On the road to "home"

Although Ottawa has become my home and I can’t imagine living anywhere else, I also still think of the US/Florida/Tallahassee as my home. Yesterday I ventured across the border for the first time in over 5 years. There’s a combination of reasons for this delay - the most embarrassing is that I let all my travel documents expire. (Don’t do that, okay?)

So, we left Ottawa yesterday morning - not nearly as early as I’d hoped, but such is life! Brandon fell asleep on our way to the border and was snoring softly as I waited in line to see the border guard. We passed through without any issues, though Brandon did wake up because the car had stopped moving. And, despite staying up very late the night before, that was the last he slept in the car all day.

A couple of hours later, we both got hungry and when I saw a Cracker Barrel sign, I couldn’t resist! 

Also, they had a violin, and Brandon has been asking for one for weeks! (Score!) Unfortunately, it requires batteries and the cover is screwed on. I didn’t pack batteries or a screwdriver for this trip. (Fail!)

After getting through the lovely rush-hour traffic in Harrisburg, PA, Brandon said his tummy was grumpy. Combine, windy roads, rain and dark and his first epic road trip and it’s understandable. We ended up stopped 3 hours shy of our goal.

That means we won’t get to Tallahassee until Sunday, but it’s all good. I’m enjoying the time with Brandon. He’s a good co-pilot.

A little side note: we’re also really enjoying driving in the Ford C-Max that Ford Ottawa gave me to use for this trip. It doesn’t look very large, but it’s nice and roomy. There isn’t as much cargo space as I would like and I had to ditch one of the suitcases I’d planned to bring along, but packing light isn’t a bad thing! 

I’m going to talk about it some more later, especially since I’m honestly considering it as a second vehicle now that I’ve driven it. (Of course, I’m not sure when we’ll finally get around to getting a second vehicle!) I’ve tried out the Ford Edge, the new Focus and now the C-Max and the C-Max is my favourite so far. 

Best part? Filling it up isn’t nearly as painful as when I fill up my other car. And we won’t get into the difference in what we’re paying in Canada compared to the US. It’s bad, you guys.

A promise kept

Have you ever had a year that is so momentous that you feel like you can relive it every single time you hear it mentioned? That year for me was 2000. It was a huge year. (And I don’t mean because of the 2000 election, in which Tallahassee had a starring role, whether it wanted it or not!)

In January, something devastating and hurtful happened just before I moved from my cute little studio apartment into my (recently deceased) great aunt’s house to live while it was in probate.

In February and March, I spent all my spare time distracting myself by setting up house and trying not to be lonely. I lived on the other side of town from my parents in a super cute house surrounded by a neighborhood that was slightly run down and perhaps not the most law-abiding at times.

In April I turned a corner. I began to regain my balance only to begin the process at work of going through a re-org. Uncertainty was everywhere, including in me. I didn’t know what I was doing there other than marking time.

In May I flew to Canada - and this is where things get interesting - and promised Matt that I would move to Canada by the American Thanksgiving. (For anyone who isn’t in the know, that effectively gave me an extra six weeks.)

In June I dragged my brother to St. Petersburg, FL to go to a Canadian consulate-approved doctor to have the medical exam required for my Permanent Resident Visa. 

In July I found out that my great aunt’s house was done with probate. Since the rent on it was out of my budget I had to move again. (That’d be move #2.) And I also turned 23.

In August I moved into the apartment that I’d found in July. It turns out that my dear friend was moving back to town and needed a place, so she moved in with me. Perfect - someone to take over the lease when I left by November.

September came and so did Matt. He spent a week hanging out with me and my family, seeing the sights in Tallahassee and this is the one visit we had together that I can barely remember. The highlight was Starvin’ Marvin and his stinky bum and flakey skin playing with Emo and Colonel Mustard, but that’s another story for another day.

October was a really big month. When it started, I lined up a second job for myself as a seasonal worker at Barnes and Noble, hoping with each passing day that my Visa would arrive soon. All the paperwork had been sent in plenty of time for me to get it by the end of October and I was getting nervous.

Midway through the month, my roommate and I noticed that Colonel Mustard wasn’t eating so I took him to the vet. Diagnosis: most likely FIP. I said my goodbyes to the best cat ever the next day. I only had him a year and a half, but he’d been with me through a LOT.

