Today we celebrate ONE year in Maryland. One year ago today I was up at the crack of dawn, to continue packing the unfathomable amount of rubbish we were going to load into a dreadfully undersized moving truck with only a handful of people to help. This moving trip turned out to be a lot more stressful than the previous one – where I actually had twice the number of hands on deck and had to pluck every last one of my belongings off the lawn and back deck of my former marital home (the ex thought it was nice of him and his buddies to “get a head start” on getting my stuff out of the house).
One year ago today, Ava and I were bringing up the rear of our cavalcade from Pennsylvania to Maryland, me with tears in my eyes and Oliver with bile in his little kitty throat. It’s no secret I never thought I’d move to Maryland. It had been a subject of much debate during the divorce proceedings and the custody battle that followed. Todd owned a house, a big house, in a good school district not too far from our present home, and he felt the move was an economically sound decision. I flat-out said no thank you. Aint gonna happen. The ex had a much more colorful, and slightly more vehement, response.
As time went by, however, after thousands of miles of back-and-forth driving, numerous conjugal overnights at the in-laws, dwindling cashflow, a delinquent tenant, and failed attempts to sell the house, it became indisputably clear that we had one option left (well, there was always foreclosure and bankruptcy – but, really, that is not really an option). Believe me – I was adamantly opposed to moving south. I’m not a big fan of change – as I think most people are – so it doesn’t seem surprising that I wanted no parts of leaving my little town and moving away from everything familiar. I sold the idea to the kids as being a good move for all of us, and all the reasons why, but inside I was crying and fighting against the inevitable.
One year ago I was watching my new neighbor and her son carrying things in, unpacking my kitchen boxes and putting everything away in such a thoughtful way I’m still not sure I have adequately thanked her. One year ago, I didn’t meet eyes with my husband once before midnight. One year ago I was still fighting that internal battle of “no, I don’t want this.” One year ago, on day 2, my mom brought us our 2 dogs to finally reside with us. The stress of the move had yet to wear off, I was still tied up in knots over the kids’ first day of school, and the house was still a mess. I was so not ready for the dogs, who were smelly, and anxious, and … in heat.
Fast forward one year. We are settled into Todd’s house – our home – the kids have been in their new schools over a year now, and it is as though this is where we have always been. This school year we started on the first day like everyone else, and everything is decidedly familiar and there are no more butterflies. We know what time the bus comes, and we know our way around school, and we know where to find our friends. I still feel disconnected to the schools. It’s different here – where I really don’t have the camaraderie of my Mom’s Club friends like I once did. I attended the elementary school Open House last week and, as I walked down the hall to Ava’s new homeroom, I found myself missing my Open House partner-in-crime, Joyce. I miss giggling with her over the faculty presentation and hanging out in the school afterward til they shut the lights off as an invitation for us to leave.
I thought it would be hard, going back to the old town – since the ex still lives there and we must bring the kids up to him every week. I thought the kids would have a hard time. Instead, I have found I miss it less and less, until it now no longer feels like home. Home is here. And for the kids, home is where I am. Serendipitously, I read a quote this morning that someone sent me – that home is not a place, but where your love is. (I’m sure this isn’t an exact quote, so hopefully I didn’t skewer its meaning too much.)
Meanwhile, all the things that seemed such daunting tasks, like finding new doctors, and places to shop, and activities to jump into have melted away. My son can walk safely to his bus stop, my daughter can ride her bike up and down our cul-d-sac, the occasional kid drops by to play, the dogs can run the backyard without supervision, and the neighbors are friendly and accessible. We were invited to a neighborhood Christmas party and, while I’ve never been a fan of inserting myself into parties where I know no one, I found myself so comfortable by the grace and warmth of our hosts. Ava is playing field hockey this fall and has decided to take up the clarinet, and Owen is anticipating a jump into basketball this winter. Everything seems to have fallen into place.
One year later, I still have unpacked boxes behind the couch in the living room. I’m still searching for that “x-y-z” that I know we have somewhere. Omg – where’s my Prince movie poster? I finally found it about a month ago. Other things continue to turn up, while others go missing in this enormous space we four occupy now. We have recently begun more improvements, like painting the rec room a new, warmer color, and added an area rug. My office is almost finished, just in time for me to find a job, as I have very nearly finished the course I was taking for what seemed like 14 years. And, after 8 months of procrastination, I finally got my Maryland driver’s license. I am officially a resident of somewhere other than PA – even when I lived in New York I never changed my license.
Money is still tight, as it is for everyone, but we are managing much better from this vantage point. I no longer feel like an intruder in a state I never wanted to live in; I feel comfortable, and at home. What once seemed like an implausible, impossible change – what everyone close to us said was going to be the best thing to happen to us (insert Tara’s eye roll here) – is a waking reality each morning when I open my eyes to see my first love by my side, and the most stunning sunrises off my back deck that seemed to have jumped from the pages of a magazine. On a recent, solitary drive north to pick up the kids, I realized that I no longer feel the pangs of change when I reenter my old neighborhood. I no longer feel like I’m missing something. I realized that going home was something wonderful, and that home was somewhere I once felt wasn’t. And I realized that everyone was right.