We have almost exactly one month until we fly back to China, and today I packed up the first box. I’ve had people asking me for a couple months now if I’ve started packing. Um, you have apparently NOT had to do this an average of once a year for the past forever. Starting a month out seems luxuriously early to me.

Sealing that first box makes our departure seem official. Even more official than when we bought the plane tickets. We are leaving. We are leaving. We are leaving. Into the box go the nursery decorations that my 11-year-old son can’t bear to part with because we just unpacked them a few months ago. In go the stuffed animals that are too big to fit in my daughter’s suitcase. Into the box go our American lives. Good-bye for now, because we are leaving.

I’m dreading the good-byes. I’ve said far too many over the past decade. I wonder if I’ll actually cry here, or if the tears will only come pouring out somewhere over the Pacific as all the other passengers sleep, and the weight of missing friends and family finally sinks in.

Everything makes me think of how I soon won’t be here, won’t be part of all the plans. I look at the local concert schedule and automatically divide it: we can go to the zydeco one, but the Latin jazz one is after we leave. I think of the field trips my kids won’t be going on, or the cycling race my friends will do without me. I look at the plants in my yard and wonder how big they’ll be – or how dead they’ll be – when we return. I look at my nieces and nephews and think the same (well, not the dead part.) How different will they be after another round or two of birthdays?

Eventually, I’ll shift to thinking more about there than here. The arriving instead of the leaving. But for now, I’ll keep working on slowly packing and slowly letting go of here.

Flipping switches

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