Seeing that this is my fourth attempt to tackle this topic, it's fair to say that I'm having a difficult time conveying the emotional turmoil associated with our decision to return to Utah. For me, writing is easiest when it's propelled by one emotion. With that being said, I blame my current aversion to blogging on my vacillating mood. Two minutes into typing, an unexpected feeling surfaces and demands to be dealt with. I apologize in advance for my messy thoughts. The contrast in emotion confuses and frustrates me. And while my head is advising that I keep my feet rooted in denial, my heart inexplicably requires that I owe it to who knows what that I record the memory of saying goodbye - no matter the incoherency.
The happiness attached to the permanent reunion to family is obvious. On the flip side, saying "goodbye" to a batch of friends that were nothing short of heaven sent stings beyond measure. And while we loved our home, the beautiful weather, the entertaining accent and endearing Southern catch phrases, it's the relationships formed that we grieve for most. Forgive me if I sound like a want-to-be shrink, but I'm doing my best to delay the "coping process." Instead, I'm pretending that we're in Utah on vacation. In a matter of days we'll be collecting the necessities for our airplane carry on items in preparation for our return back to that happy little Boiling Springs life.
Sharing the news of Andrew's upcoming job interview with my Mom was an early Christmas present. The anticipation surrounding the interview process was thick and exciting. However, after wrapping up an encouraging conversation with her, it wasn't long until I found myself on the phone with Michelle. Suddenly I was issuing statements of pessimism that this job wouldn't work out, that it was simply interview experience that we were gaining and that our plans to vacation at the beach in a couple months would most definitely come to pass.
January came and Andrew departed for Salt Lake. As he shared the positive feedback with our parents firsthand, my friends were spending their weekend date night playing games with me. Knowing I was juggling the kids on my own, they provided the mental outlet I needed which reaffirmed for the zillionth time the awesome nature of our bond.
At Church, following the final interview, Michelle approaches Andrew in the hallway.
"Hey Andrew. I hear the interview went well." She says. Pausing to shift her expression from a smile into an unfriendly glare she exclaims,
February I experienced for the first time the "joy" of getting a home ready to show. The emotional roller coaster of selling a home began. An appointment for a buyer to walk through would be made. We'd rejoice. The frenzy we felt to ensure its perfection masked the tedious and repetitive tasks of dusting, vacuuming and toilet bowl scrubbing. I'll never forget how it felt to get a call requesting to see the home on short notice. They wanted to come within the hour. I pleaded for more time and was given 30 additional minutes. Holding true to a promise that I'd never deny a showing, I frantically called my husband and begged him to head from work early. My kids were troopers as I full on neglected them during those moments of preparation (read: HYSTERIA).
Even with the black for sale sign in our front yard, I opted to ignore the huge change that was looming on the horizon. Eliza still had preschool. Doctor appointments and trips to the dentist were still on our schedule. The Bachelor was still on every Monday night. You get the idea.
March arrived. The fact that time was running out could no longer be ignored. I picked Eliza up from preschool for the last time.
final outings to the Greenville zoo and children's museum came and went.
I bid farewell to the Rowdy Readers (my awesome book club) and indulged in two nights out with my lady friends. The night we went to Fatz Cafe, I was given a beautiful charm bracelet that serves as a reminder of their friendship. In true, Ali "Let's make this as awkward as possible" Flegal fashion, I went around the table and shared a memory or something I admired about each of the 15 women who were there. The age spectrum of these friends ranged from early twenties to mid sixties. It was a great night.
The fun continued the following weekend when a few friends and I went out for pedicures before joining our husband's at Outback. Games at our house followed. I suppose I ought to mention that in between dinner and games, we received a call from the babysitter that Colby threw up on Henry (awesome!), but I want to keep up with the illusion that our fairy tale life was absolutely drama-free so I'll spare you the details.
Another "going away" highlight included a dinner at the Kitchen's home. Dale and Loranna are a great couple and we're lucky to count them as friends. We were socially spoiled and perfectly supported by these associations.
If you're familiar with my blog, you are familiar with the Blasers. Michelle was the first best thing about living in South Carolina. Her status of "being the best thing" in terms of friendship and support held firm. Pretty sure I'd give an arm and a leg to have them in Utah with us. Considering my "profession," those appendages are dearly valued. Basically, that's a really terrible way of saying that the Lord preserved one of my greatest friends for life in the South. The first day we met, we learned that she and I grew up a few minutes from each other. Months later, she was looking through a high school scrapbook and discovered an old flame in one of my dance pictures. Small world. Still, our paths weren't meant to cross until 2008.
Her zest for life gave me the confidence I needed to venture out with my two small children. Together we conquered story time, Mom's club activities, park outings, Monkey Joes, McDonalds, shopping malls, Costco (you get the idea). To be fair, occasionally we suffered through these activities based on our children's behavior but it was always manageable and enjoyable because I knew she had my back. To have a friend know me so well and STILL answer when I call is priceless. Jimmy, her mate, was likewise one of my favorite people to hang out with. What a gem of a guy. I'll never forget the time he rescued me from a Walmart parking lot after locking myself out of my car. He also taught me that there's "no crying in baseball." Thanks Jimmy. I'll try my best to forever avoid that sport.
