Wednesday, June 30, 2021

preparing for the next goodbye

All our stuff got boxed up and crated and sent by air and sea across the globe at the end of May. Since then we've been "glamping" in our apartment with mattresses on the floor, picnic blankets in the living room and the select toys I held back scattered everywhere. Our boys seem particularly loud and wild these days without the rugs and furniture to soften the chaos they create. Every time we Facetime my folks, the "HI NANA! HI PAWPAWs" echo in the empty space and I can sense them looking at me a bit sideways about the way we've chosen to live for nearly 2 months.  We try to be out of the house most of the day and with the splash pads and pools and friends to keep us busy it's working out okay... although T.J. and I might have some bad habits of our own to break like snacking in bed at 8pm.  It's worth it though if all our planning and hoping works out and our stuff is waiting for us once we finally arrive at our new home. 

And where might that be you ask? 

Tennessee! 

After a lot of jerking around by the Army they finally settled on a spot for us at Fort Campbell, which is technically in Kentucky but we'll be living just over the border in tender Tennessee. Just a car ride away from our family, a first for us in over seven years.  I am so excited. It's a state that I've always claimed as a part of me even though I never lived there myself. My dad grew up there though and we spent countless summers and Christmases in the Smoky Mountains, which I'm so excited to introduce to my boys. It just feels right that I get to add this state to the list of places in my life I've called home. 

Will has never been in the U.S. of A before. He walks around in this trucker hat that my father in law sent him from Tractor Supply. It reads Farm Raised across the brim and Will just loves it but it could not be further from the truth for this Seoul born, high rise living, expat baby of ours.  I get a little emotional when I picture that "Welcome to the United States of America" sign along with family, fresh air and freedom waiting for us at the airport at the end of what will surely be the longest travel day of my life.... 

Tommy asks not infrequently where such and such toy or random household item is and I remind him they're on a big boat on their way to his new home. He gets a bit annoyed that we're not going to Nana and Pawpaw's house this very minute but mostly he seems excited although I know he doesn't really fully understand what all this big move entails. When we talk about our new home I'm positive his sweet innocent heart believes that our friends and neighbors here will also be there and oh how I desperately wish that were true. I'm so sad for me and what I have to say goodbye to here but even more sad for him because I know it will be more of a shock once it's settles in that we're not going back, or that his little friends don't live just upstairs, and they won't be down at the playground. 

I try to hype up all the new exciting things in store to distract from the hard questions I don't know how to answer for a three year old or even myself. We have a rental house we signed for sight-unseen back in April. It has a yard and a play room. The boys can just walk out the backdoor and play outside, and I'll be able to unload groceries straight from my car into the kitchen.  No wagons or elevators required for either of those things and two things I will never take for granted again. Add to that the proximity to grandparents and it's all sounding like a major win!  

I know he'll make new friends (and so will I, but man I found some good ones here) and quickly because that's who he is but this move feels a lot different than the last one when we left Washington. Will was born here, Tommy's more connected here, heck we're all more connected here. To this strange, wonderful small-town community. It's been the biggest blessing, the most precious absolute best part of our experience in Korea, but it's also what makes it so dang hard to leave. 

Of course the Army likes to help you in that department- so thoughtful like that. For every wistful moment spent dwelling on what we're leaving behind and wondering what it would have been like to stay just a little longer, the Army likes to give you a nice dose of reality in the way of hoops on top of more hoops to jump through. Heaven forbid we forget that random form that needs to be signed by a random government worker who keeps random unpredictable office hours, competing with two countries' holidays. Plus my car, my very first ever car and one of only two red Jeeps on the entire peninsula, has decided it will be laid to rest here in Korea. Every day something new goes, the AC is out, the key fob batteries are done, the trunk wont open. Every day it makes new strange sounds, death rattles.  So by the end of our time my feelings will probably be more like "can we just get the heck out of here already!?" 

But I know all the boxes will get checked, mostly because I married someone who is the opposite of me in knocking out those annoying painful to-do lists that I excel in procrastinating. Then all that will be left will be The Lasts. Last cafe mornings with girlfriends, last texts to meet at the playground later, last farewell neighborhood party. And then the day will come, though not before several dozen sweaty trips up and down the elevator with all our suitcases, and we'll leave our apartment, our home, for the very last time. 

Even now I still sometimes stop and amaze that it was here, we were here, South Korea, of all places, who'd have thought? And it's amazing how deeply and quickly roots can take hold. But we're yanking them out of the ground again and it's painful but I know we'll bloom and grow in the red clay soil of Tennessee.