Saturday, October 13, 2012

I'm Going To Make This Place Your Home

My decision to live with Nikki my junior year of college and my decision to marry V were the top two decisions that altered the entire course of my life.  Sure, the decision to marry someone, that’s an obvious influence, but a college roommate?  Those can come and go.  This one came and stayed, thankfully. 
 It was an unlikely match starting from the beginning, starting with just where we were from.  I grew up in a suburb of Dallas, as non-Texas as you can get.  I remember the first time I went home with her to Big Spring, Texas.  I felt as if I was on the edge of the world.  Big Spring is not far from where the famous Elizabeth Taylor movie, “Giant”, was filmed.  It is vast, stark, and seemingly void of living things.  As we turned into her neighborhood, our car was surrounded by mesquite trees that were barely as tall as me.  I felt claustrophobic, not able to see past the brush that surrounded all sides of the uncurbed road to her house, but yet I felt a freedom, as the West Texas sky loomed above me in a way I had never seen.  Her brother was the high school quarterback and we had come home for the homecoming game.  As we turned onto the double-laned highway outside of her house, I saw nothing but sky and open road beyond the windshield of the car.  “Where the heck are we going?” I asked.  “To my old high school,” she responded, confused.  I grew up with a high school stadium that had a seating capacity of over 14,000.  We cheered her brother’s homecoming game from the tailgate of a truck her family had pulled up to the fence.  As her brother threw touchdown passes, we shivered on the tailgate, wrapped in quilt blankets, sipping hot cocoa.  Prior to moving to The Netherlands, that night was the coldest night of my entire life, and after the West Texas wind whipped over, around, and through us for an hour, I relented and begged her to let me stay inside the truck with the heater on.       
  Our friendship continued to grow over the years.  I shared her excitement when she read her law school acceptance letter in the living room of our apartment in Waco.  I helped her look for apartments in Lawrence, Kansas a few months before her first day of classes at Kansas University law school.  She helped me decide that Addison Circle apartments outside of Dallas were where I should be after a broken engagement and a start at a new life.  This proved to be a twist of fate, graced by Nikki, as Addison Circle housed my future husband, V, who I ‘accidentally’ met while walking our dogs in one of the courtyards.  She was there, in the happiest moments of my life:  She stood beside me (in a dress!) at my wedding, helped host Baby Girl’s baby shower, and was at my home along with my parents and grandma when we returned from the hospital with Little Man.   When I told her I was moving to The Netherlands for two years, I can’t say she completely shared my enthusiasm.  “But you were in Kansas for three years!  It will be just like that.  Every time we see each other, it will be as if no time has passed.”  I tried to reassure her. 
  I have a tendency to think I can do more than I can.  In January, as V was establishing our new life in The Netherlands, and I was wrapping up ours in Texas, I became distraught.  It was the Sunday prior to our departure and I was supposed to give the keys to our house to our renters in the afternoon.  I was living at my Dad’s house and had dropped my 3-month old and 21-month old off with my mom for the day.  We had movers, but the connotation and gloriousness of ‘having movers’ is deceiving.  All possible things had left the house, but upon my visit in the morning I realized the seriousness of the task I had before me.  When you move internationally/store your things, the movers will not pack up cleaning supplies, propane tanks, lighter fluid, potting soil, and cans of paint.  You’d prefer not to store or ship trash cans (gross!).  My pantry and fridge was stocked full of food that I could do nothing with.  I had 28 bags of trash in my garage.  I had a closet full of clothes I had been wearing to work for the past few weeks.  I had bags of change and wedding photos I just did not know what to do with.  And the movers had left EIGHT boxes under the stairs.  They just. . . forgot to put them into storage.  That was the tipping point.  After I saw those boxes, with no where to put them, I realized I was in serious, overwhelming trouble.  My mom was taking care of my children and my husband was on the other side of the world.  I could throw the food away, but it’s like a zero-balance budget, the more trash you create, the bigger that problem becomes.  With 28 bags of trash already, I knew the city of Plano would not pick them up.  I was going to have to take it to the dump, and the problem was already bigger than one trip in a 2000 Ford Explorer.  As I surveyed the damage, the clock ticking, I realized that I would be there until midnight.  But I couldn’t be there until midnight, because I had two tiny children.   That’s when I lost it.  I’ve only cried that uncontrollable cry, body-shaking, I-just-don’t-think-I-can-do-this-cry three times in my life.  I called my husband in The Netherlands.  Of course, V was distraught.  He would have done anything to be there with me, to help me.  So he did the only thing he could think of.  He called Nikki.  She lives an hour away, but she was there in 45 minutes with back-up.  We loaded two cars full of trash and went to the dump.  She took my authentic 1960’s Beatles records to her cousin’s house.  She took more boxes to her home, she took the cleaning supplies, we took food to my Mom’s house, to my Dad’s house, and she promised to take good care of my wedding photos.   We made plans for the bags of American change which would be worthless in The Netherlands and the propane tank.  We decided to just leave the lighter fluid and charcoal for the renters.
