What if we ever needed…3/4 of an Inch

Hell froze over today. Well, since it’s so bloody hot and humid I sort of wish it actually did, but our stuff ARRIVED at 1pm today. It actually came with a phone call and three guys who could not have been nicer. I paid for their lunch afterwards. I’m not a person who has ever held a grudge. Don’t have time for it so all that nonsense was in my rear view mirror 30 seconds after the first dolly load crossed our door step.

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They found parking and unloaded in record time. As planned, we had them bring all the boxes and bikes up to our apartment and we put the sofa in our parking space in the garage. We needed to measure it before I schedule the crane service. I was on cloud nine watching them go back and forth. Emilie stayed down by the truck to make sure no one made off with any boxes while the guys were filling the lobby.

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Seeing our things again was like reconnecting with old friends. And unpacking was so much fun!  All my kitchen stuff that was of such interest to US Customs and Border control made it with only one glass pot lid that was shattered.  All my Le Creuset – check. More of my Crate and Barrel dishes – yup. All our flatware and my box of odds and ends kitchen stuff. My beloved Vitamix made it. Jeff checked the amperage (I don’t even pretend to understand it) and it works on the electricity here. We just have to take it to a local place to get the plug/cord swapped out.

My pans are here too! And our golf clubs and bikes. Jeff’s computer stuff and his keyboard that he’s been waiting for. All the tools for his first love – the motorcycle. We spent the day unpacking boxes and washing things. Our bedding from home – sheets and towels that we could have bought locally but we loved them too much to leave behind. Then there were the more sentimental things. The things that, when you surround yourself with them, make you feel like you’re truly home.

Our refrigerator magnet collection from trips we took as a family. Jeff always hated how junky it made it look in an open plan kitchen. I loved the reminder of all the things we did together. Tonight, I put them all on the fridge and he came home and smiled. Emilie and I had fun reminiscing about each one and telling funny stories about where they were purchased and some crazy thing that happened.

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The pictures came. Our wedding photo and some of the art that we had on the walls. Emilie unpacked the boxes in her room and it’s just about like it was in the US – only 5 times smaller. Her books, photos and all the small things that mean so much to her.

I unpacked the vacuum packed bags of our clothes and it seems we brought more than I remembered. I appears my ‘What if we ever…?’ philosophy might have gone a little too far. OK, if we ever go to Iceland again I have my Canada Goose parka and Jeff’s Mountain Hardwear parka. But living here I don’t think there will be a day that we’ll need either of those.

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My most egregious and embarrassing miscalculation was my discovery that I had 5 full boxes of shoes that were just for me. Luckily, Jeff had run an errand when I pulled them out of the pile in the dining room. Yeah, I knew I had a problem anyway but today it was in my face and before Jeff got home I needed to find somewhere for 5 boxes of shoes in El Compartimiento. But where to put them? The only place I had to spare was in the kitchen Gabinete and I knew the minute he got hungry I’d be ratted out. Emilie just shook her head but she wasn’t one to talk. She had 2 boxes of shoes for herself – OK, I’m a baaad influence.

So I started pulling out drawers and cabinets. I was sweating and panicked. What the hell was I going to do? I looked around and then I remembered we have drawers under the bed we bought. And those drawers are mostly covered by the duvet. I knew Jeff was barely using his closet so he wouldn’t even think about the drawers under the bed. Sure enough, they were empty. But as I placed my shoes, boots and sandals lovingly into their new, hidden home, I started counting and, well, I’m just ridiculous. Who needs 5 pairs of high suede boots here? I brought 3 pairs of rubber boots!  What was I thinking?

But that isn’t the capper. Tonight we went down to the garage after I was done unpacking the rest of the stuff and putting it away. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and my ability to cram things in every nook and hidden crannies. Organizing things for easy access later. Winter closet, stored. Yup, I was at the top of my organizational game. I hadn’t over packed afterall. I was a ‘just enough’ goddess.

I got into the elevator with a confident smug swagger that only a truly organized person pull off. Then we measured.

My beloved couch is 43 3/4 inches deep. I don’t care about the height because it passed that test. Our living room window is broken up into sections that are 43 inches. Not 44 inches – 43. And they can’t get any bigger, even if you take the windows out, because of the custom shutters that come down in tracks. So my couch won’t fit. So we went down and took all the wrapping from the move off and I actually talked to the couch.

‘Please couch – I know you’ve been through alot in the last 5 months but I need 3/4 of an inch – that’s all. Please give me 3/4 of an inch.’ I begged and pleaded.

Jeff measured again. I don’t think the couch was very forgiving after spending months in a container ship. It didn’t give up a millimeter. There will be no couch (at least not one from the US) inside El Compartimiento. With every victory, there is also defeat. I had gotten a little cocky with the shoes.

Tonight, Jeff is sporting his Keens, he’s smiling in a fresh pair of shorts and a shirt he hasn’t worn since February. That’s good enough for me.

