Saturday, June 20, 2015

Extended Family

Name a country. Any country. The odds are that I will tell you about a friend I know there. My husband calls it name dropping but I like to think of it more as door opening. I love to offer connections, homes, people to travelers. And while I have been bringing up a lot of things that are hard on TCKs, like moving, walls, and loss, I want to talk about something that makes a lot of those hard things not as hard. The people.

I think that if you asked most TCKs what their dream place is they would respond something like, "someplace where I could gather all the people I love at the same time." I know that if that place existed on this earth that it would be my answer to "where is home to you?"Alas, that place does not exist on this planet.

In my boarding school dorm there was this tradition/practice where another family or some teachers who cared about us lonely dorm kids would take us for a day or a weekend. They called it extended family time. These people were obviously not related to us, but the idea was that, by being a part of our lives, they also became something akin to family (excuse the pun).

As my husband and I get ready to move (yet again) my mom reminded me that we have also formed a type of family here. While I am packing up she expressed that she wished she could be here helping me, but she knows that the friends we have here will be her stand-ins; the community we have here is our Virginia family.

I love that. I think that it can happen whether or not you are a TCK but that it is so prevalent in TCK lives, due to being so far from blood relatives, and, truthfully, something about being displaced brings people together. It forms an extended family bond quickly and usually out of necessity.

We have this hanging in our home
To me, all those names I drop, those connections, those doors I open, are all people who have played a part in my life and whom I would highly recommend to play a part in others' lives. It is my way of extending my extended family to others. You are moving to Germany? Would you like a brother, or a sister? To Egypt? How about a substitute mother and father or a mentor? To Uruguay? Let me point you to a home cooked meal. Let my people become your people. Let our lines cross, our colors bleed into each other.

We become one huge family, and suddenly there are places and people that we can call home anywhere and everywhere.

My parents just went to a conference for the people in their organization and it overwhelmed me when they said that as they told people about Tim and I moving to Indonesia all sorts of open arms and helping hands extended to us. And my parents were, in turn, able to open up hands back to them for me by pointing people to this blog, which I hope can be a place for you to read words that are familiar to your heart, that connect us througout the globe, that allow our colors to bleed into each other and make a beautiful work of art across this small world. I'm so thankful for the extended family that I have, and for the extended family that I will keep forming.

So, where are you traveling next? I bet I know someone there that you should meet...

How have you built extended families in your life?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

PTPD (Post Traumatic Packing Disorder)

In a few months my husband and I will be moving overseas to work with TCKs and we are so excited, but we will only be taking a few suitcases each and as I look around my house I see all the things we will either put into storage, sell, or try and fit into some zippered up bags.

The last time we moved I literally hid from the packing process, and it wasn't even me who had to pack it up. Movers and boxes were coming and I ran away to camp, came home and sat outside with a muffin. Then I closed myself in a room trying to avoid the sound of packing tape and smell of cardboard. I can tell you that my husband was not impressed to say the least.

I have talked a little bit before about the loss we sustain as TCKs in our cultural adjustments but let me focus in on the idea of moving.
I'm the only one with red hair, in case you didn't recognize me
In this picture I am in fifth grade. By this time (about eleven years old) I have moved seven or eight times, I have said goodbye to four different best friends from four different places, and it will be just the beginning because this picture was taken in my first year of boarding school. Which means that from that year until graduation I will pack up my things at the end of every year and head to some form of "home" and then head back to another form of "home" again. Packing, packing, packing. It means a lot of leaving.

This move will bring me to a wonderful total of 26 moves in 26 years. Some years I lived more out of suitcases than others, but the point is this: I know how to move, but the baggage (pun intended) that moving brings with it is loss after loss after loss. Each one brings its own goodbyes and tacks on the new goodbyes I will carry on with me. It is no coincidence that the background of this blog is suitcases. Wanderers carry with them their belongings and their memories and their losses. They carry their hopes and friendships that they may have left behind. I carry that opportunity to dance ballet that I left in Pennsylvania, the loss of two friends who had lockers adjacent to me for years that I do not know if I will run into ever again, the closeness to extended family that I can't sustain from so far away no matter how much I wish to.

It isn't just about leaving those great shoes you love that don't fit in your bag (at least not without breaking the zipper), but it brings up all those other things you have left behind that will never be the same. I am going to call it Post Traumatic Packing Disorder (PTPD), that sinking pit in your stomach when you have to pull the luggage out of your closet, that shrinking back when you hear packing tape unroll, that anxiety that rises up when you look at the boxes and then to all your books.

So let's remember that while going may be exciting, leaving can be excruciating. PTPD means proceed with care and mercy. Packing packs with it all those other things you have left behind. Take the time to say good good-byes and to leave in a healthy way. And remember me as I trudge forward thinking about the loss and packing I will be trying to survive in a few months.

How do you feel when you pack?