Monday, May 23, 2016

Things I Will Miss

With less than 40 days to go, I am in that space where one is frantic at the thought of how much needs to be done to leave post, and yet - it is still too early to do all that much of it.

I peer in the storage closet and survey the towels (air freight!), the medicines (trash), soap and toothpaste (give to a neighbor), the suitcases (hide so the movers don't pack!).  But none of this can be done yet. I look in my kitchen cupboards and try to think of a recipe that might use the last can of fava beans, the dried garbanzos, the box of long-life tofu.  The piles of paper on my desk clearly need to be sorted: shred or scan?

I make lists: File insurance forms.  Email car salesmen.  Research cell phone plans.  Write final plans for each of my clients.

The list never gets shorter.

The last few weeks pass in a frantic blur of we forgot to and if only we'd....  But also.  Also, one tends to get highly annoyed those last few weeks. Why do we need to apply for exit visas, anyway? Why did they tear down the last remaining vegetable market? The traffic.  Lord help me, the traffic.  I won't miss that at all. I spent 2 hours round trip just driving one of my kids to a party last weekend. That's one way, people.  Fortunately, another parent agreed to manage pick up, because that was already more hours of my life than I cared to give to a Moscow highway traffic jam. And the bureaucracy! Just last weekend, we were informed that the Ministry of Culture plans to charge us almost $700 (plus taxes and duty) just to be allowed to export four clocks that we brought here with us two years ago. That's right: we owned them when we arrived.  Our shipping manifest clearly says so. Three of the four aren't even of Russian origin. And yet.

There are, though,  things I will miss.

My friends M and A will be moving here a few short weeks after we leave (which I guess means I will miss them too, quite literally).  Knowing that they will arrive soon has made me look around with their eyes instead of my own, trying to see what they will see when they arrive. The candy-corn-domes of St. Basil's. The White House lit up at night.  The babushki selling berries by the side of the road. Birch leaves, shiny and green against white bark, with their distinctive papery rustling at the slightest breeze.

I will miss being able to walk out my door and stroll a few short minutes to the metro, or a bus stop, taking me almost anywhere I need to go.  I will miss Dorogomilovo, my local green market, where they know me well enough now to ask if I meant to leave zucchini off my usual list.  I will miss the spice guy there, with his scoops of spices for 25 cents apiece, and the yogurt lady, who sells me homemade yogurt and cheese.

I will miss being able to walk down the Arbat, people watching and drinking coffee.  I will miss my kids' teachers, and their school in general. I will miss the vegetarian restaurant over by Patriarchs Ponds, the one I first walked to a year ago with a new friend, B. I will miss M and her husband W, who are the glue of this community, between the movie nights to which they always invite my kids, and the emergency hairstyling they are always willing to provide for special events. I'll miss H and T  and B and A and so many others. I'll miss my clients, the ones who make my days in the gym more fun. I'll miss being able to pick a scraped-up kid up off the sidewalk, dust her off and say, well, let's limp over to the doctor's office and see what they have to say about this.

For now, though, I miss none of this.  For now I am elbow deep in donating old clothes and hunting for the lids to our lego bins.  I'm trying to get the kids interested in my 15-minute drawer challenge, the one where we (okay, I) pick a drawer, set a timer, and clear that sucker out. I have a lead on a decent cell phone plan in the U.S. I'm chatting with car dealers (okay he's doing that, because yawn), narrowing down our car choices. I'm clearing bookshelves and scanning insurance records. I'm getting the whole family medically cleared to leave post, and fitting in one last dental appointment per person. (Yes. It is just as expensive to get a cavity filled in Moscow as it is in the U.S. Cash upfront and pray the insurance kicks in later.)

None of this is particularly fun.  But it's all part of the life we're leading.  You'd think I'd be a pro at it by now.  But with each successive move it gets harder and harder to pack up and move on. It helps to hang on to the things you will miss, to remember that there is a reason, after all, that we do this to ourselves. This is what makes us who we are. Boxes full of things.  Heads full of memories.

We're almost there.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


With about 60 days to go here at post, I've been busier than ever, trying to get everything done that needs doing.

Everyday life is busy enough, with sports teams and birthday parties and music lessons and everything else that goes with being a parent. We also hosted some visitors for a few weeks, so we got to spend some time showing them our favorite places in and around Moscow.  Oh, and we made another quick trip to St. Pete, where some of us visited the Summer Palace and some of us visited the emergency room.  So that was fun, if a bit scary.

My last little baby celebrated her first Holy Communion here in Moscow just last week. I don't consider myself to be very religious despite the fact that I'm a regular churchgoer.  That said, I always tear up at events like these. There's just something about a baptism, a first communion, or any other important church moment. I always feel my grandparents hovering there - even the ones I never met - and it ties me to my roots somehow, knowing they are there watching over us. I know: it sounds weird.  But there you have it. I believe it to be true.

And she was gorgeous, in a dress made by her Nana:

The weather in Moscow has finally turned warm. The tulips are starting to push up through the earth, and the trees all sprouted leaves one day last week. I woke up at 430 this morning and it was already light out.  Odd how quickly winter turns to spring, despite the fact that it feels unending when you're in the middle of it.

We have plane tickets out of here, and we theoretically have space booked for the cat and dog as well, although I've never once had their travel work out, so fingers crossed there's a first for everything.  We have pack out dates set, though we have yet to start the purging and organizing that need to happen ahead of the day.  We are researching cars and computers and phone contracts so we can hit the ground running when we land in the States.

I suspect I won't be too sad to leave when the time comes.  I didn't make a lot of friends in the past two years, and the ones I did make are mostly leaving around the same time as we are. So there won't be much for me to miss.  But I know the kids are already having a rough time planning their goodbyes, so it'll be an emotional departure.

Less than 60 days to go before the next adventure gets underway. Time to focus...
Please. Write your own stuff.