A Teenage Wasteland

Moving to a new country has a been exciting and challenging in many ways. I’ve chronicled many of them here. But none has been quite the riddle that is moving across the world with a teenager. Yes, Emilie is only here on school breaks, but a 3 month stretch with her parents in a strange location, without friends, without her US cell phone and the daily (moment by moment) hits of technology, (Snapchat) is about more than she can stand.

Sure, she talks to her boyfriend back in the US via WhatsApp on wifi, but it’s not enough. When I venture to ask ‘What’s up?’ I get blank expressionless stares and Spinx-like answers that give me almost no information beyond ‘I’m bored.’ At this point, my head usually spins around and I think, incredulous, ‘How can anyone be bored in Valencia?. There is so much to do and see.’

OK, perhaps me dragging her thru museums in most of the major European capitals when she was small, didn’t endear the experience to her. This past weekend, Jeff and I went to the ceramics museum but gave her a pass to stay home. It’s very cool, btw. A must see and it was free – we aren’t sure why on a Saturday at high season (3 Euros usually). Its in the mansion of a former duke. They have his carriages and the litter they used to carry him around in. And eclectic mix of this and that, to be sure.

But on Sunday, we trekked up to the Pre-History Museum of Valencia and she was made to accompany us. I was in heaven. I absolutely adore museums. History, art, music. It was a museum specifically about the Valenciana region and, well,  I’ll go to anything with the word ‘Museum’ over the door. I enjoy seeing how people lived, what they valued, how they evolved, what they created out of nothing. So I like to take my time.

Emilie was climbing the walls, looking my way with glares vacillating between wanting to kill me with an ancient spear (luckily contained behind shatter proof glass) or falling asleep in one of the many benches. Afterwards, ice cream helped. Like chocolate reviving her after a dementor attack at Hogwarts.

So finding things for Emilie to do has become important. So I did and Voila! Beach Volleyball. Today she starts Beach Volleyball lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays with other kids her age on Malvarossa Beach. I know she’s excited about it (you couldn’t tell if you saw her in person) except it’s 1 pm and she’s spent an hour in the bathroom getting ready and we aren’t leaving here for 3 hours. Whew! Something she might enjoy, just in time.

To jump start with my project of helping her meet kids her age, I reached out to some of my expat friends. I’ve spent 3 months developing a network here. People from all over the world that we have lunches, dinners, wine, and attend processions with. And they know a lot of people, apparently. People who have teenagers.

So, tomorrow afternoon, Emilie will take her first Metro ride alone to the station downtown and meet a friend of mine who is taking her to meet a couple of girls in their late teens. One is Spanish, and wants to meet someone she can have coffee with to improve her English for college. The other is English, and like Emilie, is bored out of her gourd. So they should be the perfect disgruntled pair. They can have coffee and moan and groan about their lame parents and their difficult, boring lives. That sounds like teenage heaven to me!

And moi, you might wonder? What will I be doing while she is otherwise occupied? Well, this evening the Royal Ballet is in town and I’ll be seeing Swan Lake with friends while she’s taking the tram back from the beach after her class. And later this week, I’m going to see an Opera. Neither of these activities are Emilie-approved, but now I won’t need to be concerned with that. Everyone will be doing what they like doing and I get to be as lame as I want going forward – which will involve a glass of something refreshing. Summer is shaping up to be just perfect!

The Color of Happy

Don’t hate me, but I believe I now own the most beautiful grocery trolley every made. Yes, as you can see in the picture, my new yellow, 4 wheeled, grocery trolley is safely ensconced in the foyer of El Compartimiento.  And I couldn’t be more proud.

Grocery Trolley

We woke up today, and headed out early. We used our new Valenbisi bike service to cycle our way to the central city to enjoy a coffee and then do a little shopping at El Corte Ingles. The other day, I had seen a credenza there that might just go in our living room and Jeff and I went back and bought it. It’s being delivered on Thursday.

Next, we went to the kitchen section. We are in desperate need of a silicone spatula (Jeff is pretty sure the perfect one exists) and we needed to check them out. We went up a few floors and came around a corner looking for kitchenware, and there, under a spotlight,  sat my bright yellow trolley from my dreams. I think I heard angels singing. I approached it with the reverence it deserved and found it was 20% off. It’s like it was begging to come home with me, right then.

‘Ditch that horrible Ikea trolley (we can barely call it that, can we?) you bought the first day you got here. Take me home and I’ll never let you down.’ I heard it whisper.

Very sure Barry White was playing in the background. Yes, I could dig it. But we had come to Corte Ingles for other priorities, so Jeff peeled me away from that lemon colored beauty, and we perused the kitchen utensil section. He found the perfect spatula for his grilled cheese sandwiches (Emile would be proud), but he saw me eyeing that bright yellow, 4 wheeled – not 2 wheeled – grocery trolley.

‘We’ll come back after we have lunch at the beach.’ he promised me.  Ugh. I reluctantly agreed and we set off with our spatula and Chromecast Ultra, to round out our media viewing, safely in his backpack.  We cycled to the beach and enjoyed some tapas and refreshments. The marina was, as yet, undiscovered by us and we took full advantage – enjoying an after lunch drink overlooking where they keep those big yachts they race in the Americas cup.  A gorgeous day.

