We’re moving to Sydney.
I remember my first episode with leaving home: going to college in Birmingham, ninety miles away, at once too far and not far enough. I remember visiting with my family and knowing that when I came back, to move in, they would leave me and this place would be my new home. It felt wrong and right at the same time. I remember emerging from the Lincoln Tunnel in a U-Haul with my mom, driving down side streets in the city that had been a place to visit but now held my apartment on 92nd and First, my new home. It felt foreign and familiar at the same time. And last week, The Husband and I walked out of the airport, climbed into a taxi, and drove into Sydney, half a world away and fourteen hours ahead, as our boys slept a day behind us. We hurtled along expressways and through downtown, and though I had never been there I felt like I was somehow returning.
The more I know of grace, the more I think these extremes, flip sides, seeming contradictions are symbols that I am in its realm: grace, a paradox unto itself. I can take my shoes off–it’s all holy ground, and I don’t have to keep running.
The writing was on the wall for so long. I held its words inside my heart, turning them over in gratitude, with open-eyed wonder, one minute, and cursing them through tears the next. God called my bluff. “Change my heart,” I asked, “Or…another option? Tell The Husband this is wrong.” Not because Sydney is Siberia. Not because I’m afraid of seventy and sunny, of beaches and harbors. But because we’re here now. We’re home. And once again we’re called out of one home toward another. I’m tired.
But I’m not blind.
There was this: the colleagues of TH’s who came out of the woodwork, time after time, with kids, or friends with kids, who have challenges and gifts similar to The Kid’s. Phone calls with tips and plans and names and hope. “Go before us,” I had prayed, waiting to point and yell, “SEE? Not there! Not this way!” But grace was there the whole time. There was the woman on the flight with a boy two months younger than Little Brother, and when I did the thing I never do–went up and talked to her at baggage claim–she, in her bleary-eyed confusion and I in mine, spoke for a minute. “That’s that, I guess?” I thought, and then a tap on the back, a paper with an email address, an immediate response to the note I sent, and guess who lives two blocks from the house we found, who pointed me to the moms’ and expat groups, who pulled me into community? There was the fellow mom who took me around our new neighborhood, who sat with me over coffee they call flat whites (the same language and a new one), and the next day my uncle emailed: “Did you go to lunch with someone from Atlanta yesterday? Her dad and I went to college together.” All these connections, this going before us, these open doors.
And closed ones. The school we visited, the woman who met us with a hard stare, misgivings and misunderstanding, the “I don’t know this would be a fit for him,” the holding of my tears until the moment we left the gate. The knowing I will always have to fight for TK, tell his story in more than one sitting, and the sadness and jet lag catching up with me in a collapse onto the hotel bed, a wondering if it’s all wrong. Then, the emails from other connections about other schools, one of them half a mile from the house we picked. The house with our name on it, now.
Open and closed, wonderful and awful, certain and confusing, answers and…waiting. I can’t think about it without crying at the way grace won’t stop showing up, will never stop looking out for me. For us.
TH and I spent a morning (between wanting to punch school registrars in the face) exploring the neighborhood I had been taken around the day before. We walked down streets and into shops, sat and drank tea and read, talked. Smelled bakeries and bookstores, foreign and familiar at the same time, pieces of home everywhere, even here. Of course here. I wondered aloud if everyone was really as nice as they seemed to be. “I need edge,” I told him. I ached for friends back home, the ones I commiserate with, trade barbed jokes with, navigate anxiety and depression with. You know, the fun stuff. So many beginnings, and I want to be in the thick of it–the part where we know and are known, where the underside is visible and no one runs away. Yet time will not be unspooled according to my clock, so we wait. I wait, where there is both light and darkness.
I watched some of Sex and the City the other day, waiting for the part when Carrie looks in the Mexican mirror without makeup. It’s brutal. I love it. This is where I reside, in between jokes, in the gritty realness of how hard it can be. That is home. Will I find other bare-faced realists, fellow travelers on this path, in my new home? Anne Lamott wrote, “My mind remains a bad neighborhood that I try not to go into alone.” Last night LB kept waking up and I sat beside his crib, his finger grasping mine as I alternately stroked his head and begged him to go the fuck to sleep. “My mind goes to scary places at night,” I told one of my here-home fellow travelers this morning, and she walked beside me with her words: “Mine too.” We showed our Mexican mirrors to each other and didn’t run away, and I cried at the fourteen hours that will soon separate us and all the distance that never could, the grace in this changing of address and in the fact that I am never, ever left alone in that bad neighborhood by myself, because of the grace that always shows up, coming to a stop right where I am and holding me in its arms, covering me in a blanket to take me where I really live: in old homes, and new. Foreign and familiar. Wrong and right. In the song we sang again this week: “Even my darkness is light to you.” In the communion wafer, pressed so hard into my hand that it broke–which is the point, isn’t it? Isn’t it: this overwhelming weight of grace and the glory of being shattered and saved by its rays.