Monday, March 26, 2018

I guess we are really moving!

I lose sleep thinking about moving out of this house and into a new, huge house.   Of course, I lose sleep about everything!

I make lists and follow through.  Painter lined up?  check.    Carpet lined up.  check.  Inspection lined up.  check.

Packing stuff to unpack on the other end.  Putting things into a storage locker so we can "depersonalize" the house.  So someone looking at it can picture themselves having a life here.

Nick rented a storage locker, and yesterday he showed it to me.  We put a few things in it, and he is there right now putting more boxed and "stuff" into it .

Nick is putting something into the corner. 

I have been emptying my shelves of books and packing them up (to go into the storage locker).

Saturday, March 17, 2018


What are friends?  That sounds like an age old philosophical question.

What prompted me to write is this;  I have a friend named Ann.  She is my nail lady- the person who does my manicures and pedicures.   We met when I went into the shop about ten years or more ago.   She is from Vietnam, a place I have been close to, but have never actually been there.

We have lived in South East Asia for almost 6 years.  Four years in Thailand in two year stints.  A year in Taiwan. And, we expected to live in China for a few years, but our preemie baby who needed medical care changed all that.

I recognize that there are big cultural differences between those places, but there is still something that makes me identify.  In Australia, the Asian moms (parents of the kids where my boys went to school) and the "white" Australians didn't click.  There wasn't any animosity, just, didn't click.  Then, somehow, I became an "honorary Asian" and got to have the best of both worlds.  Friends!

When we first went to Thailand, in 1976, Nick went to work every day, and I tried to figure out what I was supposed to do.  I had been fortunate enough to study Thai at FSI (the Foreign Service Institute) along side Nick, for ten months.  And, being someone who likes to talk anyway, my spoken Thai was pretty darn good.

I was all of 22 years old when we first went abroad.   I didn't really feel like I fit into the Embassy community.   People thought I was someone's daughter who was on break from college.

But, I had Ampai.  She was our maid, but we spent hours and hours together.  We went shopping in the  "fresh" everything market- meat, fish, live eels and frogs as well as flowers and clothing.  We took a boat up the river to who knows where and had a blast!  Somewhere I have the pictures to prove it!

Ampia was a maid, and we did pay her to work for us.  But she was also my best friend.  We really loved each other!  In 1978, when we left Bangkok, we left Ampai.  She and I hugged and cried.  And, all these years later, we keep in touch.  That's what a friend is.

All of the places we lived I had friends.  Or at least I tried.   I get too lonely and sad if I don't have a woman friend, or a bunch of women friends.  Some come into and out of your life.  Some, you never hear from again.  And some seem to be forever.

Don't get the idea that it has been easy.  When we arrived in Taiwan, all of the kids got chicken pox, so I missed all of the meet and greet activities.   I didn't know anyone.   So, I invited everyone with little kids to our house for Darcy's birthday party.  It wasn't about getting presents, it was about meeting people.   I didn't become friends with all of those people- or even most of them, but I did meet a few who I hung out with.

 Sometimes I have tried to get into a conversation only to be ignored by the others- the people who are already talking to each another.  Sometimes they don't even realize that they are ignoring me.  Sometimes they are really shits who I wouldn't want to be friends with anyway.

In October of this last year I made a trip to San Diego.  It was a La Leche League Alumni trip.  My second.  Some of the women I know only by name- having seen their names in print somewhere- in a newsletter or something.  And at least one of them and I met for the first time in October, and we "clicked".  Not sure what or why it happened, but we seem to share the same empathy for the same things  Also, while on that trip, I met with a friend who I have kept in touch with, but had not seen in over 40 years!  It felt like we picked up right where we left off!

In 2014 when I found out that I had a brain tumor, Ann was so very worried about me.  She called my house to see how I was, but Nick didn't understand who she was.
And now, back to Ann, my nail lady.   We have a friendship that is almost impossible to explain.  Her English is not always easy for me to understand, and I don't speak a word of Vietnamese.    But we matter to each other.  She tells me about her husband and their travels.  I tell her about my children.   Sometimes we don't talk at all, and sometimes we get the silly laughs.

All of the people I consider my friends, aside from my sister, are people that I had to make some effort to get to know.   By effort, I don't mean it was hard work.  But I did have to be a part of the conversation if I wanted to be in it.  When I finally was able to go back to the nail salon, Ann jumped up to great me.  We both stood there bawling like babies.

