the saddest carnival

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Rowan was made for the packing life. Right now there are half-full boxes in every room just begging to be dumped and rifled through. He squeezes himself into the small spaces between stacks of boxes and bins, exhaling excited giggles that let us know he’s waiting to be found. Evelyn gnaws on box flaps and we play parachute with mattress protectors and it’s like the saddest carnival you ever did see.

I was not made for the packing life. I’m grateful for the constant distractions of my favorite toddlers because my packing stamina only lasts until we hit that point of diminishing returns, when we seem to be making more mess than progress and all we’ve managed to do is rearrange the piles. Oh look! The bed frame is now stacked vertically and the mattress is leaning against the wall beside it! The giant shelving unit has been rotated 90 degrees! All the things that were on the shelf are now in a pile on the dresser! Rowan and Evelyn are happy to provide the necessary silliness to break up the day and our many packing arguments. Nothing like mess and a deadline to bring out the best in everyone.

After a wonderful beach retreat on Saturday with Gabe and Kayla we spent the rest of the weekend sorting through rubbermaid tubs that haven’t been opened since the last move. There are piles for goodwill and the garbage and the mess multiplies, making every room feel claustrophobic and filling us with guilt about all of the stuff we’ve held onto through all these moves. The kids must think this is some kind of a jubilee month in which we return to them all the objects that have been pulled from their pudgy hands and set upon high shelves. They gleefully ransack our piles, making off with the contraband to be squirreled away in every dark corner of the house. Yesterday when it got too quiet I found Evelyn crouched behind a chair licking a tupperware lid. Rowan was sitting in the dark in the bathroom using the toilet brush to comb his hair.

Of course, all our usual chaos continues on and we are too exhausted to be bothered. When I went to change their sheets on Sunday (a task that hasn’t happened in…since whenever they last puked in bed. May, maybe? I know. It was disgusting.) I found a cookie sheet and a whisk under Rowan’s crib, along with the remote, an empty lime juice bottle, an empty Craisins bag, the baby monitor and a tylenol syringe. Today I watched Evelyn shove some socks, a plastic wrapper, wipe, shoe and another syringe into a puffs container. Preserving the treasures, I guess. They know mama’s in a purging mood!

And yet, in less than three short weeks we will be in our new home. The moving van will have been returned and we’ll be surrounded by all of the same chaos in a new place. I feel so grateful to have kids in these transitions times. The paralyzing loneliness that often follows a move can be so intense, especially in the waiting days before the new job or school program begins. I’m grateful for the rhythm that toddlers give us. We’ll be up by 7 after that first night in the new house. There will be two hungry babies so the kitchen will quickly be put in order: high chairs assembled, sippy cups unpacked and set beside bowls of cheerios and bananas. Five minutes later and all of that will be smashed in a pile on the floor and so we’ll clean that mess and move on to the other rooms, sweeping and dusting and anchoring bookshelves and unpacking clothes. These kids remind me to pause and soak it all in too, as they settle in for naps we’ll have time to shower and eat and make new plans and dream about paint colors and where to hang out favorite pictures.

When we moved to Toronto and then again back to Chicago Ridge it was just the two of us and the lonely void; waking up each day to the sea of boxes, trying to summon the ambition to make a new life. I’m sure that feeling will come. When Rob and Bonnie head home after a few days and almost everything is in order and it looks like home I know I’ll wonder how long it will be before it feels like home. And what will this new season mean for us?

I know I’ll feel the same ache for friends and purpose and community. I’ll spend a few nights aimlessly working on job applications, trying to learn how people juggle childcare and benefits and two working parents with one car. We’ll take lots of walks to the park and I’ll smile at my new neighbors and hope that one of them might become the kind of friend that I can someday just pop in on, unannounced, because my house is a disaster and I just need to breathe for a minute and share a few sentences with another adult.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of what this adventure looks like through the twins’ eyes and I marvel at the freedom and opportunity to move to a new place and put down new roots and start our lives all over again. They are endlessly optimistic even when their world is turned upside-down, the change in routine is a welcome adventure!

But for me the days are ticking off one by one and I’m not ready. We have so much to cram into these last two weeks – much-loved people to see and places to visit and a million doctors appointments and I’m caught between the longing to check things off my to-do list and this desperate need to just sit for hours and soak up time with old friends. Of course, like most things in life we have to do both so I’m trying to lean into what’s coming even while I keep one foot here, firmly planted in this home and these friends who have known Drew and I before we were ‘we’, and all the people who have come into our lives since. Our people. And they will be our people, even in a new place. Even when we open our lives to find those new people who will become ours. The ones who will make leaving Lexington in 5 years seem near impossible for all the memories and love we’ll have shared.

When I was in 4th grade we moved to Colorado. We left our tiny town in New Hampshire with great fanfare, setting out for the great unknown in the wild west. But when we arrived I was one of three new kids joining the class after spring break, replacing several who had left since christmas. In the Springs everybody was transient and adaptable, military families who were uprooted every three years and sent to locations far more exotic than the foothills of the rockies. Many of my classmates had already moved two or three times in their short lives, and many of them had lived out of the country! They easily settled into our to our new surroundings and made friends quickly. Not me. I was clueless and lonely and sharing a bedroom with my brothers, desperate for friends. I remember the day I wore my new white bike shorts and Espirit tee to school, wanting so badly to fit in with these outdoorsy colorado kids who didn’t wear jumpers or patterned tights or lands end clogs. When the most popular boy pointed out my hot pink flowered underwear could be clearly seen through my shorts, I tied my neon windbreaker around my waist and retreated to the sidelines with a book and hot tears. But, in school you have kind teachers who help you find a place. Teachers who give you space and then gently nudge you towards the other misfits who welcome you with open arms. In adulthood you have your devoted and long suffering spouse to cheer you on and you have your kids who beg to go outside and to the library and on playdates, forcing you to, at the very least, put yourself out there. But for the hard work of making friends you’re on your own, double checking your reflection in the mirror before you head out to make small talk with whoever you might meet at the park and church and the grocery store.

But it’s going to be ok. Right? And in five years I’m going to be overwhelmed with all my feelings about leaving and how will we start over and who will be our people and how will it ever compare! Sigh. Any suggestions about the best places to meet the other misfits?

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One thought on “the saddest carnival

  1. I love this post!

    Totally resonate with the loneliness of starting something new – I really hope it will be even better than expected! Sending prayers!

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