Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Saying goodbye

There are things that being an expatriate prepared me quite well for, such as: trying new foods, being flexible in situations where I don’t feel completely comfortable, and making do with what is on hand. However, considering the amount of times we had to say goodbye (to friends and family in the US before moving to France, to new found friends who were moving on to other expat assignments/back home, to friends and family who came to visit us while in France, to those same dear people at the end of return trips to the US, to all of our new friends upon our move from Clermont-Ferrand back to Greenville), I assumed saying goodbye now would be easier.

photo credit: Gunārs L.
 
The holidays have brought a whole round of goodbyes, each harder than the last. First, the house emptied of my husband’s family who had come to celebrate Christmas with us, and although I found some consolation in the fact that the next round of guests would soon be here, the boys had a much harder time understanding where all their cousins went. From a full house of storytellers, laps to sit in, buddies to chase, friends to hug, all of the sudden they had only me – overwhelmed with daily household chores that had been put on the back burner during “the holidays.”

"the tackle" photo credit: Gunārs L.
 
When we returned to Greenville after several years absence, a few friends went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and at home, welcoming us into playgroups and introducing us to other like-minded parents with children of similar ages. Our second goodbye came with the departure of one of those friends with her family for New Zealand, for the start of a new adventure. As they prepared to leave, packed and consolidated, we said goodbye; first there was the mom’s night out goodbye, the garage sale goodbye, then the Christmas brunch goodbye, the playdate goodbye… It is so very difficult to get closure but not extend goodbyes, and I found myself remembering our last weeks in Clermont with unease – saying goodbye was turning out to be harder on me than on my friend. It’s a selfish grief, stemming from that helpless and abandoned feeling from friends leaving you, with some jealousy mixed in, that it isn’t us headed to the storybook country. How to put aside all this selfishness and help our friends during the transition as they helped us? I’m afraid I failed miserably and barely managed to say goodbye without losing it completely… Sue, thanks for everything (including the bike which Lauris is getting tons of use out of!), and I wish you nothing but happiness and adventure on your journey.

Perfect sized mug for a cup of joe on a cold winter's day!
 
Then came saying goodbye to 2013, which honestly wasn’t that hard as it brought closure to an exciting year in addition to new visitors – my parents, all the way from Chicago. But they brought the final and hardest goodbye, as they got out of Dodge yesterday and headed back up north after taking an extra day or two to let the snow plows and tow trucks do their job. The house is empty and cold (literally and figuratively as South Carolina has been hit with the same cold front), and I’m having difficulties remaining optimistic not knowing when the boys/I will next see the grandparents/uncles/aunts/etc.

 
So, we jump into the mundane (the laundry, the grocery shopping, the chores of the New Year) and the not-so-mundane (the birthdays coming up require some attention…). We check in with the brother and sisters we didn’t see this holiday season, we wait to hear that the grandparents have made it home safe. And best of all, we plan. We dream about trips we might take, people we might see, places we would like to visit. We pencil in weekends on the calendar to travel and see family, and this is what eases the goodbyes; the house still feels empty and the boys are still a bit lost, but every time I pass my new bulletin board planning station I get excited about all the bonjours I’ll be saying in the coming year.

 
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First wheels!

(Such a depressing post on a happy day! Today we’re celebrating my husband’s birthday, and I would like to wish a big blog bon anniversaire to mon amour! May the next year bring you much happiness!)

9 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday to your husband. It's hard staying put for a few years too. We've been here for five years and have seen so many expat friends come and so many expat friends go.

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  2. Happy Birthday to your husband and many happy returns. Sto lat!
    Love the "tackle" photo.

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  3. Really depressing post! I nearly prepared for next sentence- we are moving too. But in general - you are absolutely right, always some are coming in, some are going out of our lives.

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  4. A very heart felt post Liene describing just what it is like when visitors leave ...fantastic that you plan visits...just like I do! Daudz Laimes Dzimsanas Diena!

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  5. Not depressing. Beautiful and sincere. Loved reading your words, as always.

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    1. That's very kind, thank you Rebecca!

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  6. My hardest goodbye ever was my dad passing suddenly away while we were living abroad. After that not a single goodbye is sad..

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    1. So sorry for your loss Līga, I can't even begin to imagine how hard that must have been. It sure puts things in perspective, and I have a renewed sense of gratitude we never suffered such a tragedy during our expatriation. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. Goodbyes suck, it's true, but thankfully with all of the moving, there's plenty of hellos :)

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