Then, in November 2017 I had another brain surgery.  Ann knew about it.  Turns out, my next door neighbor goes to Ann too.  So Kathy has kept Ann up to date.   Ann gave Kathy a Buddha to give to me.  She believes it will help me stay healthier and recover faster.    The Buddha is very tiny.  I think I will try to figure out how to make it into a necklace.

Yesterday I went to the nail salon and saw Ann for the first time in around four months.  We hugged and cried.  She wept like a baby.   It is friendship.  It is love.  It is wonderful.  It takes work to maintain, but it is worth it.

My tiny Buddha, a gift from Ann

Monday, March 12, 2018

It's mid March, mid day and I am in my pajamas

I sit here in my pajamas thinking and pondering and making mental lists and forgetting what I want to write on my lists.

So much to do.  So much to plan and think about doing.  And doing and doing.

Moving has never been my favorite activity.  The anticipation of the new.  That's great.  Looking toward the future and thinking about how neat everything will be.  Learning about your new house. Your new home.

But, first, there's the stuff.  All of the stuff.  Things. Some you care deeply about and will always keep- well until you die and your kids throw your things away.  Then there's the things you didn't even know you still have.  Oh no, didn't we throw that away 20 years ago.  Or the surprises- "no, it's not mine it must be yours".   And the trash.  And the organization.

This house, our home, must be made ready.  We have to make it appeal to someone else who will want it to be their home.   We have to "depersonalize" our home.   Take away what makes it a living part of our lives and our history, and make it into the box it was once built as.  Before we fell in love with it.  And our children grew up in it.  And I nursed every one of my babies in this house.  Almost birthed one right on the stairs.

"Home is where the Foreign Service Takes You".  We lived by that for a lot of years in a lot of homes.   We had each other and added our kids on the way.  We had enough of our familiar things to make it feel like home.  But we always knew that this house, the one we are abandoning to strangers, this was home.  Real home.

"Home is where the heart is".   There's a lot of heart in this house.  Pealing wallpaper.   Marks where holes have been punched in the wall.  The door frame where the kids' heights have been etched.  All of it familiar and comfortable.

And now there are no more kids tracking in mud and leaving finger prints everywhere.  No more reminding little boys to "aim straight".   No more rushing the kids out the door to catch the school bus.    No more asking if homework has been finished.  No more groups of teens eating pizza around our kitchen table.   No more "comfort zone" in the basement.

I will remember all of the birthdays and Thanksgivings and Christmases and La Leche League meetings and baby showers.   And all of the people  who have been in this house, our home, who are no longer living.  Chet, my stepfather.  Dale, my brother, Daddy my father, Mommy, my mother, Bob and Mary, my in laws and beloved grandparents of our five children.     Friends too.  And cats and dogs and even a couple of adorable ferrets.

This is life.  People come.  People go.  They say that to know love means to know loss.  I don't know who "they" are, but on this one I think they are right.

How many years worth of Christmas pictures do we have of our family, growing from the two children who moved into the house with us to the five now grown and moved out.  So many pictures in front of the fireplace.

Our new house has a fireplace.  Actually, it has two. Maybe our next Christmas card will just have the two of us, and Buddy the dog, sitting in front of our new fireplace.

I know that I will miss this house.  I will dream about it.  I still dream about houses we lived in over 30 years ago- that weren't ours to start with.

In a way, the grieving started over 20 years ago.  The first time one of our baby birds was grown up enough to live on her own.     They all followed.  Each in their own way and on their own schedule.   They (yup them again) say that's the way it is supposed to be.

It feels right and it feels wrong.  Or maybe not so much "wrong" as inevitable and unstoppable.  I cannot stop the earth orbiting the sun.  Nor can I hold onto my babies forever. 

For forty years now I have been a mother.   And I will be for the rest of my life.   Until I die, I will be the one person who has know each of my children longer than anyone else in the universe.  I felt that first flutter.  A gift I will always cherish.

Thank you life for presenting me with such amazing gifts.  Thank you house for so many memories, good and bad,  I think I will try to let go of the bad and hold onto the good.   Thank you Sherwood children.  Grown, but not done growing in your lives and experiences.  You have taught me so much about life and love and have brought me to understand what is important in life,'

Thank you Nick for sharing this house and our many other homes around the world.  Thank you for the next adventure.

Oh my, what are we getting into with this big, new house?     There will be our fussing and frustration while we figure things out.  But there will be warm evenings and lots of laughing.  We do make each other laugh, even more as we get older.

No wonder the kids all moved out.  They realized how "lame" we are!