I knew I would be giving some things up to make a big move away.
We sold the house and everything that was in it, but hell if that wasn’t a relief more than a shame, and always tempered with the spoken and un- “we’ll get new stuff, better stuff, just the right stuff.”
Better than a compromise: a fair deal. A blessing.
We sold the cars. “Where we’re going, we won’t even NEED a car!”
Trains are romantic. We could be in Paris by dinner. I’m sold.
And what’s more:
I wouldn’t have to give up my job to follow K’s, since I don’t have one. I wouldn’t have to give up quality medical care – it should end up being more affordable and accessible. I’d have the opportunity to learn a language in its native context. The kids could perfect theirs during these critical years.
Then we said goodbye to the people, my real home. And I knew right away that that was a Bad Deal. No substitutions, no exchanges, no facsimiles. There might be new friends, eventually, but there would be no better friends.
But it was too late.
We were leaving.
. . . . .
In the lead up to the flight over, all the clearing and cleaning and boxing and moving, I lost about 15 pounds and slept even less than usual. We had a series of hard deadlines to make, and with K working full-time and the boys in school, it meant I had a series of hard deadlines to make.
For the first time in my life, I often just forgot to eat. I was too busy.
After caring for an injured spouse on top of all the last-minute moving stuff (K fell and broke her elbow and sprained an ankle and sprained her other arm 2 days before closing on the house, 2 weeks before we had to fly), after caring for 2 small kids on fall break, after one more national holiday with my family, I was exhausted.
So naturally, one of the kids did not sleep for even one minute on the 8 hour overnight flight over. Which means I did not get to sleep any.
It was foreshadowing.
We landed on a Monday morning. K took those first 3 days off work, to help us get settled. Then she was in the office every day, and I had the boys, because there were no school spots for them. Advice from the school authorities: wait until mid-January, after the winter holidays. There will be spots then. (What, is Santa bringing them?)
Six weeks. 24/7/42. Plus the 9 days I’d just had them prior to leaving: 24/7/51.
There would be no rest.
There was navigating foreign currency and supermarkets and transit and language, endless couple’s administravia as we looked for our own apartment and finalized insurance and kept looking for school spots just in case, and trying to keep the monkeys from destroying our temporary apartment furnished with other peoples’ handmade treasures and glass-front closets.
Eventually, mid-January did come around, and we rushed to move into our own place the weekend before school started, since it had a more favorable commute.
The first week they were in school, I speed-shopped every day before picking them up, desperately trying to locate the basic necessities we needed to live independently in a naked space. Towels. Mugs. Extension cords.
The second and third weeks they were in school, I woke up and got them fed and dressed and saw them off, then went back to sleep until 10, 11, even 1pm. Hours I had not kept since college. I almost felt bad about it, but then I would think about the last 3-4 months of ass-busting and roll over and snuggle up and set an alarm so I’d be there for afternoon pickup.
And eventually, after a couple weeks, I just quit needing to go back to sleep. I could go out and see more of the city, source more things for the house, or even start to shop for new clothes, since I’d shrunk out of everything I’d brought. All the stores here are closed on Sundays, so all shopping has to happen Monday – Saturday or online.
I was starting to get the hang of it.
All told, I had six good, usable weeks. I visited one of the 60+ museums in the city. We got a cool bike to make the school commute faster and more fun, and the groceries easier, kind of. I was even starting to make a few friends, thanks to Saturday nights at a pub.
Until they canceled school, the evening of 13 March.
The beginning of the end. The other restrictions that they’ve added periodically since suck, too, but no-school is the ultimate hobble.
I’ll be drowned in children for six weeks, according to the initial closure period running to 20 April 2020. (Those jokers.) They won’t announce until after Easter if, or when, schools will reopen. I’m not stupid, though. Given the current rate of things, they can’t reopen the schools anytime soon.
However, our school year here is supposed to run until 3 July — longer than much of the US — before a six-week-long summer break. Is there still a chance they could go to SOME amount of school before being out for the summer break?
Because the thing is, that first “world’s longest fall break” almost killed me. It definitely left marks. I am not handling this March-April period with any degree of grace or poise. I am beaten down and surly.
Because here’s the reality right now:
I gave up all my things, then didn’t have time to replace 98% of them before all the stores closed. We don’t have enough mugs, and one of my little assholes drop-kicked a toy and knocked one of the six off the table and broke it a few days ago, RIGHT after I told him not to kick toys in the house. We don’t have enough forks. I really need new underwear. I only have one pair of sweatpants. I knew things would be different, but I didn’t think my life would be materially worse here. And so far, it is.
I don’t have my own bed. I sleep on a folding couch in the living room. I don’t have my own room, because “my room” is also everybody’s living and dining room — and now school room. At least back home, I had my own room, my own little bed.
While I am the full-time childcarer, my life is on hold. I cannot do anything else. This is partly my fault: I cannot multitask in the face of their constant interruptions. I can’t read, I can’t converse, I can’t plan, I can’t cook, I basically fail to function. We’re in a full reversion to the newborn period, living in 15-minute increments, but with much more backtalk. Everyday I am less of a person and more a slave to the role that the government and our domestic economy has decided for me. It is untenable.
Gluten-free stuff is a lot harder to find here. Labels are harder to read, and not just because they’re in a different language(s). Eating out is more trouble than it’s worth, except that I need the break from cooking once in a while.
The stress is driving my MS symptoms crazy. My back hurts again, something that had really mostly faded away (no: something I had driven away through a concentrated, sustained effort of lifestyle adjustments, diet, stress management, and occasional herbal medicines which I still have not been able to source here). My legs are stiff and twitchy; even my bladder’s playing at being more withholding than usual. The neurologist I finally got in to see last month had never heard of rituximab as an MS treatment. The university clinic that might actually be able to administer it (I’m due next month) hasn’t decided where to see me, since the regular hospital is being turned into a COVID ward. Hoping they call back before I vegetate.
I had signed up to start my first german course in early May (to run through October, with summer break off). No word from the provider on that yet, but I don’t see how it could possibly start before fall, since they’ll need to let the people finish from this spring first, etc. So that’s at least a few more miserable months of not knowing what the fuck is going on, or how to ask for what I need. And when you’re a person accustomed to knowing wtf is going on and how to ask for things, a few months feels like a really long time. All of this feels like a really long time.
Needless to say, we have not been to Paris by dinner. I was supposed to get a day and a night to myself last week in another city to see a show I could never see in the US (and buy the underwear I need at a 4-story Uniqlo there — equally exciting). K was supposed to take the boys for a few days next week to her sister’s in England so I could have a little staycation. Neither of those will happen.
And even if they do get rescheduled, one day, they will not be enough to make up for what’s conspired since. It’s not about keeping score but trying to find a balance, a rest point.
And things are so far out of balance. I’m turning 40 in just over a month, barely a year out from some of the worst months of my adult life, and damned if fortune didn’t say “hold my beer” and go big.
I just want to go home.