We have officially mailed a signed contract to California.
Al really, really wants this. He wants this even more after The Company came back with a second offer. I feel like I should be supportive, and he keeps saying things like, “We may never get an opportunity like this again. We should just take a chance on this. If we don’t at least try it, we may look back and really regret it.” Apparently, ten years from now, we will be “so happy we did this.”
So I keep telling myself we’re just trying it. That’s all. If we want to, we can come back.
Of course, in my imagination, I am putting my foot down — HARD — in spiky stilettos with red soles that I cannot afford. I could tell him this is not the right time, and that WE WILL NOT GO because I am pregnant and this is absolutely crazy and what the hell is he thinking? But maybe I should live somewhere I’ve never lived, just once in my life, and maybe I will really love it. So we’re just trying it.
Mostly, I’ve been pretty numb so far. It’s almost impossible to imagine what my life will be like three months from now, let alone ten years from now. Numbness for me is a pretty unusual emotion; I’m highly anxious by nature, extremely Type A, and yes, more than a little bit Control Freak. I should be flying off the handle at all times, according to my own personality — and I’m sure I will be once the movers are here shoving all my stuff into boxes.
That’s not to say I haven’t had my share of meltdowns already. A couple friends have seen the ugly crying, and my parents, and my husband. A week ago, I was driving with Peaches and started sobbing silently while we were stopped at a red light. She was in the back seat, of course, and I thought I was being TOTALLY SILENT, but she stopped singing and said, matter-of-factly, “Mommy sad.” Yikes. I haven’t let that happen since.
I am regularly surprised by the things that cross my mind and cause a breakdown (and pregnancy hormones, I’m sure you are not exempt from blame):
Look. I come from a land where students waiting for the bus in negative twenty-four degrees is not crazy. And yes, winter lasts about three months longer than it should. But we have sledding and snow boots and white Christmases, and those things are irreplaceably delicious. And when all that icy air starts to dissipate and you’re driving home from work one day and suddenly notice the very beginnings of green tree buds on bare branches, all that frigidity is totally worth it. That first sign of spring might be my favorite moment of the year. And in the fall, we get gorgeous colors and crisp air and bonfires and it actually smells like October.
I want that.
A place that is rumored to be seventy degrees all year long — plus or minus a few — scares me. I like my summers dripping-popsicle-y and my winters magical. I want Peaches to remember jumping into crunchy piles of leaves and running past trees that look like they’re on fire. I want her to know rain.
Another reason spring is so amazing: thunderstorms. Nothing else in the world is simultaneously so cozy and so terrifying. Sure, we might lose power every other time, but lighting candles and forcing ourselves to turn off the TV isn’t so bad once in awhile. Plus, when all the houses are pitch black, that’s when we can best see the incredible crackling light show.
My daughter is about as fearless as they come, but she is paralyzed by fireworks and the sound of popping bubble wrap, so yesterday I thought, “Oh, man. Spring is almost here. What should we do about all the thunderstorms?”
And then I stopped. I AM MOVING TO CALIFORNIA. I grappled for my phone and punched in our new zip code: Google told me we might get two thunderstorms EVERY FOUR YEARS. Cue the crying.
Mine, not hers.
3. Cider mills.
This is one of the happiest places on Earth, and something I’ve looked forward to every autumn for as long as I’ve been alive. It’s Michigan tradition to head to a cider mill or five throughout the fall months; there are hay rides and cinnamon donuts and freshly pressed cider and bees making honey and sometimes a corn maze. When my almost-sister-in-law — who is from SoCal — came to our gender reveal a few weeks ago, the topic somehow came up. “What’s a cider mill?” she asked innocently. What’s a cider mill? The Midwestern childhood I had envisioned for my family came crashing down around me. My children are going to grow up WITHOUT CIDER MILLS AND THUNDERSTORMS. Why the hell are we doing this again?
4. The mall.
I know that, somewhere in California, there is a mall. Probably a lot of really cool ones, actually, and outdoor malls too because, you know, weather. But it won’t be my mall, where my grandparents always parked near Sears and let me “run with the kids” when I was three (and then four…and then five). At my mall, I know the exact location of all my favorite stores without consulting the directory, and I know which times are best to shop if I want to avoid crowds. My mall is the place where Peaches sat on Santa’s lap for the first time when she was eleven months old. And there might be a Santa at the California mall, but there won’t be snow. So there’s that.
5. The grocery store.
I’m sure California is home to a plethora of wholesome grocery stores and fresh veggie markets. But the thing is, I’m sort of a Meijer girl. It’s a Midwestern thing — and again, there’s something sentimental about it. I even used to shop there with my parents when I was tiny. There’s a mechanical horse the kids can ride for one penny, and it has been there since the dawn of time. A PENNY. It’s one of my daughter’s favorite things. Best three cents I spend every Sunday.
