Courtney moved from Seattle to Detroit two weeks ago with her husband and daughter. She wrote this email about the process of adjusting to a new place to a friend who is her chosen family in Seattle, someone she went through law school with, who brought her and her husband and newborn home from the hospital, and who knows transitions well in her own life.
Date: September 19, 2017
Hi lovely lady! I got your message on Friday and could not have been happier to get it. It is currently 6:33 a.m. Pacific time (9:33 here), so I’m emailing to let you know that I can’t wait to talk and hear about your life and share all things Detroit.
Until then, here’s the rundown:
Our flight the Sunday before Labor Day was so seamless it was forgettable. We zipped through the airport in Seattle, were upgraded to first class (you can do that with children?!) and Mimi charmed everyone on the plane. We landed in Detroit, picked up a car, and drove to our new apartment. Deirdre [my sister] was there waiting for us with keys and lots of housewarming gifts and a cheese and cracker board.
I immediately loved our place [we leased the apartment while we were still in Seattle, so while I had seen it via photos and FaceTime, this was our first time actually stepping into it]. It is 1600 square feet of hardwood flooring and high ceilings and tall windows that let in tons of light. It has views of a water tower and old brick warehouses from the bedrooms and of a partial skyline from the living room. It even smells good. My parents had set up a table and chairs and dishes and some of our rugs that we had shipped earlier. And for Mimi, they had resurrected the Little Tikes toy kitchen I had grown up with — Mimi immediately started playing with the pots and cups, and hasn’t stopped. (Fying pan in hand, she keeps telling us that she is preparing “ice” for us.) One of the benefits of moving so close to family is receiving their love in new ways, like when they conspire to prepare a lovely homecoming for us.
That first evening we walked from our apartment to the River Walk a few blocks away. Lots of people were out, enjoying the holiday weekend. We strolled along the Detroit River and had dinner at a brewery on the walk back home. The evening sun made the century-old red brick buildings in our industrial area glow, and on a night when I thought I’d be pining for Seattle, I felt excited to be where I was.
After so much anticipation and after all of the assumptions I had made about what this move would entail, it strikes me as odd how quickly I have just begun living here. There is so much that feels normal: I’m paying bills and going to prenatal appointments and working from coffee shops during the day. I have memorized our address and know the streets downtown. I’ve even met some potential friends. I talked with one woman at the grocery store who was front-pack-carrying her six-month-old, and we exchanged information and later met at the Saturday farmers market. A woman I knew in undergrad and her child, Mimi’s age, met us at the central library. And I ran into another woman heading into our apartment building, impeccably dressed and holding three large pizzas while dangling several bags from her arms and guiding her three kids to the front doorway. She invited me to a rooftop birthday gathering she was hosting for herself, to begin immediately. We, of course, went, and loved it. So, the stars of random interactions are aligning and if all goes well, I will have friendships here.
But in the quieter moments, when it’s the evening and I’m in the midst of the boxes that now fill our apartment, that’s when it’s easy to feel that pang of loneliness. It probably doesn’t help that Sheikh traveled all of last week, or that we had to say goodbye to Hermione, my family’s beloved dog. But that deep connection with people that comes with years of conversation and kind deeds and trust-building — that will take time to build with others. This is when I miss you and my Seattle people immensely.
Every other day or so, Mimi wakes up and says “Hi Nana!” or “Hi Pops!” These were her beloved daycare providers in Seattle. At first I said things like: “I know you miss them, but you have a new school now!” But after reading about how to discuss and approach major changes with kids, I read something that resonated with me. It said to let children have their emotions, whatever those may be, even if they are ones we would consider negative, like loss or sadness or frustration. The article instructed parents not to try to make those feelings “better” or project one’s own emotions onto kids. So the next time Mimi asked for Nana and Pops, I sat down with her and we looked at photos of them and of Mimi’s friends in Seattle. And to my surprise, instead of being upset, she spent the whole time smiling and pointing, happily waving goodbye to the photos when it was time to put them away. She seemed to want to celebrate her relationships rather than feel sad that she hasn’t been able to see people she loves. After she was in bed, I got out my photos from the summer, prepared to let myself have whatever emotions I needed to in order to process this transition. And it was totally therapeutic.
Love you, miss you, cannot wait to talk!