Pretty much every summer of my teen years was spent at youth camp. It wasn’t uncommon for camp to end with the song Friends by Michael W. Smith. Everyone cried and hugged and the feels were so real because goodbyes were so hard. And then we all saw each other again on Sunday at church. At that time I thought goodbye meant that summer camp was ending and we wouldn’t be eating s’mores together until summer camp next year. I had no idea that goodbye could mean it’s most likely we will never see each other again. Ever. But I’m beginning to realize that it does. And the goodbyes don’t stop. They don’t stop. They do not stop. Almost every day I say goodbye to someone. Yes, some of them I just met the same day, but I’m at the point that every hello is really just a trigger warning that a goodbye is coming.
one of the things i’m looking forward to in colorado is making a home for our family.
i currently have three things hanging on walls in my house and they are all in odd locations because that’s where the nail or screw just happened to already be and that got me thinking…
when we moved to thailand we assumed we’d be here a long time. a really long time, but we’ve never had a timeline. we didn’t really know how long we’d be here when we arrived and each year came with either the promise of another year or the threat that we could be moving. that makes it hard to create a home. i’ve never put a nail into a wall here. if something happens to be hung it’s because there was already a nail in place to hold it. for christmas decorations we used temporary tape type things. nothing permanent. nothing that left a hole that would require filling in when we left. we’ve lived in three houses here and i’ve painted one room. the kitchen in the current house. but it still doesn’t feel like my kitchen. it’s just a borrowed kitchen i’ve painted yellow.
a while ago (while i was cooking christmas dinner) michael and i had a fight over a ladle. i was cooking and i commented that i would be glad to not see this particular ladle once we moved. he said that we should take it with us, a new ladle would cost money that we didn’t need to spend. his statement might be true, but my only thought was that this ladle belongs in a kitchen that is in a house that’s never been our home (i also thought ladles are cheap and if i want a new ladle i’ll get a new ladle.) i think it might have been the first time we had to think about our return being more than just a move. while a lot of the steps are the same as the moves we’ve made in the past – making to do lists, packing boxes, arranging logistics… all that fun stuff – there’s something different on the other end. something that i’m not totally ready to embrace, but something that i know will be good.
i’m looking forward to making a home. i’m going to paint walls (lots of walls, but not all the walls) and i’m going to hang pictures.
time marches on. it just won’t stop and i’d like it to. i’d like to pull back on the reigns and say, “whoa” and have time stop. and wait until i’m ready for it to move forward, but it won’t. it just won’t.
right now i count the days by the thens. michael’s in indonesia right now. he’s been gone for almost 2 weeks and has another week to go. then he’s home for a little less than a week. then he’s in africa for approximately 2 weeks. then he’ll be home for close to a week. then he’s in america for 4 days. (yes, he’ll spend almost as much time traveling for that trip as he will actually be there and he’ll spend way more time recovering from that trip than he will be there.) then he’s home. and for some reason that’s when time really starts for me. time starts in april. not sure what my mind thinks happens between now and then (mid Feb and early April), but for some reason it doesn’t feel real. it doesn’t feel like progress. about the same time michael returns from america family starts arriving. aly (i cannot wait to see her, it’s been so long!!!), her boyfriend (we’ve never met him), my mom, and my aunt will all come to chiang mai. and i’m crossing my fingers and hoping against hope that chan will also be coming (that feels like a bit of a long shot, but also not impossible). we’ll have two weeks of family and tourist stuff and songkran and time not stopping. overshadowing everything is the weight of “this is it”. this is good bye. this is our last smokey season (miserable, but we’ll miss it). our last hot season (miserable, but we’ll miss it). our last songkran (not always miserable and something i will definitely miss). and i think what makes it harder is that it doesn’t feel like there are any firsts to come. it isn’t our first time to live in america. it’s not our first time to live in colorado. it’s not even our first time to live in the house we’ll be returning to. it feels like too much. but it can’t be stopped.
so, we make plans. there are the we need to sort this plans, the we need to do this plans – the logistical stuff that comes with moving. those are sort of easy (easy to see, not necessarily easy to do.) but then there are the we have to do this plans. and they aren’t the same for all of us. michael is ticking off some of his through work. i know with each trip he makes he’s saying goodbyes. and it’s not easy for him. the hardest plan of all is the final how do we leave chiang mai plan. figuring out how to do goodbye isn’t easy.
it’s much easier to say late july is forever away.
