|Community kids' pool in our small town's park.|
Nearly thirteen years; that's how long we've owned our small 1920's white stucco house. Jason and I were married in 1999 and bought this sweet little home the month after we got married. We had no business buying a house, but we wanted to put down roots right away and make a life together. We used every dollar we had in our bank account (most of it received as gifts from our wedding) for the small FHA down payment. I remember sitting down to sign the papers with the cash in my purse; the closer told us how much we owed and it was just $100 less than what we had. We frivolously spent the rest on a celebratory dinner, and then drove to our new home, keys in hand, and jumped up and down on the 'FOR SALE' sign.
All of our children have been born here. I remember being pregnant with Owen - was that really nine years ago? - and Jason worked hard all one day to surprise me with a newly painted nursery. Why I chose bright lime green is beyond me. But it was beautiful at the time to me and the gesture was very sweet. He and I were both working long hours at our jobs, and had little time together since we worked opposite shifts. Later when I was pregnant with Abby, Jason and I decorated her room in flower fairies. I remember staying up late one night with him laughing/crying/laughing over an Ikea crib that we struggled to put together, despite the 'easy-to-read' picture directions. And then Kellen. This little guy hasn't had a room to himself yet; just a sweet little crib in the room with me. With Jason gone this past year in Baghdad, it was so good having the little babe in the room with me for late night feedings and cuddles.
Thirteen years, minus the one year we were in Los Angeles. But we knew we would be returning here; we knew Jason would be going to Baghdad and the kids and I would be heading back to Ohio almost as soon as we arrived in Los Angeles. This time, the move will be different. We won't be back. It's hard realizing that home will no longer be home. What will be "home" after all our next posts?
We spent yesterday at the pool. Our small little town has a kid's pool at the park. High school seniors run the park in the summer and lifeguard at the pool and run kids activities in the community center. Abby and Owen are practically fixtures at the park, arriving as soon as they fill the pool and staying until nearly sundown. I ran out and picked up some dogs at our favorite local 'Hot Dog Shoppe' and we had a picnic in the park. Then a couple of games of tag in the pool. Kellen enjoyed the pool, splashing and grabbing at the pool toys. The kids are just so glad to have Daddy home.
Jason and I returned back to the house and Kellen took a nap. I laced up my sneakers and went for a run. I saw Abby as she was still playing in the park; she waved and blew me kisses as I passed by. I turned left at the same road I always turn on and I snaked my way through the residential area and then to a busier street, past the pizza shop and past the Dairy Queen. How many times have we ordered pizza from there? How many times have the kids and I walked to the Dairy Queen for a treat? I continued my run up the hill, past the gas station I always fill-up at. Further up the hill to where the trees thin out and the sun beats down hotter. It was humid and buggy and I was suddenly reminded of the weather patterns I'm not so fond of here in Ohio. But I run in it anyway. Along the top of the hill, past the water tower, and the kids' school. Where Owen and Abby both started Kindergarten, but where Kellen will never attend. Where I volunteered with the PTO and worked book fairs and led a couple of craft classes for the kids, despite my lack of craftiness.
I made the turn to head back down the hill and eventually past the park again. Abby was back in the pool, and she stood and waved and blew me kisses so frenetically that you'd think she hadn't seen me in years. I ran past our neighbors' houses; Abby's BFF who lives across the street; Owen's friend who lives down the hill; the neighbors on either side of us who've lived here as long as us, and the neighbor and his wife across the street who have lived here for many many more years than us. Owen ran out of the house and hopped on his bike to head off to see some friends. Kellen awoke and he and Jason and I sat out on the front porch and enjoyed the smell of our neighbor's grill nearby.
Jason's been home from Baghdad now for two weeks; it honestly feels more like a vacation, not like reality. He's home with the kids everyday and I pick up a few shifts at the ER here and there. But the wait to move to post and the chaos with organizing packout and passports and visas and the shopping trips to get the items we'll need next post so interrupts regular life - no, actually engulfs regular life! - and makes everything else feel surreal. And reminds us that we just don't belong here anymore.
Owen is enjoying the summer but asked the me the other day if I think he'll make friends in Egypt. "Of course, sweetheart, you make friends everywhere you go," I said. And he does. But I know he's a little nervous. Abby is scared and excited all the same time, too, and worries she won't make friends as good as the ones she has here. I know I'll miss my besties, too. But I also know that I'll make some great friends everywhere we go. Someone mentioned to me that with technology nowadays it's so much easier to keep in constant contact with friends now, and she's right. That is a bit of a comfort, too.
Yesterday was a good day for me to say goodbye to those things here that I love. Because it's the last time it's going to feel anything like "normal". The next four weeks are going to be hectic; we're camping this coming week; next week Jason and I have a nice (no kids!) mini-vacation to D.C.; the week after the kids will start school (only two weeks here in the States) and we'll do packout; the week later will be the aftermath of packout and final goodbyes to our friends and family. And then we fly out to Cairo. Truth is...I'm very excited, but a little nervous, too.