This is not about the election.

They have to leave us.

They try to do it strongly.Version 2Version 2

We have to let them go. We try to do it gracefully.20161110_201110

They have to go far away. 20161110_185628We have to stay put. But it doesn’t always happen fast. Sometimes it drags out over days. Version 2Days of waiting to leave. Days of knowing they are technically still here. But we can’t see them. Then they are gone.img_0605 And they have to do hard things. 20161110_18575720161110_193815They have to live in hard places. 20161110_193857Version 2They miss us and we miss them. 20161110_193734100_2532We try to be brave like them. Version 2Version 2 Things happen to all of us. img_0514100_3275100_2507Version 2100_3056Version 2But they miss our things. 100_2990OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA100_3183100_3403100_2731And we miss their things. 20161110_185713Version 220161110_194029It’s hard for each of us to understand the other’s things.

And then one dayVersion 2 they’re back. img_1387_zps676d09f1And there’s more waiting. img_1519_zpsba00bc47Agonizing minutes and hours of waiting. img_1521_zps2bec4be9We can see them. img_1527_zps1a17229cWe can almost touch them. img_1539_zps152cc91aWe are about to lose what’s left of our minds. And then

img_1557_zpsa7e3979dimg_1559_zps8941975bimg_1561_zps89484c16img_1562_zps06530d61img_1563_zpsc1773a53img_1569_zpsbe72cb54img_1579_zps87e08feeimg_1580_zps47b05b4aimg_1594_zps9dde29bc

Welcome home. And welcome back. And whatever the world is like, it will always be changing–but the reason we send you and the reason we wait for you is the same as the reason you go and the reason you go again, and again: we love our country and what it was built for and we love each other because we have this in common.

Mother Knows Best

(fanfare)  We are in our new house!  And after three weeks, we now have internet AND an official mailing address!  And you know what that means:  Not only do I have my things about me, but now I am at liberty to AQUIRE MORE.

I have realized much about myself during these past few months which shall heretofore be referred to as “The Time I Wished I Was Dead” or at least “The Time I Wished I Was An Inanimate Object With No Hopes Or Dreams To Crush.”  One such revelation is that I have too much stuff.  So not only did I purge a great deal on the El Paso end, I have also jettisoned a significant amount here.  And have “encouraged” my family to follow my example.  And by “encouraged” I mean of course, “waited until they were not paying attention and selected items I deemed useless, broken, or stupid and threw them into a box for goodwill.”  As I was doing this I had flashbacks of my own inconsolable rage at my own mother for giving away my things– things I OBVIOUSLY had use for, regardless of whether or not I knew I had them.  She knows the list:  The Strawberry Shortcake intercom phones, the grey poodle, “Mickey Baby’s Sister” doll, etc.  Years later, I received a package in Germany.  It was “Mickey Baby’s Sister” doll, found on eBay and purchased for me, a then 28 year old woman.  It was fantastic.  My mom is the queen of all mothers.  And now that I am a mother myself I see that perhaps she was always the queen of all mothers.  My 8 year old self would refuse to accept this, but Mama knew what she was doing.

Possessions are wonderful.  I love my things.  Before I had children, I had books.  Lying awake at night mentally planning how to escape burning buildings or evade murderous intruders, I war-gamed how to save my journals, my manuscripts on 3.5 “floppy” disks, my set of huge hardback Outlander novels– now THAT was going to involve some fancy footwork and strategic planning.  (Clearly, more thought could have gone into the safe keeping of various pieces of jewelry, but I’m trying to let that go…)

When the packers had swept out of the El Paso house with all of our belongings I breathed a sigh of relief that at least one more phase was completed.  I walked through the empty rooms, and as reluctant as I was to be going to the particular place we were heading, I took great satisfaction in the thought that we were moving on, leaving such a stressful and sad time behind us.

And then I looked down.

When I was little, my mother had a very small black box with the picture of a unicorn surrounded by a tiny fence.  It was no more than two inches long and inside was a tiny crystal.  She told me it was a unicorn tear.  I was enraptured.  I don’t remember when she gave it to me, but it has been one of my favorite things.  When I see it I feel a little bit of magic is left in the world.

On the floor of the empty El Paso guest room was the top to the little box.  Only the top.

I picked it up and turned it over to see the unicorn in its tiny fence.  I searched the entire area of the carpet for the crystal tear, went out to the hallway on the chance that it dropped out there, and then froze.  I had vacuumed.  Hastily.  And dumped the contents in one of the many trash bags sitting in the boiling hot sun outside.  If you recall, I’d had a hard time of late.  This did nothing to improve my mood.  It was a small thing.  In the grand scheme of things, it was an extremely small loss.  But it was a loss.  On top of a growing pile of losses.  But I wiped my eyes (apparently I’d been tearing up) and went on.  At least I still had the top.

