From House To Home (8/8)

Part Eight – The Wake up Call

I can’t quite remember how it all went down. I remember looking at my husband one day and thinking that he looked a little tired and needed something, although I couldn’t imagine what. I had just bought him a stunning white Eames Chair on which to rest his head.

Since I met him, aside from being the f@*king love of my life, he had remained a constant source of energy, love, and enthusiasm. He would get up and run before the sun came up, go to work all day, come home and help with whatever I needed. He would happily wash the dishes, help put the kids to bed, and check on any last minute work emails before settling in for the night. Yet the last few months I could tell something was bugging him.

Then it occurred to me that San Antonio, or The Cemetery as he so lovingly referred to it, was getting him down. He was homesick. I suggested a trip back to his hometown of Cologne, Germany. He hadn’t been back in years. I thought we should get back to his roots for a bit, regroup, visit his friends, gain some perspective. He lit up and we booked our trip that night.

 

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Dusseldorf
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Little Rhett bundled up

Now it was his turn to play tour guide. We visited his friends, ate local food, and explored his old haunts. He was a changed man in Germany. He was alive with energy and excitement I hadn’t seen in a while. I could see he was in his element, he was with his people. The kids and I absorbed every bit of the sites and culture.

Everything seemed so normal and real there. Life seemed simpler and more straightforward, The landscape was breathtaking. The vibe of the city was energizing but not overwhelming. The streets charming. His friends were kind, open, and accepting.

Life somehow seemed a little richer there.

We also reminisced on how we had always planned on raising our kids in Germany and how we would like to travel a year before our eldest started school. Before leaving, I researched several neighborhoods in Germany to check out and see how we liked them as possible places to settle our family.  My husband prefers the bustle of city life. We found a charming neighborhood in the city with plenty of cafes, shops, and expansive parks for the boys.

I found a small city a few miles from Cologne called Bonn very appealing. Bonn is a quaint and majestic town that served as the capitol during Berlin’s fall to the East. It had everything – beauty, culture, urban vibes, and plenty of schools to choose from for the boys. We had options.

My husband and I were invigorated by the idea of moving to this amazing country and exposing our boys to all it had to offer.

We left Germany inspired that this was the right path for us as a family. Both of us felt very much at home there and it solidified our decision that, yes, one day we will move there.

img_0867Cologne, Germany

img_1169Bonn, Germany

 

We were very excited, but fear always finds a way of sneaking in, and doubt can be persistent. I would wake up in the middle of the night in a mild panic, questioning our sanity. We made a firm decision that if we did this, there would be no going back. We would go to stay. We had to commit.

So I questioned everything. Is this really the right decision? Will our children be better off in the long run there? How will they acclimate to a new culture? How will I? And by God, how will I ever learn German?              

The questions were endless. To be honest, five to six years had always seemed like such a long way off. Now it was just around the corner. And when the time came, would we actually do it? After all, we were getting “settled” in San Antonio. Making friends. Making connections. Making a life. Would we really up and leave?

As it turns out, life has its own timeline and agenda. The currents are tricky and just when you think the sea is calm, a rogue wave sneaks up and carries you off to somewhere entirely new.

Inspired by our Germany trip, and through a series of circumstances involving my husband’s work situation, a close friend’s death, not to mention a string of school shootings, and the election of crazy certain man, we asked ourselves:

Why the heck are we still here and what are we waiting for?

We have EU citizenship through my husband, he works from home, and our boys are young enough to easily absorb another culture. We were sitting on the most incredible opportunity and we were squandering it. It was a complete no brainer. Easy question.

It’s funny, I can’t remember the exact moment we made the decision. It had to be some time shortly after we got back. I couldn’t get the idea of living in Germany out of my mind. Something inside me kept nagging to do it sooner than later.

I had to make this happen. I felt like we would just be passing time if we stayed in San Antonio any longer, waiting for Archie to start school. Why wait until then? Why not go to Europe sooner and live there for several years before he started school? We could explore the continent and really enjoy it before being tied down to school schedules.

I conceived a plan to present to my husband. We will each pick one country we would “love” to live within Europe and plan to live there for six months each. We would sell the house this summer, sell all of our belongings, pack one suitcase each, (we would ship winter clothes), and buy a one-way ticket for us, the kids, and Oden.

For the next year, we will rent a flat in the country we decided upon and just live and soak up the place, before deciding where exactly we wish to settle.

To be honest, the thought of immediately finding another house and filling it up with a ton of stuff just left me feeling tired and unenthused.

I loved the idea of owning nothing and being free –  at least for a moment. My gyspy heart was singing.

I wasn’t exactly sure how my husband would take it. So I bought two bottles of wine and presented my case to him over dinner. Luckily, my husband shares the same sense of adventure and freedom I do. I didn’t even get to my closing argument before he  jumped all in. (In all fairness, for him, it was returning home. But God bless him, he has an open heart and a free mind.)

Once we actually committed to the move, it all became clear: the answer to what was gnawing at me for the past several years. I was living a great life. It just wasn’t my life. I am not cut out for suburban living, in a suburban home, in a suburban neighborhood. It doesn’t fit me. And that’s ok.

Thankfully we have the means and opportunity to choose a different life, one that is better suited to our lifestyle, in a place that better reflects our values, interests, beliefs, and who we are.

In the end, it is about finding your Tribe. Although I will miss my family and friends, both old and new, and the neighbors I now call friends who have been so supportive and accepting, (here’s looking at you Paloma 115 and 137), I know in my bones that our life is waiting for us in Europe, but it could have been somewhere else too.

America has been great to me. I had an easy, typical Texas-cheerleader childhood, a (too much) fun college experience, fantastic jobs, friends, family, lovers and a few haters.

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I am grateful for everything this country allowed me to accomplish, but as I drove up to my local grocery store this evening and saw rows of SUV’s all lined up in their numbered parking spaces, engines running, with their trunks popped open waiting for the grocery boy to come out and load up their cars with bags and bags of groceries they had ordered online, I am filled with gratitude that pretty soon, I will be walking down a cobbled stone street in a small Tuscan village to visit my cheese shop, my wine shop, the fish monger, all whom I will know by name, before enjoying my morning cappuccino made by a barista who will hopefully know mine.

 

I am beyond grateful that we will raise our boys, be it in Italy or Germany…or possible Portugal, after all, who really knows? Wherever we land, I am grateful that they will be surrounded by those things we treasure most – culture, history, and nature at our doorstep.

With a little luck and favorable currents, in a few months time, we will have sold our house and all it’s belongings and boarded a plane with one suitcase and a oneway ticket in hand.

In the end, all that stuff we fill our lives with is just that, stuff. It’s the stuff we can’t hold that is actually worth holding onto.

As for our house? I have always been mindful to feel at home wherever I am in the world. There have been plenty of times I have been alone in a new city, but I can with certainty say that I have never felt lonely.

A house is a place. A home is much more.

I plan on living a very minimal, simplified life when we get there. (The designer in me is already planning our uber minimalist Scandinavian style home as we speak.) But I also plan on our lives being fuller in other ways: full of people, loved ones, experiences, and memories. And lots of food and wine.

We are headed to Arezzo, a small town in Tuscany that was originally founded by the Etruscans.

‘Spanti’ is the Etruscan word for a vessel or bowl for libations and drinking.

May your SPANTI always be FULL.

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