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Packing up the Family and Walking on the Moon: a continuation of the moving saga

Initially, I thought it would be ideal to write about the move as it was happening… ‘Get all those feelings down while they are raw’, I told myself. That was my intention…and now, here I am sitting in our new home…two weeks after school has started (and, heck, we even went to the zoo once!), finally getting down some thoughts.

Two facts in my defense: 1. as I look around at the boxes here and there (and everywhere in the kids’ rooms), the cat chewing bubble wrap, and the packing paper currently hanging from the dog’s mouth (I’ll be right back), I can honestly say that the move is definitely not over yet, despite some recent signs of normalcy and “settling”; and 2. it is hard to write while riding a roller coaster, juggling, and hitting gaps of both gravity and oxygen…which is exactly how I have felt through much of the process… Never mind the fact that one needs hands to type and mine have either been packing, driving, unpacking, fending off jets of water shooting out of a badly attached washing machine, or filling out some kind of form or another for much of the past month.

I like to be in control…and more specifically in control of my sphere. I have no illusions of having any kind of control outside my sphere (and any time I have, life has done me the express favor of open-handed smacking me back to reality) …but damn, I like to have a handle on what is happening on the inside! This is probably why, in my more-than-35-less-than-50 years of life (ok, ok…48), I have never been intoxicated (something I can now safely say, at this age, without people thinking it is a condition they need to help me cure). I have a need to know what is going on and to feel like I have some sort of control over…or at least influence on… my sphere.

Moving the sphere upsets the balance that I have so painstakingly tried to establish (picture a waiter walking with a tray balanced upon his hand and suddenly changing direction). Moving the sphere with teenagers in it tends to be a bit more dramatic (picture a waiter walking with a tray balanced upon his hand and suddenly changing direction..and then, as he steadies himself and his charge, a teenager reaches out and flips the tray over).

This move…with teenagers in tow…has definitely been more difficult than the many moves we did when the kids were much younger. Not that anyone in their right mind would profess to have anything resembling control over their toddler, but I definitely had a lot more say about what was going on in their lives when they were little. Oh, it was still hard to see them dealing with being the new kid on the block or at the playground, but I could exercise some influence over their spheres by setting up play dates or signing them up for some activities so as to get the ball rolling. This isn’t to say that I don’t still give a little behind the scenes nudge where I can…when one is needed, but I can only imagine the 360 degree eye roll that would occur if I tried to set up a “play date” for my Moon or my Sun nowadays…and rightfully so. As teenagers…and high schoolers…they are wandering out and creating their own spheres, separate from mine, and it is as heartbreaking to have to stay back and watch them struggle to find their footing as it is elating to hear about their triumphs. It is a bona fide roller coaster and adding a move to that process simply upgrades it from a Disney coaster to one of those twisty, flippy, spinny coasters that you leave with your stomach firmly anchored to the roof of your mouth.

I also feel it is no longer my place to just run in, unpack their boxes and to set their rooms up the way I see fit (as much as a part of me really really wants to do this). They need to establish their own balance and to have an environment in which they feel comfortable (preferably one that does not involve the need for professional gymnastic abilities in order to simply cross the room). That said… I am not above opening said boxes and dumping them onto their beds…you know…to gently nudge them into unpacking… They do, after all, still have a foot in my sphere.

Little Man has been a different story. I was extremely concerned about how he would take the move. He has always been a creature of habit. Asking him to try something new has generally brought forth a wave of anxiety that you could surf all the way to the distant shores of Australia. At the beginning of each new school year, he has faced a wall of fear stacked high with “what-ifs” that we have had to chip through together day by day, block by block. I can count the foods he will eat on my fingers…and for four years sent the very same lunch into school with him, with only a slight adjustment of the menu in the third grade. Whenever we talked about the move, he would go over all the things that would be different and all the things that would not be in his new home and school. When I talked about the new house having a pool, he would say he was afraid of swimming. When I mentioned the beach, he would bring up all the dangerous species of ocean dwellers…

…and yet…he has thrived during this move! I almost feel like I may have packed the wrong child and that one of these days, the people who bought our house are going to open a closet and, voilà, Little Man! Not once has he asked me to pack him a lunch, preferring instead to buy at the school and he has become an absolute fish in the swimming pool. To what do I owe this unbelievable transformation, you may ask? Well, I can sum it up for you in one word: creatures. We moved to a place that is chock-full of creatures and the boy LOVES creatures.

He still starts to go into a bit of a panic when faced with something new…especially in the homework department, where, in his mind, every new assignment will be way too difficult and will take days…nay months…to complete, but slap a gecko down in front of him and he is up to the challenge! Is the math assignment getting him a bit worked up? How about a tree frog break to set things right? And when he starts to miss his friends…sending them a pic of his latest terrarium guests makes him feel better. My favorite part of the deal is that he follows a strict catch and release policy…so the actual amount of time that any given creature is residing in my home is quite limited (we are still working on limiting the locations of the creatures, however…There is something about having a lizard cock its head at me as I prepare dinner that I find a little unnerving.).

…and then there is me. Why “Walking on the Moon”? Because, though I have obviously never walked on the moon, sometimes I feel like I must be. Sometimes, despite the temperature here being quite warm…I feel a cold. Sometimes, despite having met some truly kind, funny, and wonderful people…I feel alone. As I look ahead to new experiences, I can feel a part of me once again revisiting the past and mourning everything I have left behind…a view that stretches back decades. And no matter how fleeting the feelings may be, and though I know that, as always, they will fade with time and the acknowledgement that the things I have left behind have actually become a part of who I am, they can still sneak up on me and steal the air from my lungs from time to time.

Their is a current tendency to only air happiness and to try to conceal pain or difficulties. Part of it may be that we are trying to convince others…or even ourselves…of our constant happiness and success. However, if we only acknowledge our happiness and conquests, we are not embracing the entirety of our stories. The power of our emotions stems from the range that they span. What moves me when I am sitting at the beach gazing out at the ocean is not just the beauty of it all, but the solemn hints of solitude and the insignificance of my sphere in comparison. Besides…how can I stay sad for too long, when there is a tree frog peeking out at me from behind a leaf…on my kitchen table…

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