How are you supposed to feel when you’re closing up shop on a life in one place, getting ready to watch everything you own get loaded, Tetris-style, onto a moving truck?
Resigned? Excited? Depressed? Numb? Nervous?
A new life - complete with new streets and a new front porch, new schools and a new grocery store - is around the corner. But it stays put in our lists and plans for now, stuck in online research and Pinterest ideas.
Our reality is here in Arizona for the next few weeks. This house, living with the beige tiles and cactus in the front yard. But it’s a life with one foot headed off the page.
It’s easy for me to get caught up in the minutiae of the moment: loading the dishwasher, paying bills, and breaking up the petty arguments of the small people around me. A moving company will box up our belongings in a couple of weeks, so we’re only responsible for packing a few suitcases. The routines of school pickup and answering emails, texting friends and supervising homework remain unchanged, so it’s easy to live in denial of the major life change coming right around the bend.
You know that movie scene, the one with the train headed for a broken rail bridge? Happy, busy travelers sit and read books, chat, or order food in the cafe car, blissfully unaware of the pending danger?
The denial is real.
When I pick my head out of the fog of everyday, however, my emotions change on a dime and I’m flooded fondness for this place.
I didn’t expect to like the desert, but it’s become so dear. I planned on brown and dust and heat, but I’ve been charmed by the perma-blue skies and mountains on every horizon. I watched all year around as snatches of color cropped up, from the purple prickly pear cactus blooms near my mailbox to yellow wildflowers in the open field next to our church. The summer heat is indeed oppressive, and woe to the parent who lets their children use crayons in the car. Not all of those crayons will make it back into the house, and instead they will become one with the upholstery of the vehicle. But the prevalence of pools and air conditioning make the heat more or less bearable, and the other nine months of the year are indeed lovely. And the hot hair balloons - we saw them during the morning school drop-off and again during afternoon soccer practice. One of our son's first words was "bawoo" because he could see them from our backyard and from his bedroom window.
I will miss hiking on Christmas Day. I had tanned arms in April for the first time in my life. Recently our six-year-old asked, “why does our car have wipers?” This is the beauty of Phoenix.
No matter where we are living, it’s our goal to embrace and explore the area around us. When we lived in the UK this involved a lot of cathedrals, castles, and scones. In Arizona, however, our weekends have involved hiking, tacos, and Sedona. We’ve been to an ostrich festival, and a rodeo, Antelope Canyon and the Desert Botanical Gardens.
I remember my early days here desperate to chat up another parent in the preschool line. Moving to a new place is lonely business, and I was ready to relationally clobber anyone that stopped to politely say hi. The long list of “I don’t know’s” was daunting. Where do people go for swimming lessons? A hair cut? A dentist? Who makes the best taco around, and what’s the best route to get there? Where should I send my kids to preschool? Is there a book club I can join?
Naturally, all this time later, we have a swimming teacher, a church, a veterinarian, and all the rest. In short, we’re settled. It’s the stuff we all take for granted… until we’re faced with starting from scratch again.
But, so much more than that, we have community. That preschool parent who has become the clutch person to call when I’ve lost my keys or am running late for school pick-up. The friend who, knowing I was packing up for a weekend trip, whisked my littles off to the grocery store, and then returned awhile later with my favorite sushi in-hand. The other moms I text with to commiserate about current events and naughty toddlers. My people.
And here we are on the cusp of saying goodbye.
I’ve been here before, on this train. We’ve moved a number of times, so I know this gig. The places and people are different, but this mixed-up concoction of dread and denial, excitement and fear remains the same every time.
But at the end of the day, I’m mostly just grateful. Grateful for the time we've spent here, for the backyard pool and hiking opportunities, for what I've learned and most of all the people who have befriended me. They've loved, they've prayed, they've texted and played board games and babysat. I'm so thankful for each person that made our lives so rich here in Arizona.
Naturally, Winnie the Pooh said it best: