The bunk bed went yesterday. In the living room the 40-inch TV lies on the floor, devoid of its stand. The coffee tables and end tables gone – even their impressions on the carpet – gone. Very soon this house will be empty. Emptied of occupants and emptied of possessions. It will no long smell of curry, sandalwood incense or fried salmon. There won’t be small faces peering through the glass doors, seeking friends to play with. No more tea parties, potlucks or impromptu play dates when it rains. I am reminded of the song – I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again. Every place I’ll go I’ll think of you…
I remember coming to America as a young bride, all my worldly possessions in one suitcase. I was lost, lonely and totally naïve. All I wanted to do was go back to India. To everything I had left behind – my family, my friends, my career. But that was not to be. I grew out of my homesickness, made friends, had kids, and even started working on my career goals. Thirteen years later my wish to go back to India has been granted and I’m not really jumping around in joy.
The thought of meeting family and staying close to them excites me. I get to celebrate birthdays, Diwali and every festival possible with my family and extended family. We get to go to weddings and family get-togethers. All the food I crave when I am in the U.S. will be right in my backyard (literally!) We could go to music concerts, plays, art workshops. My kids will get pampered by their grandparents. All the experiences that I had as a kid and cherished, they could now have, not just during a vacation but for extended periods of time.
And yet a huge part of me would miss America. The only place we knew as a married couple. The place where we raised our kids. Where our belongings grew from one suitcase full of clothes to over 40 boxes of stuff. What happens to a person when we strip away all the stuff they have accumulated? Nothing life-threatening I assure you but the whole process is very unnerving. A sense of displacement, of hovering between two worlds like a ghost. Like a ghost without a house to haunt. We have moved several times within the U.S. and it is quite an emotional affair. The kids have a hard time parting with their toys and my husband has a hard time parting with his electronics. For me it is always the little scraps of paper with writing on it – cards made by my kids when they were in preschool, crafts made at school. Bits and pieces of my life and theirs captured with crayon and paper.
As I look outside at the burst of color that marks the beginning of spring, I know I will miss the seasons as I missed them in Florida. The blanket of yellow leaves on my porch in autumn and the shower of pink flowers on my driveway in spring. Winter I shall not miss, though my kids will. Summer will be the predominant season all year long in Chennai. So no winter blues for me and I would not have to wait for summer to go to the zoo and the beach.
I may never drive again given how chaotic it is in my city. Maybe sheer desperation and the habit of being independent may push me into it. My career, if I can call it that, is something I will have to work on again. Given that I don’t have any contacts in Chennai and have no clue about the present work culture, I feel despondent.
But maybe the myriad seemingly meaningless moves I made really taught me something. It never really is as bad as we imagine it to be. We do make friends, we do find meaningful work. We do figure out our way around (this applies specifically to me as I can get lost even with a GPS!)
So although I feel sad, there is an underlying wave of excitement and possibility. Like a child with a new toy or a box of chocolates waiting to be opened, I can’t wait to see what wondrous things await me. What will I make of it? Where will I go? Who will I meet? I don’t know, but surprisingly I am ok with that. It does not terrify me that I don’t have a fancy job waiting for me. Or that I won’t have my own place to stay. I remember things were exactly the same 13 years ago. So my bags are packed and I’m ready to go…and…
With a heart full of gratitude I bid adieu to my adopted country, America. Her snowcapped mountains, winding rivers and trails. Miles of beaches, tall redwood forests, bison, deer and cardinals. Her four seasons, oaks, maples and pines. Apple pie, pancakes and maple syrup. Pizza, cookies and French fries. Public libraries overflowing with books. Trader Joe’s and blueberry farms. Long road trips and scenic highways. Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. People who smile and open the door for you. I bid adieu to the many friends and neighbors who made my stay here memorable and pleasant. This is not goodbye. So long until we meet again…God bless you all!