The first time I walked into this house in Hawaii it was on the heels of the movers.  Literally. I stepped on one of their heels as he carried something in ahead of me.  He asked me where I wanted this dresser?  Juggling Bella on one hip, my ridiculously oversized diaper bag filled with everything on earth EXCEPT diapers, and trying to figure out which room I was actually standing in, I said, “Uh, the guest room.”  He asked where that was.  I said I had no idea.  It was quite a day, but a great day.  As paper was torn off large shapeless things to reveal my own furniture it felt like Christmas.  I couldn’t wait to find my desk, my CLOTHES! (3 months in the same 7 shirts was humbling and a great exercise in appreciating all I have, but I never want to see those outfits again), and the prints and paintings of all the places I’ve been.  The day ended and we were left to excavate our lives from the boxes and paper, paper, paper.  Only two things were found broken that day and we counted it a victory.

The next day was very productive and much was unpacked.  The house looked like a curiosity shop–every surface covered with both the mundane and the interesting.  We found great amusement in reading what was labeled on the box and then discovering what it actually contained.  Everyone who moves frequently, or at all, I imagine, has a story about their movers and the school they undoubtedly attend to learn the Art of Nonsense.  Why do they wrap a wet sponge or a travel mug with coffee STILL inside, but can forget to pack a nightstand?  And the baffling grouping of contents–what would possess them to pack a crisp white lacey bedskirt with flower pots encrusted with El Paso sand and dirt?  Your guess is as good as mine.  The large family heirloom bible we were slightly freaking out about because we couldn’t find?  In a box labeled “Papers” in the garage. Technically, I suppose, it is paper…  So when I found the box marked “3 della robbia,” picked it up, and it rattled, I prayed they had packed Legos or something in there.  But they hadn’t.  They had packed three precious Della Robbia ceramic pieces together.  And not at all well.

While both Sam and my brother were deployed to Iraq, my parents had met me in Germany and taken me with them on a trip through Italy.  In a tiny Florence shop I found him:  The Baby Jesus Head.  A beautiful white patina baby bust surrounded by a circle of the trademark blue.  I carried it on my back through trains in Italy, Austria, and back to Germany.  That trip was extremely special to me.  Every time I looked at The Baby Jesus Head I remembered the weird combination of fear and joy.

I am standing by an open window in Rome, talking to Sam in Iraq for a few precious moments before he stops mid-sentence and says, “Um, gotta go!  I love you!” and the line goes dead.

I am eating something wonderful near the water in Venice as my parents make me laugh so hard the wine almost comes out my nose.

I am lighting candles in a small gorgeous chapel in Verona for two men I love in a war zone.

I am on a bus tour laughing my brains out on the way back from Assisi.

It had survived the move from Germany to England and then from England to Texas.  And now my little time machine was cracked apart right down the center of his beautiful serene face, his small smooth shoulders jagged and red with terra cotta where the glaze was shattered away.  I didn’t even try to stop crying.  I just let it happen.  What was the point?  Texting with my mother, because I couldn’t talk about it, and lamenting The Baby Jesus Head, she wrote, “Not one of your tears will be wasted.”  It was a beautiful thought and a very sweet thing to say.  But obviously it was crap.  I’ve cried more over these last few months than I have this entire decade.  (Not counting movies.  I cry like a little girl at movies.)  Crying out of raw heartache or pain?  I don’t like it.  So I try not to do it.  Not that you would know this if you’ve made my acquaintance recently.

They’re only things, right?  Keep perspective.

Last week Sam and I were unpacking a box in the guest room.  Who knows what was supposed to be in the box, I think we stopped reading the labels.  But as he unfurled a ream of packing paper something sparkly dropped to the floor.  It was the unicorn tear.  I grabbed the paper from him (rather rudely, actually) and yes, the other half of the box was there too.  Bless him, he probably thought I’d finally lost my mind as I ran out of the room and down the hall with a ridiculous grin on my face to put the box back together and the tear safely inside.

See?  Mama really does know what’s going on.

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We Can Never Go Back

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This is me.  Five years ago.  I had the best haircut of my life.  My favorite jewelry had not been stolen yet.  I was in excellent shape.  I lived in England.  I was learning French.  (That last one is a lie.  I had no intention of speaking French for the duration of my 4-day trip to France.)  Look how cosmopolitan I seem!  So urbane!  Such a citizen of the world.  And seriously, the haircut.  Sigh.  I will never be that girl again.

