One month ago we picked up and left Los Angeles, a place
we’d called home for over 10 years, and moved across the world to Hong Kong
where my husband has been working away from us for the past year. We’d been doing a long distance thing for far
too long, so the idea of having us all together was always the light at the end
of the tunnel, no matter how much we wanted to stay in L.A. or how much we’d
miss our families in the U.S., and no matter how we really felt about our new
surroundings in the end.
The whole process was fairly hasty. From the moment we
decided to make the move to touchdown in Hong Kong, it all happened within the
space of three months. People learning about
our move would always say, “Wow-so you’re just picking up and leaving?”
No. Picking up and leaving sounds like we picked up a tidily
packed suitcase in one hand and an umbrella in the other, with a smile on our
faces and with neatly pressed clothes, and jumped onto the plane with a Colbie
Caillat song playing merrily in the background as we waved goodbye from the
window seat. Not so much.
It was more like we scrambled to condense 10 years of life
collections, which turned out to be mostly crap we didn’t need, into 20 4x3
boxes and whatever we could take with us as checked luggage. This process consisted of hastily
throwing things in boxes to haul on a road trip to my parents’ place, then
putting the things that were too big to store on Craigslist (and taking way too
little for the items just to get rid of them), and then just giving away insane
amounts of stuff that we could have sold or stored had we been more
organized and had we gotten our shit more together.
But somewhere above Japan ... the reality of our move set in. I pulled the blanket up around my face and started to cry.
And then it was a race to the airport in two
cars at 11 p.m. and a crying, hungry toddler that we
were feeding Sun Chips to at the check-in counter because we didn’t have time to grab a proper meal
before the flight. We ran half a mile (I swear) through the terminal to our
gate only to find that we forgot to take the diapers out of the luggage, so we ran (again) from airport store to airport store to find diapers that ended up
being two sizes too small. Then we lumbered onto the very BACK of the plane. So no, no Colbie Caillat
song. More like the Circus song. Or any song by Rob Zombie.
But somewhere above
Japan, as I sat with a blanket pulled up around me, staring at the airplane graphic
hovering over Osaka on the screen, while the whizzz of the airplane drowning
out all noises but the muffled chit chat of the flight attendants from the bay
behind me, it all hit me. The reality of
our move set in.
I pulled the blanket up
around my face and started to cry. There
wasn’t one emotion pushing through me. It was like a flash flood of emotion crashing through my body and
dislodging old fixtures of emotion along the way. All at once, I felt sad, anxious, angry, happy,
scared and manically excited. All the emotions, along with the exhaustion, crashed together into tears. And it felt good to face the moment. For the next
10 minutes, I just let the tears flow.
Motherhood is often about rising to challenges, stretching yourself and overcoming your own fears to instill confidence in your children.
I pulled the blanket away from my face, wiped my
sweaty, tear-ridden face with the palms of my hands, and looked over at my family
of sleeping bears. My 2-year-old lay sideways, legs over one armrest, her head partially on my thigh, out cold. My husband looked like a dental patient
under heavy anesthesia, mouth wide open and drooling. And my 12-year-old son lay forward with his head and arms on the tray table, hoodie up,
headphones on. And I had one of those insanely uplifting, prickly-skinned,
clear-headed moments that just screams for a Coldplay song to accompany it. It
was simply a moment of pure gratitude.
For the past three months, I’d been focused on all the
preparation, on the worries about how my kids would adjust to living in a new
country, about all the living arrangements and logistics, about adjusting to
the new culture, about all the goodbyes. And even though I’d spent many years
parenting my now 12-year-old son as a single mother, away from any family, the
idea of being 16 time zones away from any form of familiar support group was a
whole new ballgame, and it had been giving me heavy doses of anxiety.
But as I
sat, awake by myself, at hour 11 of that slightly musty smelling flight, I
couldn’t think of anything but how much I loved these three people sprawled out
next to me and about how much this adventure, living in another country, so far
from everything familiar, would be good for us as a family. And on a personal
level, this whole journey would be good for me. It would be good for me on the
whole, but especially in my role as a mom.
I couldn’t wait to be my kids’ mother in this new international
adventure. I couldn’t wait to see new things along side them, to support them
and encourage them as they grow and widen their life perspective in this new
country. Sure, moving overseas brings an intimidating learning curve and
very unfamiliar territory, but I felt ready (at least in that moment) to take
Because motherhood is often about rising to challenges, stretching yourself and overcoming your own fears to instill confidence in your
children. It’s about exploring and defining more of
who you are through your journey of guiding and
teaching these little humans. And just as the words, “We are going to be JUST
FINE!,” giddily jumped out of my mouth, the fasten seatbelt light went on and
my daughter woke up, kicking and screaming something in Toddlerese that sounded
an awful lot like “Get me off this F***ING airplane.”
Yes, I thought—get us off this F****ing airplane! Because we’re ready for this adventure.