While we’re talking about nature-related disasters, mmkay, this. Do you know how many earthquakes I can remember in Michigan? Zero. I’m pretty sure there have been a handful, but I certainly couldn’t feel them. I mean, we have tornadoes and stuff — and I actually did see one of those, live and in person, when I was eating dinner with some colleagues one June day. (Just a baby one, but still.) Tornadoes are destructive, yes, but there’s a beauty to them that makes people want to chase storms for a living. And you can hide in a basement.
People around here have basements. We just do. So imagine my surprise when we first started browsing California rentals online and realized NO ONE HAS A BASEMENT. What? Where do they store all their stuff? I understand environmental factors like clay soil and water tables. I’m just uncomfortable with it.
…Which brings me to the part of my list that isn’t completely irrational. The things that even a non-neurotic person might be bummed to leave:
9. My home.
This is the very first house I’ve ever owned, a symbol of my adulthood and the place we’ve lived for almost six years. Al and I bought this when we were still engaged. It was just a piece of land, and we got to decide everything from the ground up: the floor plan, the countertops, the color of the carpets and floors. We moved in just a few months after we got married. Al built the deck in the back with his own hands. We painted the nursery ourselves, and I went into labor here, and we brought our first child back to this house. It’s taken years to get everything just the way we like it, right down to the bathroom shelves and the spice rack in our pantry, and now we’re just going to turn our backs and abandon it like our very first home isn’t stuffed with memories. And yeah, that’s an actual rainbow. Because here, we have rain.
10. My doctor.
This caused the most serious breakdown yet. Even if I weren’t pregnant, moving requires you to find a new internist, a new dentist, a new pediatrician, and someone different to cut your hair (and for our semi-complicated family, we’ll need a new allergist, dermatologist, neurologist, prosthodontist, aesthetician, veterinarian, pet groomer, and a million other new people and offices and things).
Pregnancy seems to compound all of that. In this case, I’ll be about six months along by the time I fly to California for good. That doesn’t leave me a whole lot of time to find a doctor that I’ll trust to be between my legs by August.
About a week ago, I sat down in front of Google with the purest of intentions: search for a decent hospital, look for doctors associated with that hospital, and call to see if they’re accepting new patients. This led to a two-hour binge of reading one-star hospital reviews, and the only person I called was my mother. Sobbing.
The biggest complaint? Shared recovery rooms in the maternity wards with nowhere for husbands to sleep. This was not my experience with Peaches. I loved our hospital, and I was actually looking forward (!) to going back for Baby Number Two. I gave birth and recovered all in the same room. The nurses were wonderful. There was definitely a pull-out couch for Al. Instead, it’s looking more and more like I might spend my hospital nights alone — and by alone, I mean me with my wailing newborn, and a stranger and her wailing newborn, and all of her visiting family and friends (but not mine, because mine will all be back in Michigan) with only a curtain to separate us.
If you’ve ever had a baby, you know that you are basically topless for a good deal of your recovery-room time. You know that when the nurses are checking up on even one baby, sleep is basically impossible. You know that there are things coming out of places on your body that will require you to wear mesh underpants, and that it might be nice to have a private bathroom while all of that is going on. What I know is that I would like to experience this VERY UNCOMFORTABLE THING in a manner that is as comfortable as possible. The idea of a shared room makes this introvert curl up into my own fetal position.
11. My job.
I’ve been a high school teacher for eleven years. Twelve, if you count student teaching. Public education in general is definitely a broken system; as the years go on, more and more components are becoming unforgivable. But I’ve been at this for over a decade. It is a huge part of my identity. My colleagues are my best friends and my students are inspiring. I will be leaving a career that is openly frustrating in many ways, but fulfilling in so many more. And I will miss it. Deeply. (But not the part about waking up at five-thirty in the morning. Or the grading. I will definitely not miss the grading.)
12. My friends.
My heart breaks a little for the friendships I will leave behind. I’ll miss the hour-long daily talks with one of my closest people, who has helped to keep me semi-sane throughout this whole process. Another very good friend is having a baby in May, and I won’t be able to meet him — at least not for several months, until I’m able to travel with my own infant. Another might as well be family; we are often the only non-blood “relatives” at each other’s parties, and our children play and fight like cousins. There are wonderful people here who don’t mind seeing me cry and who make a six-hour girls’ night feel like twenty minutes and who just understand.
13. My family.
All my life, I imagined that my children would have the same close relationship with their grandparents as I had with mine. We grew up thirty miles away from my mom’s parents, and we saw them once or twice a week for the first twenty years of my life. Peaches adores her Grandma and Papa, and I’m not sure what she’s going to do without them around all the time.
I’m not sure what I’M going to do without them. This time, when I go into labor, my parents won’t be forty minutes away and poised to hop in a car at midnight. They will be too far away to come over when I have a fever and need help with the kids. There will be no more Taco Sundays or visits to the lake. If, God forbid, something happens to them, I will be 2,500 miles away. Nearly five hours by plane. That’s too much, I think.
I’m not trying to be a Negative Nancy. I’m just worried that I will be so, so lonely.
This list decides it: I’ll just have to take eighteen annual trips home, two weeks at a time. 😉 Then maybe this won’t be so bad.