It’s PCS time! This summer Randy and I are moving for the 9th time – the 6th time for my 8-year old children. We’ve done this before – we know the drill. The purging, sorting, packing, cleaning, farewell dinners, and tears – we know what it looks and sounds like (those tape guns in an empty house are loud!). Of course we’ve learned from experience (always mail a set a tools!) – but it never gets any easier.
My children have seen the rugged coasts of Monterey, the colors and hospitality of Amman, the suburban life of Northern Virginia, the beige and barren of Doha, and the rolling green hills of the German countryside – they’ve called each of these places home. Their first move, at 2, was the easiest (and moving with twin 2-year olds is not necessarily easy). At that age, all they cared about was being with Mama – where Mama went, they went – no questions asked.
At 3, we packed up and moved to DC. This was a bit more challenging – they didn’t completely understand what was happening, but seeing all the belongings from their world get pulled down from walls and shelves and packed and sealed in boxes was very upsetting for them (and real talk – it gets me every time, too). We gave each of them a box and let them pack it with their toys. We decorated the mailing labels and hauled them down to the embassy post office ourselves to say goodbye to them. I was hopeful that involving them in the process would help them feel that they had some control, plus it made the move fun! We learned about the postal service, we tracked our packages of beloved toys across the sea, land, and air, and we went and picked them up at the post office when we arrived. Yay!! Just like Christmas morning!
Their move at 5 to Doha was rough – really rough. They had made friends in Vienna – they felt part of a community. The box of toys they could choose to mail became very important – they agonized and strategized, making the most of the limited space they had in their box and where in the world the box was became a daily (hourly?) topic of conversation, but it wasn’t much of a distraction from the real sense of loss they were feeling. They had tears leaving our house, tears saying goodbye to friends, tears on the drive to the airport. I am so thankful for the support they received - a group of older military kids from down the street sent them a little video telling them they were brave, their preschool friends wrote them notes that they got to open and read on the airplane, they each had a photo album filled with memories of their favorite things that they carried with them everywhere until they slowly began to settle in their new home.
At 6, they moved from Qatar to Germany – and not interested AT ALL in going through the heartache of the last move, I brought out the big guns. Grammy and Grandpa. Instead of going straight to Germany, we went back to the States and the kids filled up their love tanks with some quality time with Grammy and Grandpa. I will never not do that again. It’s a heartbreaking thing to me that my children do not get to spend much time with either set of their grandparents. I grew up walking distance from my grandparents – I saw them daily. They were a bonus source of unconditional love and comfort (and Coca Cola! (Grandpa called it “sodie water”)), unwavering allies, and a hideout when the list of chores at home got too long. This will never be the experience my children have, but a summer visit does wonders!
News for this move came very early – almost 6 months ago. We’re going back to Vienna, Virginia. Though it’s hard to give up overseas life, I’m delighted to be landing in a place where I’ll already know where the grocery store is and that one does not simply drive east on Maple Ave at 0700. When I gave the kids their boxes to pack with their toys, books, and stuffed animals – the boxes remained mostly unfilled. It’s not about the toys at all this time - my children are 100% grieving their loss of friends. A few months ago Anna blurted out in the car, unprompted, “Mom. I’m leaving every person I know!” What a scary feeling. Yes, we’re stopping en route to see Grammy and Grandpa – and yes, the kids are somewhat comforted by the fact that Zinga froyo is walking distance from their new house, but their little hearts are shattered. They’ve made dear friends in our village – it was a small, close-knit group of similarly aged children who rode the bus together, celebrated birthdays, had sleep-overs, and spent almost every day together with over the summer. Last night they said good-bye. Of course they did it in style with an ice-cream truck at our house – because why not?! The kids played all afternoon and cheered when Tony drove up in his truck. It was a “yes” day – so Anna was double-fisting cones and Henry was living his best life with spaghetti eis in one hand and a cone in the other. After they finished off their treats and played off their sugar high, they said goodbye. And we left.
In the car, Henry said, “I’ll just see Angel in his words now” which is my sweet boy’s way of saying he and his friend Angel are going to be pen pals. Of the scrap of paper with his friend Finn’s contact information, Henry said, “This is going in a gold frame.”
We are so grateful for all of the experiences we have at each of our homes – but it’s the people we miss the most. Thank you for opening your lives up to us. We’ll see you later!