I’ve been extremely lucky, blessed, (lucky was not stepping bare-foot on that Optimus Prime today) to have lived in glamorous places, made wonderful friends, have two beautiful healthy kids, have a great husband, blah, blah, blah.  Sorry.  There really isn’t anything to “blah” about.  I am grateful.  I am very grateful.

I’m also unspeakably ungrateful.  We’ve just moved to Honolulu.

Ungrateful!

I know.  Everyone says that.  I’m the only person alive who has never had any desire to visit Hawaii, let alone live here.  It’s all been very inconvenient.

Sam got home from a nine month deployment, we started packing up our house a month later, had most of my best jewelry stolen by one set of movers, cooled our heels in the empty house for 3 weeks, said goodbye to family and friends again, flew down here, and have been staying in this hotel for one month– with one month left to go– while waiting for a house to open up.  The hotel could be worse; it could also be a LOT better.  I’m trying to stay positive and grateful.  It has two rooms and a bathroom.  It does not have a kitchen.  It DOES have a micro fridge.  The microwave smells like armpits.  The bathroom has a bath tub for bathing kids– not always the case in our experience–that’s a win…  The microwave smells like armpits!  

POSITIVE.  It is beautiful here.  The clouds are huge and solid and look like they’ve been extracted from an oil painting and magnified.  (Behold!  My Cloud-Magnification-ator!)  The sky and water are so blue they look fake.  Flowers grow on the side of the highway, just because they can.  Exotic flowers.  No dandelion variety shows.  Beautiful bright green mountains.  The colors!  They’re everywhere!  We arrived here from El Paso, Texas.  Colors?  Not so much.  This is a welcomed change of scene.  Alive nature.  There’s really nothing like it.  Everywhere I look outside, there is beauty.  It’s enough to make me forget–sometimes for quite some time–just how screwed I am.

NEGATIVE.  It’s expensive here.  We’re going to dedicate our nonexistent third child to indentured servitude in order to pay for Malcolm’s private school.  Bella?  Sorry, baby.  You’ll just have to marry well, cuz we probably won’t be able to afford your education.  I went to the local Safeway, foolishly thinking it would be cheaper than Target for food.  That was not the case.  We had to buy a second car as well.  I actually think we did ok on that one.  It is used– but, it’s been on AN ISLAND all its life… how many miles could it go?  So that was a victory.  And, we have the Commissary for food, which will “be worth the trip.”

STILL NEGATIVE: We’re on an island.  Granted, it IS larger than I was anticipating.  But still.  Surrounded by water.  Far, far away from the mainland where all my family resides.  Again.  I was more willing to go with it when it was Europe that claimed us.  I guess if I didn’t like my family so much this wouldn’t be a big deal.  We can always visit each other, I suppose… 

OK, Nonexistent Third Child–put your back into it!

We will not be leaving this island until we are leaving permanently.  So, we won’t be going back.  For a good long while.  Which means a lot will be missed.  A lot is already being missed.  Reunions, weddings, funerals, birthdays, I could go on but then I’ll start getting really depressed.

There is a reason the Hawaii license plate has a rainbow on it; I’ve seen at least nine. Rainbows, not license plates.  (Good grief, the traffic…NO!  BACK TO THE RAINBOWS!)   Big, full, arcing, vibrant rainbows.  You can’t miss them.  They are obvious.  They are purposeful rainbows.    And they do their job well.  They make me remember.

Last week I took the kids to church–our first visit to this particular place.  It was such a horror show that all the way home (crying) I told God I could never show my face there again.  I can never go back there, God.  Was it you blowing the kazoo in the middle of the sermon?  No.  Were you the one defacing the hymnal during that nice man’s testimony?  Well, no.  Was it you screaming at the top of your lungs as you were stealthily disciplined beneath the pew?  You’ve made your point.  And did you split yourself into two people to create the unholy cacophony of shrieks that ended in a parade of tears as you marched what seemed like four miles across the courtyard during their lovely 100th birthday celebration to the car?  I was LEADING the parade, yes, but I wasn’t the one screaming.  (Outloud.)  Is it going to be the ONLY time they ever freak out and embarrass you?  I’m assuming the correct answer is no.  So, they’re just kids.  Nobody died.  And I’m doing the best I can.

I can’t go back in time.  I can’t go back home.  But I can go back to that church with no pretenses of having everything under control.  And that could be a good reminder.