In our family this has never been an easy thing to do. I imagine the Kazakhs moving peacefully from their high summer pasture lands to their winter homes down below. I see them rolling up all their felt walls and rugs as they take down their yurts, piling these along with their treasures stored in metal and wooden chests onto horses and carts. The children and elders lastly finding seats among their belongings.
For us leaving home, no matter if we are going east or west or how many time zones we had to travel through, is never an easy task. Usually it measures on the far side of stress. There are always sad good-byes to family and friends or friends who are like family. There are all the decisions of what to take and what to leave behind. This complicated by the fact we never seem to know for sure when we will be returning. Often we are packing for more than one season. So heavy coats and boots need to be in our luggage or carried on. When the children were young, growing like blackberry vines in the Northwest, we needed to take shoes for growing into as well as for wearing in the present. Then for large-footed teenager boys playing various sports we almost needed one supersized suitcase for their shoes.
When we lived in China in the early years I was always baffled by how people could travel so light. No one seemed to travel with more than one small bag the size of a brief case. And this could be for a month-long trip! And here we were with our luggage filled with clothes, books (many of those!), children’s favorite toys and various essentials.
Once we were moving back to China for the summer after two years away. Bill had started a doctoral program. We needed to get back there to stay connected and not lose our language. At that time Michael was 9, Suzie 5, and Nathan not yet one. You can imagine we had a lot of “essentials”. For example our dear friend escorting us to the airport found that Michael was having trouble carrying his backpack. He had packed it himself. She gave it a quick once over and found that he had not only stuffed his basketball in there but also “The Complete Works of Beatrice Potter.” One of those had to go. He could not be parted from the basketball.
Bill remembers at the airport that he caught a glimpse of the NBA playoffs on a far-off TV screen. He started edging that direction. I surrounded by the 3 children calmly told him if he went over there to watch the game I was not going to get on the plane. He got the message and decided to keep hanging out with us. Somehow, after 12 hours of flying and a 3-day train trip, we managed to get to our summer quarters.