Within about a week or week and a half, I was at the second job one night, bored and counting the seconds until I could leave, when I got a call. It was my mom. She never called me at work but she wanted to let me know there was something from the Canadian Consulate (or whoever it was that sent my Visa; I can’t remember now). And I just gave away what was in the package.

And here’s the relief part: I was movin’ to Canada! I was going to keep the promise I’d made. 

I already had my resignation letter written. All I had to do was change the date, print, sign and give it to my supervisor, who was expecting it.

About a week after I gave my three-week notice I left work early, wrapping up by scheduling a meeting with my supervisor and someone from the big boss’ office. Later that night, a coworker called me at home to give me a heads up that my supervisor - someone I truly liked - had been let go. The next Monday morning, he called me at my desk to say his goodbyes - he was a great man to work for.

By then, November had come, I had two weeks left to work and I no longer had a supervisor. You’d think I would have switched off, but I didn’t. I had the final awards ceremony that I was going to manage and that was important to me. I had some big send-offs from the people I had worked with for 3.5 years. When Matt rolled into town in late November, sporting a champagne-colored minivan, I hadn’t even packed a box. (Gasp!) I was in total denial that I was leaving.

Matt spent the days I had left at work walking around the (huge) complex and going into every building to collect boxes. We didn’t have a single moment alone since he’d driven into town. So, when he got tired of waiting, he went for it right where we were - my cubicle - and with a co-worker walking by chit-chatting with me. When she saw him down on one knee (before I did), she quickly scurried away. He asked and I said yes.

It was Monday, November 20th, I was engaged and I was definitely moving to Canada. It was a done deal. We quickly packed everything we could into the van over the next two days. Said as many goodbyes as we could and celebrated an early Thanksgiving with my parents and brother.

The day before Thanksgiving, amidst political turmoil, Matt and I drove away from my parents’ house on our way north, just as I’d promised.

That was when the real relief began.

*****

Mama's Losin' It

This post was based on the prompt “A moment you felt truly relieved” from Mama Kat’s writing workshop. 

What’s your moment of relief?

Florida Dreamin’

Every once in a blue moon, I have this pretty detailed fantasy where I move back to my hometown, Tallahassee, Florida – a city that, despite being the capital of the state is occasionally NOT on the map. Of course, Brandon and Matt go with me. We’d sell our house here in Ottawa and buy a nice place in Tally – perhaps off North Monroe to be sort of close to family, but maybe we’d try some of the southeast areas of the city that are newer or just find where the best schools are. Of course, we might end up a pretty fair distance from my dad, brother, sister-in-law and nieces, but that’s Tallahassee distance, which isn’t that far.

I’d get a job with the State; because I know all the official languages (English) and I have worked for the state in the past. It was a good place to work when I was there before, so I’d definitely work there again. I always just assume Matt would work for the city, but maybe he should work for the State, too.

I’d look forward to living in a town where I know all the areas – like Frenchtown, Killearn, the Fairgrounds, all of the general school districts. I’d know some of the history of the town that’s relevant to me personally, like how the Shoney’s Inn at Highway 27 and I-10 is built on the land where my Grandmother’s house stood for over 40 years – the house where my Dad grew up. That Grandma’s house was actually moved to a little neighborhood off of Fred George Road instead of being torn down when she sold it and the land in the early 1980s.

We could go biking down St. Marks trail, take Brandon to San Luis Mission, visit Myers Park to play on the playground or go swimming, go watch the fireworks at Tom Brown, teach Brandon why Godby is better than Leon. He could get to be in marching band! The perks of moving south are really endless and I haven’t even started with how you don’t have to shovel snow. Ever.

I love the thought of going back and knowing all the back roads and how to get around quickest without ever having to consult a map. With family so close, I would never have to worry about needing help – that’s what families do for each other. I’d get to help my family in return, too! Getting to see my family regularly and get to know my sister-in-law and nieces better would be a dream come true.

Of course, my older brother is in Tennessee, but we’d even be a lot closer to him – it’s only a 9-hour drive to from Tally instead of a 16-hour drive from Ottawa. Plus, we could probably arrange family trips to meet up in Atlanta and be tourists for a few days. And Disney’s only a short 4-hour drive southeast.

All of this coming up now proves that two years of not seeing my family is too long and that this week has been really lonely for me. Matt’s sick, I’m sick and it’s not been easy to cope with everything we need to do for ourselves and Brandon – and also prevent Brandon from getting sick. We’ve managed to get through so far, thankfully, but I can honestly say I’ve not felt so alone in a really long time.