“maybe it’s human nature to think one’s own situation is the unique and incomparable one, the transcendent exception.” ~ sue monk kidd the mermaid chair
chan and i left chiang mai yesterday and the goodbyes at the airport were a validation that our decision to move here was a good one. it was emotional and so very painful, but also proof of how he threw himself into life here.
knowing we’re not the first to make this journey doesn’t make it any easier. but it is helpful to know others have survived it, their kids have flourished, and it’s all been worth it. i can’t wait to see what the next few years bring for chan and i hope he takes on university life the same way he’s done it here. but before we tackle the next few years we’ve got a week in tokyo to take on. (it was on the flight from bangkok to tokyo that i came across that quote from sue monk kidd.)
we seem to like to take the not the easiest way possible route when it comes to travel when we go to and from the states and why would we choose to do it differently for a family vacation. michael, a16, and s13 left friday night for bangkok and had an all night layover before heading to tokyo – via kuala lumpur. maybe not the most direct route, but to hear them tell it it was up there with one of the most miserable. chan and i left chiang mai saturday morning (16 hours after the other guys) we flew to bangkok had a two hour layover and then headed to tokyo. directly to tokyo.
they took the yellow route. we took the purple one.
we arrived 1/2 an hour before them and our first stop was the fancy japan potties.
after our pit stop we went got our passports stamped and then on to collect our luggage. since we were ahead of the rest of the family we went ahead and gathered their luggage, too. they made it in, we all went through customs and then it was time to figure out how to go about finding the apartment we’d rented for the week. luckily we had an address in japanese and our taxi driver could read japanese (amazing, i know.) our two bedroom apartment was bigger than we expected. it has a washing machine. and best of all it’s vey own fancy toilet.
it was well past midnight at this point and we had 3 hungry kids on our hands. so michael and i braved it and found a convenience store where we picked up some assorted snacks. including the goldilocks and the three bear version of cup noodle.
we were all asleep by 3am. that’s way past my bedtime and we ended up sleeping a tad late on Sunday morning. which was alright, because i’d purposely left sunday as a pretty easy tourist day.
Five years ago today we arrive in Thailand. It still ranks as probably the most stressful time of my life.
revisiting the haiku and x365…
you speak a truth i can hear
my heart whisperer
every once in a while i think of our move to thailand and what it’s cost. not monetarily – that’s too depressing – but more of what the trade has been (which is slightly more depressing). the value of one rich cultural experience vs. another rich cultural experience, because i do consider the culture of family to be one of great value.
my memories of growing up include so many that are flooded with family. i lived very close to extended family. easter, thanksgiving, christmas, birthdays, random sundays, and many summer days were frequently spent with my great grandmother, grandparents, great aunts and great uncles, my mom’s cousins and their kids. and those memories are wonderful. even though it’s been several years since i’ve experienced a holiday with so many relatives i couldn’t keep track of them all, that’s how i remember them. and that’s what i know we’ve caused our children to miss. that deeply rich experience of knowing and being known by generations of your people.
i think i feel it most deeply every year at thanksgiving.
as we recreate american thanksgiving in a foreign country i’m conscious of wanting for my kids the kind of thanksgiving we had in america. the one where you know who’s coming and what they will bring, because it’s the same thing they bring every year and it would be sacrilegious for them to bring anything different. the kind where you create the sort of memories and inside jokes that become a language spoken only by you and those who experienced them. like the year i flicked whip cream into my mom’s cousin’s husband’s face for no reason whatsoever. and, now, anytime i see pumpkin pie with a dollop of whip cream i’m immediately taken back all those years ago. those memories are priceless. and i wouldn’t trade them for anything.
i can’t count the times i’ve patted myself on the back for being the kind of parent who takes their kids abroad. and just as many times i’ve thought, “man, i wish my parents had done the same for me.” but, when i sit down and really think about what that would have meant – living away from our family, not having the opportunity to know and be known by them, i’m not so sure i really wish my parents had done the same.
don’t get me wrong, i’m not regretting our move. i struggle thinking of someday moving back to the states. but… in a perfect world, there are sacrifices this move would not have cost and spending holidays without family is one of them.