Immigrant Diaries: The Leaving

Catie’s final chalk message on our front porch.

A month ago, Lynette accused us of “slipping away under the cover of night.” She was right, that was what we were planning on—in part because we don’t like big to-do’s, and a goodbye party where all our various worlds collide seemd overwhelming. And frankly, I just don’t like goodbyes. Lynette, however, is ridiculously rich in practical wisdom, so instead of moving in the cover of darkness, we planned a series of small goodbyes–dinners, coffees, and cocktails (especially cocktails.)—and these allowed us to say our thank yous and farewells.

All of this has left me quite tear-sodden. At one point, Katie K, my favorite neighbor, found me crying in the driveway. Why? Because I had to say goodbye to Sean—the cashier at my local grocery store. I know. It seems silly, but this is how we live. I seek out Sean’s line at the grocery store every week. Over time we’ve bemoaned the agony of first-time home buying (a condo purchased with his partner); made plans for a language learning CD (“Chinese the Gay Way”); and celebrated his one year sobriety anniversary. This is how we’ve built our life here in Seattle—by bonding with the grocery clerk, making friends with the neighbor, taking in stray boys and stray dogs. So when it comes to leaving, there is reall stuff, real people to leave—and that is far more difficult than selling a car or packing up a living room.

So I cry–because I won’t be able to sip chai with Jen, or have knit-and-tonic nights with Katie. I cry because I’ll no longer share a big old house with a gaggle of roommates. I cry because I’m ill at ease leaving our newly-legally-adult/quasi-grownup, ( I know Josh and Tonya will have his back, but come on–how’s a boy supposed to survive without unlimited internet and a fridge full of dairy products? ) I cry because I’m ripping my children out of their darling local elementary school, and prying them out of the arms of their sibling best-friends, Noah and Claire, and schlepping them a world away from Rosie, who Eden met the day before kindergarten and they are friends still yet. Not to mention what I’m doing my parents, who retired a year ago planning on full-time grandparent duty and are now wondering what they will do with all that time on their hands.

Then again, children adapt, and friendships survive long distance, and teenagers, well, they get “left” all the time at colleges and boarding schools and…I don’t know, boot camp? (Oh lord, don’t let him sign up for boot camp!) These are not reasons not to go. Ahead of us lies a wonderful adventure. If only I could stop blowing my nose and live into it!

In the midst of all the goodbye’s came many lovely gifts. The Uber-Family took photos of the four kids one day and presented us with an album the next. Rosie’s family threw a goodbye party for all the schoolyard chums. My folks dedicated many hours of grandchild tending while we sorted and packed. And Lynette helped her sweet Pascal make us bookmarks that say, “I will hold your place for you!” (This being exactly the kind of sentiment you would expect from a family who’s liscense plates read YOU MATTER and CONNECT.)
All of these gift are so tender and meaningful. They made us realize that, people like us—and that as much as we are connected to them, they are bonded to us. I really can’t explain how meaningful that is. Everytime I think about it, I’m back to the cry.

Just before we left, Katie read me a poem. It is one her father knows by heart, and she says the last stanza reminds her of our home. I think her reading this to me, after our storytelling-hours, is one of the nicest thing anyone has ever offered me. In reading me this poem, Katie proclaimed that the life Paul and I had hoped for had actually come true. So, when I cry a little too much, I read this poem. It gives me hope that we can again find our way to that magic place.

And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
Where all’s accustomed, ceremonious;
For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony’s a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

A Prayer for My Daughter
William Butler Yeats

Want to read more about the beginning of our immigrant journey? Start here, then move on to this and this

Jena February 13, 2008 at 3:37 pm

A beautiful post, Rachelle. What a rich community you created and discovered in Seattle – and will no doubt find in Copenhagen.

Jennifer/The Word Cellar February 13, 2008 at 8:31 pm

I have no doubt that you will indeed find your way to that magic place. Safe travels and good journey to you.

Anj February 13, 2008 at 10:04 pm

Good on you for finding the courage to say good-bye, and the honesty to let your self cry. Blessings to you on this adventure of a new land.

Jennifer February 16, 2008 at 8:37 am

How wonderful that you have such a beautiful community surrounding you. And it seems to me that even though you will be far away all of these people will be so close in your heart. You seem to be going on a fantastic adventure and I am sure your whole family will adjust well. I wish you the best of luck. You are so courageous for doing this and I know you will find your own space to be you in copenhagen.

chocolate covered musings February 27, 2008 at 2:38 pm

well, i’ve not moved countries with children, but i have moved from one side of the world to the other recently (NZ to London). we are visiting Copenhagen in April. if you are there by then and would like to meet up with me for a coffee and a chat i’d love to meet you. if you are keen, email me and we can start a conversation about it.

i remember how difficult it has been for me to leave my loving and supportive home community and start fresh not knowing many people.

hoping that your transition is a smooth one. i am thinking of you all

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