on the other side

Boy it has taken forever to clear this space to write- every night, I try to pick one most-urgent thing (build the new dining room table? meal plan? do my monthly report for work? pay bills? blog?)- and literally half the time I just crash early with E.

To pick up where I left off: how lucky and surreal to be dropped off at the airport by one sister and picked up at the destination airport by the other one. Flights are too fast for moves- you kind of need a road trip to mentally transition. It’s disorienting to emerge from airport short-term parking into the hot and humid night and watch unknown neighborhoods whiz by thinking, OK this is home now.

I woke up the next morning with a momentary pit in my stomach- I did it. I left California. I still felt that mid-air limbo, wondering what would happen when I landed, so conscious of everything I left behind.

But then we just got swept up into the day and it felt nice. The first ten days or so just felt like visiting my sister. When my car got delivered, it was my first true evidence that this was permanent. Your car doesn’t show up from the west coast unless you’re staying. I took it in right away to got the punched-in bumper repaired and the body shop guy repaired it in 30 minutes and put it on the house: “Welcome to Chicago.” Then, I told the cashier at Trader Joe’s the story and he handed me a bouquet of flowers. Seriously- the people here are nice. Just Midwestern with a dose of small-town nice. In the way that I grew up with, which makes it feel like home.

Our move-in was totally smooth. I spent about ten minutes in the new place before the movers and my parents arrived, went from room to room doing a hasty surface clean with a nice-smelling plant-based cleaner. It was in pretty much perfect condition- my paint colors all turned out beautifully, all was spotlessly clean. I would have burned sage, meditated, etc. etc. but there was no time. Thank goodness my parents were here to start the unpacking with me over Labor Day weekend, my mom carefully lining the kitchen shelves with paper, my dad fixing and tinkering. It’s such a gigantic job.

They got me to a great point of functionality (especially the kitchen) and then headed home. When they’re not here, I feel like I make only incremental progress. I just get exhausted and distracted. I ordered a new dining set because I have a full-on dining room with a beautiful vintage chandelier, and my old stuff wasn’t cutting it. Once all the boxes arrived, I built like a chair a night. Now I have four chairs and the bench ready- just need the table. I was going to do that tonight but here I am, writing.

The ginormo living room has a play area but virtually nothing to put toys away into other than a couple of small bookshelves. So obviously that is a disaster that expands throughout the rest of the place on the daily.

The rest of the space contains a toddler-size table with two chairs, a glider, an Ikea comfy chair, and a loveseat. And a whole lot of packaging from the dining set, and my piano which was the last item to join us a week ago. E has been riding his tricycle around, inside.

Also, there’s nothing on the walls yet, anywhere.

Our bedroom is pretty much done although I need to order nice new bedding. The back bedroom (my office) is a pleasant, quiet, sunny place to work. I still need a lot of furniture and home accessory items- it’s echo-y with few rugs, and dark without enough lamps. It will come together in time. I’m not racing to buy new stuff after paying some hefty moving bills. We love the deck and backyard- feels so expansive just to run out back and kick a ball.

E has weathered the transition beautifully. I started him at one school and moved him two weeks later. Even before we moved, I started getting emails from them about teacher retention and parent communication, and then both of his teachers resigned in the short time we were there. It seemed OK but I was uncomfortable knowing that I didn’t know what was really going on. Eventually, I texted the mom who recommended the place back in May or so- and, sure enough, she gave me an earful about 12 teachers leaving since June and how much she tried to work with them before pulling her daughter out just the week before. Clearly, it was a disaster- the teachers weren’t treated well. I couldn’t imagine sending E back there ever again.

So, I didn’t. I had him start at a new school the day after learning the full extent from this other mom (it was a Friday!). It was the other school I had considered and at the time they were really slow to get back to me. On the day that mattered, they answered the phone.

So- E did the move, then 10 days at my sister’s, the 2 weeks at the first school, moved in to the new place, switched schools, and then was home sick with a fever for 2 days and 3 different new babysitters. He got a little clingy after that but jeez, who wouldn’t?

His new school is wonderful. They walk twice a day to a playground (which is a total of approx 2 miles), which he loves. They have a private facebook page where they post photos and videos every day. The other day I was mesmerized to watch him in a Zumba class! Believe me, I wish I could post that here. I love the Montessori approach so far.

He’s making friends at school, one of whom also just moved to town and lives two blocks away. We ran into them on Friday night at the train restaurant, which was cosmic because I almost invited them. Or maybe not cosmic because of course we’d all be at the train restaurant with 2yo boys on a Friday night at 5:30pm?

The Oak Park Working Moms Facebook group is intense- even more active, or maybe more personal, than Main Street Mamas in the Bay Area, which had thousands. You can post a request for recommendations and you’ll get 85 responses in a day. I am bookmarking the one about winter coats. There were links to specific products, sales, lots of wisdom of experience, and even from people who also moved here from California.

I started rehearsing with the symphony and it’s great. It’s funny to me, in a way, that this is how I choose to spend my one precious night out per week. These community symphonies often feel the same; we’re the ones who went to music schools and summer music camps and ended up with regular jobs, a little nerdy, a lot of talent. And an undercurrent of kindness. I’m loving the music and we already have an all-Beethoven concert next weekend.

E is totally thriving on spending time with his cousins. He started riding his tricycle and wanting to pee on the potty. They just had their first sleepover over here last night. I swear he starts using new words and phrases after a little time with them, lately, “Because,” has become a favorite, and, today, “I guess.” “Mommy! We live in Chicago.”

I feel so lucky that we didn’t have more bumps through the transition and I feel pretty much at home already. I don’t drive around thinking, “how lame,” or “I can’t believe I’m not IN the city,” or comparing everything to SF and west coast in my head, or whatever I feared. I do drive around noticing that the sky or the light or the trees look like the ones I grew up with. I love how easy it is to park and also walk most places we want to go. It’s a beautiful town with tall tree canopies, lovely architecture, and wide sidewalks. The early twinges of fall, actual falling leaves and chilly breezes, feel nice. What I’m missing already are my mom friends who could spontaneously grab margaritas and Mexican food post-school-pickup with the kiddos. Or casual weekend playdates. Those take a little while to get into place. I’ve just joined the SMC FB group for Chicago and there are a few women in this very town. We both are missing sister B.

I’m slowly working into a pattern of how to keep in touch with Bay Area friends- phone talking a bit more, emails, and I love a spontaneous Facetime call!!

Someone asked me today what I miss most about SF- and it’s only been a month, so I’d say nothing yet. It will catch up with me. For now, though, I feel like my life is intact- just in a different place.

And for that I have mucho gratitude. Please call, facetime, and visit us! xo