The day the truck was packed to move back to Winnipeg seems so long ago as I write this. I'm back, sitting on my couch in our living room, listening to the familiar hum of the dishwasher. The girls are tucked into bed and I have time to sit and think. I feel like I should write about what I feel now - today - in the here and now.... but wisdom tells me it's important to tell the whole story. There is something solid and grounding about going through the process from start to finish, and so that is what I will do.
It had been a mad rush to get all of the boxes packed and the house cleaned and ready for inspection that week. No matter how early you begin or how you try to work ahead, there is just a lot of stuff left for the end that takes you by surprise. We woke the girls up bright and early so we could pack their bedding and take apart the bunk beds. Just as we were finishing up, the movers called to say there would be a 3 hour delay. These things always happen, don't they? I saw it as a good thing. It allowed me time to finish the last of the cleaning and the girls the chance to lay around on the couch and read the last chapters and pages of their library books which still needed to be returned.
When the movers came, they got right to it. I hate watching movers work. Mike laughs at this. I always feel so sorry for them. Everything seems so heavy and so awkward. I feel I should apologize to them 100 times for all of the stuff they have to lift and carry. Guaranteed in every crew there is one newbie who is just starting out. You can just tell. Then you hear his story about how it's his first week moving furniture and you feel even more compassion for him. It's not an easy job. But as Mike likes to remind me, "they're getting paid to do this." I nod my head but still wish they didn't have to do it.
Thankfully I was out when they moved the piano. This is the worst of it for me. I'm never worried about them dropping or damaging the piano. No, I'm worried about them injuring their backs. I'm always so relieved when that monster is safely pushed inside the truck!
But that's just the practical side of the day. It was smooth and painless.
The physical process of getting the boxes into the truck was the easy part.
Saying goodbye was the hard part.
The day before held many hard goodbyes for me and the girls. It had been the last day of school, so it meant the end couldn't be put off any longer. The day was sunny and beautiful and I was so grateful because it meant everyone lingered at the playground after dismissal so I could make my rounds slowly and deliberately.
I cried buckets. I hugged teachers and staff and was overwhelmed with gratitude for the part these people played in the life of our family. All of our teachers have been strong, resilient, nurturing women who truly loved our girls. How do you adequately thank someone for loving your kid and teaching them life lessons that go beyond anything in the curriculum? You blubber and hug them tight and cry as you say "thank you" again and again. And even then, it doesn't seem enough.
Then there were the moms. A playground full of women (and a handful of dads) with stories and history and hearts that were big enough to let me in and stay awhile. These women were my constant source of connection and community. That school yard was my sacred place and saying goodbye to the people who made it that way was very hard.
As we walked away from the school yard on that last day I felt tired, exposed, vulnerable and full.
And so very grateful.
On our actual moving day I had some of the hardest goodbyes left to the end. I met my very dear friend Lisa and her girls for lunch and goodbye. I didn't want our time to end, and I'm sure we talked about everything that wasn't important just so I wouldn't have to face it for a little while. When it came time to actually say goodbye so stood in the middle of the mall holding each other and sobbing. I didn't care even for a second about how we looked. I squeezed her girls and put my head into my hands and cried a little more. And then I walked away and didn't look back because I knew it would break my heart.
Later in the afternoon we met my trail buddy, Karyne and her family and Hannah's friend Holly and Ellie's most special friend, Nikki, for a little break and goodbye at Karyne's favorite haunt, "Cafe Classico". Cafe Classico is a little Italian coffee place on Hastings that deserves its own blog post. It's exactly what you hope it would be like. Regulars sitting int he same spot every day drinking the same thing - all known by name. It's tiny, simple, and cash only. And I love it.
On our last day in BC, I had one last chance to introduce Mike to the world's most sinful but most ridiculously delicious Iced Mocha. It's made with espresso flake gelato and it should be illegal.
Mike agreed on all counts.
Karyne and Jack followed us home so we could say goodbye.
I wish I could say everything I'd like to about Karyne. She has done the trails with me every Tuesday morning in rain and sun, when I was feeling good or bad. She is tough, fearless, passionate and forthright. Nothing scares her and she advocates for her kids with the determination of a momma bear. One thing is sure, she hasn't seen the last of me.
Ellie had been dreading saying goodbye to Nikki for a long time. We all had. She had become such a special fixture in our family. After walking Nikki through the empty house to show her that she was leaving, we all got a "Nikki Squeeze" in. Ellie and Nikki had the last hug in the front yard and Nikki walked away with everyone. Then she turned back and ran to Ellie for one more embrace. She had to know. We all walked in and upstairs where we still had some cleaning to do. Ellie followed me into the bathroom and essentially melted into a puddle of sadness and pain in my arms. She sobbed like I'd never heard her before. Mike came in too and within seconds we were all melted together in a heap crying our eyes out for saying goodbye to such a significant soul. Ellie's life has been changed because of Nikki's presence in it. She'll never forget her.
Before we could pull out of Burnaby, we had a few more goodbyes. One was to our neighbors Leanna, Darren and Zoe across the street. We all wanted Leanna to let out one more boisterous "who you tellin'?" as we left, and she complied.
Our last stop was to our special friends, the Coulombe family. There were plenty of tears and hugs on the sidewalk in front of their house. Their oldest daughter, Elise was in our van as Mike was getting ready to drive away and was wiping away his tears. She kissed him on the cheek and said, "you needed that" in the way only Elise could do. What a sweet friendship, and what a hard goodbye.
Soon we were headed off downtown along Hastings. Whenever we passed a place or a restaurant that we'd been to or visited, we'd say, "goodbye" out loud to what we were seeing. The girls started it, and soon we were all chiming in. Some of the goodbyes got a little goofy toward the end... "goodbye McDonalds that we had to stop at when I had to pee really badly". I think you get the idea! But there were lots of good ones too, and it was a ritual that we went through that helped us all leave such a meaningful place.
We decided to have our "last supper" at Mike's most favorite Vancouver restaurant, Pacifico Pizza. We all love this place and the amazing wood-fired pizzas they bake.
We toasted to our two years on the West Coast and the amazing adventure it was while devouring our pizza and sharing memories of the season that was ending.
Before we knew it, we were finished and we were ready to drive to our hotel to hunker down for the night before we leaving the next morning on our family holiday which would get us back to Winnipeg.
If I could, I'd write a love song for a city and the people who have been the background and the life to one of the best seasons of our life as a family. I don't think anything I'd come up with could ever do the past two years justice.
I know we're different. I know we're grateful. I know we'll never forget the places and faces.
Thank you, all.