I remember a blue canvas dress and a hideously maroon polyester graduation gown. Most of us had “99” on our mortar boards in medical tape. I’m not sure why medical tape, probably a first aid kit was all we had access to. I didn’t grow up in the town of my high school and though my years there were somewhat happy, I was not loath to leave it the following autumn to attend college elsewhere. Every few years since that day I’ve made another major move. State to state, across the country, across the ocean. Every move since has been hard.
It’s almost that time again. This will be the fifth time Alex and I ball up our roots and transplant. After three lovely and stretching years in Oxford, we will return to America at the end of the summer and begin again. Our departure is in about eight weeks. I can feel it ticking toward me most days. It doesn’t make much external difference in our lives yet, except we’ve begun the process of preparing the children and we’re a little more conscious of how we spend the weekend. As the London-to-Boston flight approaches it becomes more difficult to be fully where I am. Why is it that knowing we’re leaving a place makes us start to withdraw our capital? There is an internal pulling back, a shifting of our eyes forward. I do this involuntarily. I don’t want to–I want to savor this place and the relationships we have here, because they are good, good gifts and because it is a way of reminding myself that God will provide new ones.
Where I come from in middle America, saying goodbye is not an action, it’s a process. You begin the farewell gestures many, many minutes before you truly wish to depart. (It is wise to start directly after dinner, so as to be home before midnight.) Traitor though I am to my midwestern roots, I don’t like long goodbyes. (I don’t like any goodbyes. But especially dramatic ones.) I prefer for you to hug me and walk off chuckling. I want you to lie and say you’ll see me soon, or at least that you’ll see me later. Leave and forget your sunglasses and come back sheepishly. I’ll tell you that I’ll call when I get wherever I’m going and you save up something to tell me. It doesn’t matter what it is because the point of the call is to comfort me that our friendship goes on, that you’re still right there, that the world is so much smaller than it used to be.
I’ve done a spot of thinking lately about making moves and changes. I seem to be thinking about it all the time, usually against my will. It’s just there–always underneath. I could talk to you for two hours on this subject, longer if I actually know you. Maybe I feel a series coming on. Thoughts on leaving and starting again . . .
For CHB, who really did forget her sunglasses, with love!