Eight years ago on August 5th we arrived here with a U-haul truck, our van, and my sister's truck pulling our Toyota Corolla. My dad, sister, the five of us, and two cats spent the night at the Holiday Inn and Doug and I closed on our house August 6th.
When I think about those days as we being our ninth year in the Midwest, I'm amazed that we moved into our house, Doug's office, and my classroom in a span of two weeks. Having been seasoned movers, I'd like to think we were quite organized in terms of packing our stuff and unpacking after the move. We were extremely fortunate to have had my dad and sister help us load the U-haul, help drive us up here, entertain the kids on the road, and get us unpacked. When I looked around at a house that was left dirty and smaller than I remembered, my dad tirelessly fixed the dryer and installed a line to hook up the ice maker making things more bearable.
I think Doug and I worked from sun up until well into the wee hours. We managed to arrange for a nanny to keep our kids during the day for the two weeks before school started while we worked on getting our professional lives off the ground. We were also fortunate that our sister-in-law's brother and wife babysat our kids once or twice that first month as we attended evening University functions. It was comforting to know that we had a connection to a person here in our new town.
Those months and weeks leading up to the move were exciting and tense. Doug and I had known for some time that he had been offered and accepted a teaching position at the University. We waited until the spring to break the news to our children that we were moving half way across the country. The oldest wasn't wild about the idea, although he was excited about the possibility of seeing Orioles (birds not baseball players). T-man was O.K. with the idea. Mimi got up the day after we told them of our impending move with her pillow in hand and said, "Are we moving today?"
Our house in GA had not sold and did not sell until after we moved here. Until late July I did not have a job here. Between late June and early July I flew here twice and interviewed for teaching positions. We didn't have a house here and had no idea where our children would go to school. In looking for a house we got the rude awakening that kindergarten here was a half day program, so we'd also have to find childcare for Mimi our soon to be kindergartner.
While I was here interviewing for the job at the lab school, Doug took the children to FL. My parents kept them and he flew up here to help me find a house. Over the course of two days, with a fantastic Realtor, I had narrowed the search to three houses. So when Doug arrived we were able to quickly make an offer and purchase the house that we still live in. I had thought that this house would be a transition house and we'd move to something bigger after our GA house sold. What can I say? I love where we live. I have to say that our Realtor really listened, looked out for us (as we knew nothing about the town), and found us a fantastic location with a nice house. There are times when I wish the house were bigger, more spacious, had a walk-in closet, and a huge tub in one of the bathrooms. Yet I can't give up the great neighbors, the convenience to our church, work, school(s), the trail, and pool.
I was so thankful when I was offered a teaching job. Thrilled when the new principal told me our three kids could attend the same school. Then disappointed that in her new role she had misspoken and would try to get one child into the school. Which one would I want there? Since kindergarten was a full-day program at my school, I asked that she try to get Mimi admitted. New daycare would be one less thing to worry about. The boys ended up attending the school right down the street. Luckily as they ventured into a new educational experience they were together for that first year. Mimi went with me. The next year T-man was admitted to my school and he started his fifth grade year with me. Dugger finished his K-12 education in the local school system.
When I was offered the job I immediately said yes. I knew I would have a teaching assistant, a classroom, and kindergarten students but knew nothing else. I was just grateful that I'd have full-time employment in my profession. On the long two day drive here all the fears and qualms began to set in. Having taught in a spacious room, been an assistant professor, and later having been the director of the University run preschool, I was concerned about the transition back to being a classroom teacher. I had quite a bit of professional flexibility and worried about a more traditional and restrictive environment. The University preschool in GA was a huge spacious classroom within the School of Education. We had two bathrooms, water fountains, a kitchen, plenty of classroom space, and doors that led out to a great playground. I had an office across the hall from the preschool both as the teacher and director.
At my current school, I have a large classroom by public school standards, one bathroom attached to our classroom, a quasi kitchen, an office with a door that leads into the classroom, and a door that goes right out to a nice playground.
Although I have always had a good working relationship with my colleagues I was nervous about the personality of my teaching assistant. I remember thinking I'm glad I have a job but please don't give me a prim and proper assistant with bifocal glasses, hair in a bun, wearing pantyhose, and sensible pumps. Oh boy were my prayers answered. My assistant plays practical jokes on all of us, is often politically incorrect, wears shorts until late fall, flip flops all year long or crazy looking tennis shoes. She does wear bifocals/progressive lens and now I do too. She's been told she looks sexy wearing hers. I've yet to have that pleasure but I've only had mine since July. There are days that we laugh all day long.
Many years ago my assistant found these shirts on clearance at Wal-Mart. She thought they would be perfect for our K-2 Wild Wild West fall festival. Luckily they had two left. They go well with our headbands.
This summer it finally dawned on me that I really feel like I belong here. This is home. This summer as city workers were putting in a new waterline across the street, I ended up one day sitting in a lawn chair with my neighbors' in their driveway and with the neighbor from across the street. (And no I was not ogling the men.) We were chatting and watching the workers and I thought wow this is fun. Without a plan or invitation here I am just visiting. I can't really explain why this was a cathartic moment but it was. Construction view with the porta potty from another neighbor's house.I began thinking of the joy of interacting with my neighbors, knowing the people by name that work at the stores, planting flowers at church, taking pictures with passion, being part of something more, waving at friends as they drive by the house, seeing my students around town all summer long, and seeing prior students and my children's friends grow up. This will be the first time in my professional career that I've worked in the same school and school system for eight year. My first kindergarten class, Angelique's kindergarten class, will be eighth graders this year. I will now have taught about half of all the children attending our school this year.
If there is a drawback to belonging then I have to say that it's having to wear a helmet when I ride my bike because one of my students will invariable see me. It's feeling guilty that I haven't done more for my friends. It's squelching the urge to move on to the next place before you get too attached to your life and those around you. It's the need to remind myself that having that sense of belonging here doesn't mean that I can't value the richness of the other places where I lived. It's because of those places and experiences that I have the strength to accept, enjoy, and embrace the place where I now belong.