Sunday marked one year since we left our families behind in Iowa and moved to Florida.
If I’m being completely honest, that’s part of the reason I didn’t turn on the computer this weekend. I knew that in the computer was this blog, this place where I’ve documented every moment of this transition, this place where I knew at some point I would have to acknowledge the one year anniversary.
And I wasn’t ready.
A week ago I was ready. A week ago I was already compiling the One Year post in my head and mentally marveling at how far we had come in a year – how far I had come in just 12 months.
I was thinking about how being hundreds of miles away from grandparents and a reliable support system had forced me to become a better wife and mother. Without the luxury of well lit escape routes, we have all had to learn how to stick it out and cling to one another. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been worth it.
A week ago I was reveling in how much I’ve done since moving here. My kids have learned to take for granted things like amusement parks and white sandy beaches a friends who speak more than one language, while still hanging on to an innocent fascination with Mickey Mouse. I have enjoyed being near a major international airport with flights that will take you directly to a destination people are actually interested in flying to. Like, oh, say, New York City.
But more than that, I’ve found myself here. I’ve proven to myself that the world is both great big and completely attainable, and that I can survive Out In It. I have built a life here, from scratch. From nothing. A life that is already full of work and school and kids and friends and stories. A life that is mine and ours and no one else’s.
And I was damn proud of that. A week ago.
In fact, I was seriously contemplated removing the whole Big Move section from my sidebar. Because clearly that is so 2007 and I am so, so far beyond thinking it’s a big deal anymore.
And then I went to see Momma Mia! with Shash.
I laughed and sang and danced in my chair. I was thrilled to be able to spend a few hours with Shash and some of her gal pals. And yet, even still, I spent the entire two hours in that theater thinking “Mom would love this movie. This would be the perfect movie for us to see together.” I sobbed during the nostalgic mother/daughter scene, remembering the countless times my own mother and I had curled up into each other, crying and laughing at our favorite movies.
I have found myself longing for my mother’s touch ever since. Her voice is still familiar to me thanks to near daily phone calls, but the feel of her face against mine is merely a kinetic memory that escapes me when I am fully awake.
As the weekend approached and the nights home alone piled up, one more on top of another, I was consumed with loneliness. I missed my best friend Erin and the ease that I can only find in her company. I sat in my quiet house and strained to hear her breezing in through my front door, uninvited but always welcomed. I spoke with her over the phone, but my eyes filled with tears in the absence of the sight of her.
And all of a sudden, I was no longer ready.
A year has gone by and still I find myself drenched in homesickness.
Sure, I’ve made friends. But none that could replace a woman I had loved since we were girls, a woman who never had to be invited or asked to leave. Yes, I’ve made a little progress on this house with a few painted walls and some carefully selected window treatments. But nothing that’s gone on between these walls can replace the remarkable history that I left behind in those two old houses.
I’ve been here a year, I thought, and still I find myself confused about where my home is.
And then I spent the weekend with one of the first friends I made here. She asked how I was, and before I could finish getting out the words “I’ve been missing my family and friends,” I saw the answer I didn’t know I’d been looking for in her eyes.
Deanna has lived here for almost 7 years with her husband and son. She knows all too well about holidays spent away from your traditions and inside jokes based on history that are hard to replace. Her whole family is even farther away from mine in Canada.
She nodded and as she started to speak, I realized I was finishing her sentence. “Yeah, that doesn’t go away. Not really.”
And it doesn’t. Not really.
You move out and you move on and you build a whole new life for yourself. But you never really leave it all behind. Not if you’re lucky.
If you’re lucky, you find that your past and the people who’ve shared it with you continue to matter – even in the face of a brand new future. They matter so much that sometimes, unexpectedly, it still hurts.
And now… I’m ready.
I’m ready to tell you that I’ve been here a year. And I’ve done a lot and learned a lot since packing up that U-Haul last August – most of which I’ve already told you about just as it was all happening.
But mostly, I’m ready to tell you about the thing that I had to be here a year to truly learn.
It still hurts. And that’s OK.
I came here looking for Happiness, and learned that it is OK to be sad. It’s OK to cry and to yearn and to miss. It’s OK to doubt and to worry and to wonder what if. It’s OK – and even awesome and wonderful and truly bliss – to find yourself completely lost once in awhile.