About six and a half years ago I sat in the living room of my dad's townhouse with a few boxes and suitcases and waited for my future brother and sister in-law to pick me up and move me and the last of my things to Chicago. Danny had already moved out there a couple weeks prior while I finished up my job at the United Way.
Even though I'd told my dad I'd be moving it hadn't seemed to sink in for him until that moment. He stood in the doorway of the living room looking at my packed belongings quietly. "So, you're really moving?" He finally said. My sister, who was keeping me company while I waited, rolled her eyes impatiently, "Yes, dad! Are you just now figuring it out?"
"Well.." he paused, thinking of what to say or do in response. And he offered his best show of affection.
"Do you need any spices?"
And so, five minutes before my ride to Chicago arrived, my father quickly and thoughtfully packed an assortment of spices from his collection for me.
In Chicago I lived in 3 apartments, had 1 job, visited hundreds of bars and restaurants, a hand-full of churches before becoming a member of one for the first time. (One I grieve leaving, avoided my last Sunday because I was too scared to say goodbye). I got one broken ankle in Chicago, spent many days and nights learning and rehearsing at Second city, was proposed to in front of a statue of Shakespeare by my soul mate and a few years later, just around the corner I gave birth to my other soul mate.
Last week, as I hurriedly packed the last of the kitchen items I found some of the spices my dad had given me that I hadn't used and paused before throwing them out. Six-year-old Tarragon would not help anyone out. I knew my dad would look down on stale spices- even if they were from his own cupboard and held for sentimental reasons. Also, I was excited to know that I would see my dad more often now that I was moving back to Michigan- and even better- that Penelope would know her chef grandpa the same way I'd always known my grandparents. And maybe he could tell me what to do with Tarragon.
I know in about 10 years, maybe sooner, I'm going to have a lot of 'splainin to do when Penelope realizes she was born in an exciting, fun city like Chicago, and her father and I had made the choice of moving her back to boring old Michigan. Even if she read my blogs about how hard it was to have a family in the city, so far away from our families, she still might not understand. I'm hoping I can point out to her all the memories and fun she would have had had over the years with her family- "remember that time we went to the waterpark with all your cousins?" "You know your grandmas? Or your crazy aunt Julie Jo?" I would point out, "You would only have seen them once or twice a year if we'd stayed." Maybe that will appease her. Or maybe she'll roll her eyes and stomp off. But either way, she'll probably have more room to stomp off in, since we will hopefully be living in a house with a yard, instead of a small city apartment.
It's hard to believe it's already been a week since we moved back. Penelope seems to have adjusted well so far. She's happy and obsessed with the Christmas tree. She grabs the branches and pulls with all her might, truly believing she can fit the whole thing in her mouth. She gets frustrated that she's not allowed to pull all the ornaments off. I have to admit it is a weird thing- that we hang up all these fun looking toys on a tree and dont allow her to play with each one. "No, honey, all those toys are just for you to stare at." I tell her. But it brings her no consolation. She loves all her grandparents, and is already getting to know her cousins. She's babbling more and more. She says 'bahbahdablahbahada' while she jumps in her jumper. She'll stop whatever she's doing- even if she's crying- if you sing her a song- any song, but especially the ABC song. She laughes when you blow raspberries on her belly, and she hates peas. I mean she REALLY HATES PEAS. But she's happy and content. And as much as Danny and I have to accomplish to still get settled back in our home state-- so far we are too.