Michelle's objective in life is to have fun and help everyone. She is down to earth, talented in all things craft, was one amazing Primary president and the coolest Mom ever. If you find yourself far away from family and adjusting to something entirely new; pray for your Michelle Blaser to come into your life. Sorry, though. You can't have mine.
I feel like a lost puppy. When I wake up and think through my day, I wonder what Michelle and company are up too. This still crosses my mind. For a moment, I lie to myself and wonder when we can get our kids together. That's when the ache returns.
Another moment of sadness passed with the arrival of our vehicles. I saw the number "28" on the wind shield of my van that was used this year to indicate that I was Eliza's Mom when picking her up from preschool and immediately that lump in my throat returned. Here's another lame trigger. A new Chik-Fil-A (a true Southern symbol) opened nearby. I met with family there for lunch last week. Sad thing was, I couldn't find those four blond haired boys in the play area. I knew I'd miss Michelle, but what's caught me off guard is my attachment to Talon, Colby, Nate & Clay.
Michelle and Jimmy reminded Andrew and me of the importance of dating. With their encouragement we hired babysitters and spent weekends laughing and enjoying a few hours away from the kids. Through them, we came to know and love the Fletchers - a family we'd always admired and respected. But oh. They're awesome. Chris Fletcher is someone I wish I'd bonded with a year sooner. She's a great listener. And when I needed it, she had the advice I needed. Not to mention, she has one of the best laughs on planet earth.
Michelle and I continued to put off the final goodbye. When the Blaser's came over for the last time, I had to fetch my sunglasses (9:00 pm. at night) to hide my ever leaky eyes. The kids carried on as usual, not completely aware that this usual play-date was their last for awhile. Because she's one of the most thoughtful people on planet earth, she left us with these parting gifts.They drove away a little after nine. And then I fell apart.
"I thought she wanted to move home" I heard Andrew say to his Mother. In his voice, I could hear that, "I just can't win with her" tone.
Earlier that day, I'd picked Teresa up from the Greenville airport. She was kind enough to help the children and me with our flight. Watching her interact with Lottie as we made our way to the airport was the balm my aching heart craved. Her presence not only aided in the tricky logistics involved when flying with three small children, but was a physical reminder of why we were giving up a life that had been so rich with blessings.
And while our friends were an important facet of our life's happiness, there are other pieces to our story that deserve mention. Our Church provided great moments of joy. Clearly, I'm a sap. I won't deny it. However, I have to say that Andrew has also had his moments of crazy. On the morning of his release from the Young Men's program, he kind of had a meltdown. Imagine the emotion surging through a girl's camp testimony meeting and times it by 10. That was my sweet husband. He loved the boys he worked with.
The preschool co-op I was apart of was a definite accomplishment for me. The effort put into those lessons and the fun we had made me proud of the work I was doing as a Mom. I want to feel that again and hope to find a group of women as dedicated to share in another experience like that for Henry this fall. Loranna, Amber, Becky (hollah!), Michelle and Stephanie became great friends through that experience.
Our home.I don't know how to articulate the feelings I have for our home. I loved it and the memories that were created there. It's where Henry learned to walk, Lottie came home from the hospital, family and friends came to visit, we fed the missionaries, we grew a garden, we built snowmen, ran through sprinklers and got to know our neighbors.
Like Germany, I had to learn to rely on Andrew for just about everything. I feel comfort knowing that he can relate to the mixture of emotions I'm experiencing. He shared this with me. He witnessed this chapter of my life. He held my hand through hard times and jumped up and down with me during the moments of triumph. Together we're raising a family. And we really got the hang of it in South Carolina.
His continued success in the workplace ought to have been mentioned on the blog, but his humility over things like promotions and pay raises prevented such posts. He did the impossible by finding a job to move us back home. His work ethic puts me to shame and I really kick myself at times when I find myself guilty of taking such a person for granted. I truly love him and find courage knowing that this next chapter will be spent loving and challenging one another as before.
The feelings of sadness are unavoidable. In a strange way, I'm grateful. To me, these emotions testify to the fact that we did our best with the time we had in South Carolina. And while returning to Utah was always part of our "plan" - there are times when it feels like it was premature. The experience came and went in a blink. It's shocking to see how they have grown and changed since 2008. Henry was younger than Lottie is now when we left. They are the reason we decided to act on this opportunity to return to Utah.
In South Carolina, I would spend hours on the phone with my Mom. I would detail the humorous conversations I had with my children, the unfortunate public tantrum or the mundane occurrences of the day. And now, I feel great pleasure as I overhear my Mom share a funny Eliza-ism with another member of our family. She was there, firsthand, to enjoy her say:
"Mom, I never want my dreams to come true." The children were watching Cinderella. In the background I hear Cinderella singing, "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes." Feeling surprised and a little sad at her declaration, I quickly ask:
"Because, at night, I have the scariest dreams ever!"
I had to smile yesterday when she told me that she wanted Lottie because, "she hadn't had a chance to hold her all day." After months of not having a chance to hold her, I love that it's a daily thing.