Tampa was a good home in so many ways. It was a lonely place for me, but overall there are so many sweet memories of being there. We added two children to our family while in that home. We spent a year pretending Disney was our personal playground. We were near sweet family who we loved seeing regularly...and who my children love and miss dearly. It is where we fell in love with the beach and grew to really hate mosquitoes. We thought we'd be there for a lot longer...I never thought it would be just 2 years and then we'd be in boxes again.
Now, a month after that last night in the Tampa house, I am sitting in my new house. All the boxes are unpacked. Our things have found their new place and my babies are sleeping in their new rooms. I scrolled through my photos of the last few weeks in Tampa and started crying. I knew the end was coming, of course, but there were so many moments that I didn't know the last was the last.
Our last time to our "secret caves" and the kids "climbing club" was hot and humid. We loved that place. They climbed and got their feet wet in the mucky bay. They found crabs (dead and alive) and explored. How many times did we make that walk? More than I can count. On the last trip, we ran into a dear friend who shared a heartbeat with us and who was going through similar trials of change as we did. I hugged her and thought I'd see her again. But that was goodbye. I wish I had known. I wish I had known as I watched the children climb that it was goodbye. I wish I had said goodbye.
I feel the same way about so many lasts. I wish I had known it was my last run on that nice, long, flat sidewalk. I don't miss the feeling of the humidity engulfing me as I ran. But, I do miss the run. I miss running next to the water and clearing my mind. There were many hard, lonely moments, days, and weeks. I wish I had said goodbye to that run that was therapy for my soul.
Looking back, I didn't do a good job in those weeks of all the tumultuous change of really taking in the moments that I would soon miss. In effort to make everything as smooth as possible for my children, I forgot my goodbyes. And it wasn't until I had everyone sleeping in one hotel room...at the peak of what was one of the hardest weeks of my mothering life...that I realized I hadn't said goodbye to anyone or anything as I should have. All I had done was tread water. And I think many times my head was actually under the water's surface. But that really is not a good enough excuse.
And, then, after the house had been packed and we were officially homeless, I remembered a last goodbye from a decade ago. I remembered a goodbye that was the goodbye of my life. I remembered what she said. I remembered regret. And then I called my Pa-Pa. And for the first time in a long time, I did what I should have been doing all along. I threw the schedule out the window and said a meaningful, real, memorable goodbye.
Instead of waking up and getting to where we needed to be the next day, we woke up and spent the morning at Chic Fil A with my Pa-Pa. He talked and played with my children. He held Laura. He asked Rachel if she wanted to come and stay with him. (She looked at him as if he had lost his mind.) And we said a sad, but good, goodbye. Then the kids and I made a long drive away from Tampa and toward our new life in North Carolina.
My Type A personality is so slow to learn. I have gotten better...the first adoption process and life thereafter has changed me deeply. But, I still love order. I still love accomplishing tasks and doing them well. I still do sometimes neglect the softer, more meaningful things in pursuit of checking off my list. And, in times of trial and hardship, I do revert back to a more rigid self. It's not a pretty part of me.
And, so, I learn the lesson again. Take time to breathe. Take time to say goodbye. Take time to enjoy the moment in front of me, for I never know if it will be my last. The last time to the cherished climbing caves. The last jog along the lovely bay. The last phone call with my Gran-Gran. The last ice cream with my Pa-Pa. It just might be. Enjoy it. Savor it. Remember it. Toss the list. Live the life.
Yesterday our art project was taking too long. I looked at my list of homeschool tasks for the day and thought "Man, we are never going to be done today." And then I looked at all six children enjoying an art project together. Cutting, taping, drawing. Creating. And I tossed the list. We did the art for an hour and you know what? Today we did a little more math and it is just fine. For now, the lesson is learned. Here's hoping I am not so slow to learn next time.