We moved across the country a year ago. Well, actually, it was more like a year and a half ago... but we were in temporary housing while we looked for a place to buy for roughly six months and I generally block that entire season out of my mind on account of the fact that we
a. Inadvertently leased a place in the Heroin HQ of the United States (Everett, Washington for those of you not in the know... which is basically the Detroit of the PNW.)
b. Did everything within our power to not assimilate to that society and thereby were feeling consistently transitory and stressed.
A year (and a half) has given me the ability to put some space between myself and a major disruption... which basically means I can now sip a gin and tonic and look back on the last year with is #$*& what just happened? Was that weird? Yeah. That was weird.
Which, honestly, is something that only the gift of time has allowed me to finally admit.
You see, we planned the move from Arizona to Washington with military precision. Boxes. Movers. Kid staying at Grandma's until the house was totally unpacked. Mail forwarded. Utilities shut off. Bubble wrap. Moving truck rental. Utilities turned on. House sold at a profit. Rentals vetted. Leases signed. Down payment cocooned in a savings account. Realtor found. More movers. Tape. Even a box of "first night in the new place" essentials... complete with a new Crabtree and Evelyn lotion for the kitchen sink. We had organized and Pinterested the crap out of this move. This wasn't some ragamuffin move that we made in our 20's with a pickup truck and pizza amid the dust bunnies. No. This was planned. This was going to be perfect. This was our dream. It was going to be perfect. We had done everything on our end to make sure this went beautifully.
What about the kids? Someone would ask.
What about them? They were young. They had traveled the world and were virtually unflappable I said to myself. As long as I provided the usual emotional scaffolding of bedtime snuggles, sweetly scented bubble bath, and organic mac n' cheese they would be fine. These things weren't tied to any location. A cross country move is basically a giant trip to Europe. We would more than survive. Plus, the moment the kids realized they were a stone's throw from the beach they would forget all about their life in the mountains and desert foothills. Of course they would. And so, with the complete idiotic and arrogant naivete befitting someone much younger and much more privileged than me, I threw those reasons that right onto the list of things we had prepared for perfectly.
Much like training for a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon, nothing really prepares you for the reality of the thing.
While the change of address forms and fancy hand lotion were nice, they don't prepare you for the housing bubble that began to expand all across the greater Seattle area... sending all your plans and budgets right out the window... or the fact that your freshly operated knee wasn't quite ready to haul kids up and down 6 flights of apartment stairs... especially not for 6 months... or the fact that your kids missed their old home. And you were pretty sure that by home it was a place where their parents weren't frantically trying to hold their dream together while the local police station handed out needle clean up kits. And so you berate yourself for that failure as well.
If this was a big, giant trip to Europe... then it was a complete and total disaster.
The kids weren't having it either. They saw right through the high-end bubble bath.
This wasn't home.
We had done everything right.
Why didn't it work?
It was supposed to work.
Somewhere between searching for old Victorian mansions in rural Ohio and blotting up dog pee from the apartment carpet (because why not just throw a puppy into the mix and make this proverbial shit show and actual one?) our realtor found a little house that might work. The price had just dropped. It had a view of the water. Our offer was accepted. And so we left PNW Detroit for the dreamy island life we had wanted.
This wasn't the silver bullet that solved all of our problems. The place needed work. Seven different types of flooring and honey oak throughout. We all took our time to settle. Left turns made me nervous... family crisis... events... holidays... library cards... nice neighbors... soccer... school... and after a year (and a half) it finally started to feel like home.
The boys played on the dock. They were fishing for seaweed. If you're lucky enough to see the sky in December in Washington, you know that it is a brilliant blue. It was so blue that day and the soft golden sunlight danced across the Puget Sound waters. Suddenly, it all felt worth it. This is why we had moved. The desert had been good to us for many years... but we were ready for a change. We traded the rugged orangey sunsets for smooth golden ones and it was just what you hoped it would be.
If I have learned anything from taking your family across the country for no reason other than "We just wanted a change of pace" it's that you can't plan for much. You can certainly try. But those efforts will seem like, to borrow the phrase from the movie Armageddon, "shooting a BB gun at a freight train". The best thing to do is to accept that you all will grieve the familiarity you once had. And once you move through the stages (including anxiety) you will begin to breathe more deeply knowing you had made the right call in the end. Pinterest can't prepare you for any of that.