Valencia Marina

Heading home, we nearly missed going back for our bright yellow trolley. It had been a long day. We were a little tired and got plenty of sun. But then we got on the wrong train and ended up having to go back to Colon to get the right train. So since we were already steps away from Corte Ingles outside the Colon Metro station? Well, that trolley was going home with me!

We bought it and went down to the basement Supermercado and bought a bunch of food to put in my new trolley. It’s not Harrods food hall, but it would do to christen her for the inaugural run.  No pulling this trolley. NO WAY!! I’m pushing it on it’s 4 wheels – all the way home.

Getting off the subway and walking on the sidewalk, Jeff chided me a bit for pushing it like a stroller.

‘You know, it would be easier on the uneven pavement if you pulled it. It’s not a stroller.’

I shook my head in disbelief. How could he suggest this?!?

‘I don’t think you get it. It’s got 4 wheels. I can now push it and keep up with everyone pushing their food trolleys in our neighborhood.’

He shook his head. ‘I’m just saying it’s not a kid.’

‘Well, think of it like a food baby.’

He had no comeback for that! We walked in the door and there sat our sad Ikea trolley. It couldn’t hope to compete with my new Yellow, super trolley and it knew it. It just sat there sagging. You could feel it hoping that it hadn’t seen it’s last run to the Mercadona or El Chino. I didn’t promise it anything, but Jeff told me not to get rid of it because we’ll need to do some big grocery runs when we have guests, and we’ll be happy we have it.

But for now, the star of our house is our new Canary Yellow trolley. As I write this I ask myself – What the Hell has become of me!?!

 

Last Dance with Mary Jane

The shippers got the moving truck back to our house around 3:30 yesterday afternoon. I almost cried when they left. Our house is empty, except for the life raft (air mattress) in the bedroom and it  echos. Jeff can no longer mutter under his breath on the other side of the house without me hearing exactly what he’s saying. How do I know this? Experience.

All 14 computers are being recycled today and Mary Jane is en route to her new owner. Our goodbye in the garage was brief, but I did acknowledge how much she’s helped us get ready for today. Jeff drove off with the Bill of Sale and the title clutched in his hand. I’ll collect him from his office at the end of the day.

Today, there are only a couple of things I need to get done. A sweep with a garbage bag to open every cupboard, drawer, closet, cubby, and ensure that they’re clear. A guy is coming at 11:30 to take the last of Jeff’s tools, so I’ll let him into the garage to take them away.

Jeff was happy this morning. A man who has spent his entire life gathering stuff, feels lighter letting go.

‘I think everyone should go through this process. It feels good.’ He said at 5 am laying in the dark.  ‘Even if the boat sinks with all the rest of our stuff, I would be OK.’

If there had been any light in the room, he would have seen my jaw drop. Jeff has had a much harder time with this process, than I have. Shucking all he’s worked so hard for. But it seems he’s turned a corner. I relate, because I feel the same way.

Yesterday, I paid our rent for March in Valencia. It made us both feel better that we’re good to go when we land. It’s been a long process, but the time has been necessary. Evolutions take time. Growth can be painful, but it’s always good. We’re ready to go.

The Grief of Goodbye

There are points in life – graduations, kids going off to college – where we both celebrate and we mourn. We buy cards and gifts and we cheer. And then we cry tears of joy and loss as we see the back side of our children or grandchildren, as they go off to new horizons, without us. Blessedly Capable.

Today is a day of grief for me. It’s not really anything I can put my finger on. It’s just been here with me all day. I’ve been calling airlines and purchasing more baggage allowances. But I have found out that I have too many and I need to cut out a bag.

So I opened up the offending bag and I can cut it out. It’s not the stuff. Its the idea. We are already down to nothing. And now, we’re down to less than nothing. Sigh. I take a deep breath, and realize I’ll have to donate some more stuff. But it’s not even that. What is it? I don’t even know.

I sat here on the couch and cried. Not about anything specifically, but the tears flowed. Perhaps it’s when I booked my daughter’s ticket to Barcelona in May. We won’t see her until then. Maybe it’s because today, my son is opening his own bank account. One that I will no longer be on – he’s nearly 20, so it’s time and I won’t be banking at that bank anymore. It’s like the threads of the ties that bind are fraying all on the same day.

I wanted to tell the woman at American Airlines that I needed that suitcase. Please let me take it – it’s part of all I’ve got left. But she wouldn’t have cared. I’m not sure why I care so much. But I do.

We went to Iceland a few years ago. We visited the spot on the earth where the North American and European plates are born. Where deep in the earth, the crust is being created and pushed towards the surface. I always imagined it to be a very painful process as the rock reaches the light of day. I guess that’s how I feel now. Like we’re creating new ground – and sometimes there is pain in doing it.

Today, I’m just going to sit in it. The sadness and the grief of letting go of an old life before embracing a new one. But as the pain washes over me, the grief of goodbye has overwhelmed me – no explanations, no excuses – it just is.