marriage · Motherhood · Musings

Waiting for the slap – thoughts on transition and homecoming

toronto skyline -  john ryan
Toronto, Ontario” by John Ryan is licensed under CC

A few days ago my family finished the front end of a whirlwind move from Montreal to Toronto. A month ago we didn’t know we’d be coming home. Then God opened a bunch of doors in such rapid succession that we could barely keep up. Cue three weeks to pack, organize all the details of moving, and say goodbyes. A week ago we moved from our Montreal apartment to a dear friend’s house down the road, first transition. Five days ago we moved from the Lucases home to my in-laws in Mississauga for a couple of days of visiting and resting, second transition. Yesterday, we moved from ‘Ssauga to my sister’s home in Toronto where we will live for the next month and a half until our apartment ten minutes away is ready, third transition and upcoming fourth transition.

I’ve been waiting for the slap…the stinging hit of emotions as goodbyes and newness collide inside me. It came early this morning.

I woke up in my niece’s room, kindly given up so Nick and I have our own room this summer, and felt the weight of the past month, the past week. I am tired today. My kids have been sleeping well (the mercy of all mercies!) but the adrenaline that has been carrying me finally dried up and I feel all kinds of fragile and weary. It is an all too familiar feeling for this nomadic-from-birth girl. But this time it also felt totally different. I woke up transition weary and deeply relieved to be home all at once.

Toronto is my chosen home. I came here as a young adult, a Canadian by passport only, with no fixed address, and found a place to claim as my own. My sister’s family settled here and took me in and launched me into adulthood, I married a boy from the suburbs who’s family is here, and I fit into the multicultural identity (when we do it well and when we don’t…) of this city. I have never felt like I really fit in anywhere, until I came here. My wandering heart has longed to be back in this city, with my people. But you can never come home…not in a straightforward way. Moving is full of uncertainty and rebuilding, even when you are moving home.

Nick and I left Toronto as newlyweds, an engineer and a journalist/writer trying to figure out what came next for me. In the four years we’ve been away: we’ve become parents, we lost and mourned a baby, Nick has switched careers, we worked as missionaries, we moved house five times, and I’ve felt a calling to enter pastoral ministry. Charlie was conceived in Toronto (your delightful TMI of the day!) but only lived here a month before we whisked him off to be born in Germany. Two years later Constance was born in Montreal – following in the footsteps of her Campbell side of the family with each child born on a different continent.

We’re different in these big, visible ways, and we’re different in a million tiny, invisible ways too. The friends we left in Toronto have changed, moved on in life and careers and families and dreams. The family we left are different, the kids are growing up so fast and a lot of life has happened to everyone. The city is different, the conversations have shifted. We can never go back to the place we left four years ago, but we can come home to a new place that is comfortingly familiar.

On Monday, everyone I live with will go to work, the big kids (my niece and nephew) will be at camp, and me and my littles will be home alone. The life of a stay at home mom in Montreal and Toronto are pretty much the same. But in Montreal, like in Germany before, I wasn’t alone because I built a community based largely on the stage of life I was in. Stay at home moms banding together to keep each other company during the 9-5 when others work outside the home. Bearing witness to each other in the good, bad, beautiful and ugly that you can only really understand as a parent in the wonder-trenches of baby and toddler years.

My community in Toronto pretty much all have jobs that keep them far from park dates and nap schedules. I get to step back into a rich life of extended family dinners, church happenings and endless possibilities for double dates. But I am back to square one for company during my daytime mom-gig. And so as Monday approaches, and my heart breaks a little remembering in particular the mom-friends I left behind in Germany and Montreal, I’m gearing myself up to start over. To transition.

I know from experience that transition takes a year, a long year of being new again and mustering the energy to make friends and being patient as routine is established. A year of false starts and lonely moments. I also know from experience that in a year I will look back in utter amazement at what can be built when you reach out.

But today I’m tired. I just want to cocoon in being in my beloved sister and brother-in-law’s home. I want to sit around a dinner table with loud (probably whiny) kids and laugh at Jon’s jokes and make plans with my sister and see Nick relaxed. Next weekend my in-laws are whisking us to their home to sleep in and soak up grandparent time, I will cocoon there too. I actually really suck at moving, it brings out the worst in me. So I’m trying to be less whiny this time, and I’m trying to give myself more grace and listen to my tired body. I know I’ll find my community here, there are already plans in the pipelines that I’m excited about! But I also know that IT TAKES TIME and I’ll let myself be sad when I miss the communities I poured heart and soul into in other places.

Toronto, my home, cannot live up to the ideals and perfection that being homesick in foreign lands conjured in my mind. But Toronto, the place and the people, can be a beautiful spot where my family of four gets to be part of Kingdom come and Kingdom now.





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