving home

A Dozen Years

A dozen years have passed since I became a mother to a son.  As I’ve said frequently before, having never had brothers, having never seen firsthand what it was like to mother a boy, I didn’t have a good idea of what that would entail. I imagined lots of very smelly dirty socks and climbing on furniture, fewer dress up parties, less concern about hairdos and clothes.

I was totally right and totally wrong about all of it.

Your dirty clothes are numerous and the smelliest I have ever encountered.  You climb and jump and run and throw and fall and catch and just physically bend the world to the will of your body in ways I have never seen anyone do. As though you have to feel what will happen when you (insert physical activity here) to believe it is true.  Smelly socks and non-stop movement, I had those right.

But I was completely wrong about the rest of it.  Dress up parties abound in our house, and although they occasionally feature camouflage and Nerf guns, they also frequently involve blazers and ties and skinny jeans and an attention to what shoes look good with what outfit that is unmatched by any other 12 year old I know, boy or girl.  Your interest in your hair is  boundless to a degree that borders on comical, and certainly outpaces the time and effort spent on hair by the other five people in this house combined.  Your care and concern for your hairdo was so well-known in your school in England, it was worked into the school play as a punchline.  (You DO have really great hair, though, I cannot deny that.)

I had assigned these stupid gender roles to little boys in my head that I soon learned were completely a product of what society had taught me and were in no way representative of what boys are and can be. 

You are a sensitive soul and you wear your emotions — all of them: joy, anger, sadness, fear — right on your sleeve.  Far more than your sister, actually, you are willing and able to say how you feel without embarrassment.  (Boys and girls don’t have to do things the way boys and girls have traditionally been told to do things.  Lesson learned.)

You love sports, yes, and you generally excel in all athletic endeavors, but you also love to dance.  You’re a really, really good dancer.  You dance all the time, and all the ways, including tap dance, which I love love love to see you do and which I need to find an instructor for here in Massachusetts so you can keep doing it.  (There are no activities for boys and for girls.  There are just activities, and any person can do any of them.  For real.)

You really do care and pay attention to fashion and style, unapologetically, and have done so since you were pretty little.  You have good taste and a good eye and you like to dress up, even if it’s just for a random Monday at school.  Given the choice, you’d take a suit and tie over soccer shorts and a hoodie.  (Fashion is not exclusive to girls. Looking good and wanting to look good isn’t girly.)

You defy expectations and you prove that boys are never one thing, just like girls aren’t.

Being a mother to a son has changed me in ways I never anticipated and I sorely needed.  Your very presence in my life, and the presence of your brothers after you, has made me a better, more well-rounded person with a more thorough understanding of boys and girls and the dynamic between them. 

In the last year, we’ve done some amazing things. We traveled of course, and visited a few new countries to add to your list: Austria, Spain (mainland), Belgium, the Netherlands, and Greece, and we visited some repeats that we loved and wanted to see again: France, Germany, Italy.  We have climbed on mountains and sailed across seas and explored cities and tried new foods and through it all you have maintained the same sense of wonder and gratitude that I so appreciate. 

But you also traveled alone on a school trip for eight days, driving across Europe to ski the Dolomites in Italy with your friends.  It was really hard to let you go, but we knew as soon as you got home that it had been so good for you.  You’d matured so much in your week away that it was physically imprinted on you and obvious in your manner from the moment you got off the bus.  It was one of those breath-taking instances of parenting when you literally see your baby grow.

Your dad and I have had multiple conversations about how proud we are of how mature you’ve become.  You easily and comfortably talk to anyone, children and adults alike, and you are thoughtful in what you say and you listen to what others are saying and you’re just enjoyable to be around.  Your siblings may argue that point, because you haven’t quite translated that behavior into your interactions with them all the time, but occasionally we get these glimpses of the grown-up versions of all of you hanging out together and I know we’ll get there in time and I really think it’s going to be fun.  You guys are awesome.

You’ve adapted really well to our big move home and another major transition to a new school and making new friends.  I know you miss England — you tell me, cause you talk about how you feel — but you also know that being here is great too.  You’ll always miss the people you can’t have right near you and it’s the curse of having been lucky enough to have lived there.  I’m grateful for social media that allows you to chat with your England friends pretty consistently and keep those friendships going.  You’ll always, always have a place there. (Not to mention some school records in the Sports Day cricket ball throw that I think could stand a while!)

You’ve thrown yourself into your new life, taking advantage of every opportunity to play with your cousins, to swim in our new pool, to explore our new home.  You are adapting to the new school really well, although that was always going to be the hardest part after the school you were in for the last three years.  You’ve been so helpful with the unpacking and the moving furniture and the painting walls and every last little bit of it. 

We’re looking ahead to a year full of adjustments and new and different adventures and I know you’ll face it all with the same optimism and confidence you bring to everything, and I know that, as I have for the last 12 years, I will be so grateful to view the world through your eyes and so proud to have you as my son.  Happy 12th birthday, Gabey baby.  I love you the most.

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.

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.

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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