  She came to my Dad’s house the night before I left.  We shared pizza and packed my bags.  She kissed Baby Girl goodbye and then snuck into Little Man’s temporary room as he slept in my Dad’s house.  “Next time I see you, you’ll almost be walking,” she whispered to him in the darkness.  As I hugged her goodbye and she said everything she needed to, I choked, nodded, and mumbled, “I’ll miss you and I’ll see you soon,” all my words unspoken. She hugged me tight, understanding everything I wanted to say, but couldn’t.
  In May, she sent me her flight confirmations.  She was really coming, in October, and the best part of her timing was that she was going to be here for Little Man’s 1st birthday.  I had confidence that we’d at least be able to have a party with friends in The Netherlands by October (unlike Baby’s Girl’s bday in April when we were still establishing ourselves and meeting people.  We celebrated with our nuclear family by visiting Efteling, a Dutch theme park, which was a fun, small celebration, although, if we wanted to host a party, our dog sitter said she would have happily joined in on the festivities). Prior to and subsequently after the confirmation, every restaurant I visited, every museum I explored, every town I traversed, I always had the ‘Nikki needs-to-see/do’ checklist in the back of my mind.
  We corresponded for weeks before her visit and I still couldn’t believe she was going to be here, but upon her arrival, I found that, like every time I visited her in Kansas, it seemed as if nothing had changed.  I was so proud to show her my house, my bike, my local Jumbo Grocery store.
   We took the train to Delft.  I had the kids in my newly-purchased-one-cup-holder-European-double-stroller which-is 17-pounds-lighter-than-my-ridiculously-heavy- American-stroller-with-six-cup-holders and as we exited the train and surveyed the platform looking for the ‘lift’ I started pushing towards the stairs.  “Of course they have a lift!” she said.  “How else would they accommodate the handicapped?” I shook my head and smiled.  “I know.  I know.  But they don’t.   Take an end.  Do you want feet or handle?” We carried the two kids and stroller down the steps.  “At least this is better than Paris,” I said, “there are very, very few metros with elevators in that city,” I explained. 
  By day 5, she was attempting to pack her groceries at the Jumbo like a Dutch pro, and she understood the stress I was under every time I bought bread, vegetables, and cheese.  She pedaled a bike across town next to me.  She hates to cycle.  “Why did you enroll Baby Girl in a school on the other side of The Netherlands?” she questioned me, breathlessly.  “Because, they speak English.  And Dutch.  They say let’s go outside, or please sit, in both English and Dutch – so I think that helps with her understanding and I can talk to her teachers in my native language.”  Without further question, she understood.  She got confused by my washer.  She was irritated by the microwave that beeps incessantly every two seconds post-microwaving.  Yet, she also embraced the architecture, the fabulous food, and the beauty around every corner.   We went to the Dutch resistance museum in Amsterdam and she visited the Van Gogh collection at the Hermitage.  She endured the trek up 35 stairs to her bedroom and loved the view of the train tracks and the quiet neighborhood street from the front balcony.  We met a friend of mine for drinks on Saturday.  “So, you’ve been here a couple of years?  How have you found it?” Nikki asked of my friend.  “It’s been good.  It’s hard.  But it’s good,” she said.  Nikki laughed.  This is what I’ve been telling her.  After a week with me, I can, without doubt, say that she gets it
  We celebrated my son’s 1st birthday last night.  It was a mix of long-time and newly-formed friends.  It was a wonderful celebration, complete with fajita marinade from Texas, lots of photos, and Duncan Hines cake mix and frosting from the Jumbo (at a price).   This morning as Nikki left for AMS, I hugged her again, choked up by tears.  She said everything she needed to say.  I could only manage, “Thank you for visiting, and I’ll see you soon.”  Again, all my words left unsaid.  “Mama’s crying,” Baby Girl was running around shouting.  But yet, Nikki knew.  She knew.  I will see her in just a few weeks.  After months of thinking her visit would seem surreal, once she was here, it seemed unreasonably natural.  It felt like home.                                           


  1. I couldn't have shared our story better. I definitely "get it", lol! Great story of us and our continuous journeys together! See you in a few weeks! Nikki

  2. Awww. Great story, and so glad you guys had fun.