Special delivery…

“It’s just one box…”

“I can’t fit these in the suitcase, can we leave them here? We’ll get them next trip…”

Remember all that stuff that you’ve stored in dribs and drabs at various houses over the years? Well, guess what? Eventually it wends its way back to you when you finally get a fixed abode.

We had a double whammy this week. First, the in-laws arrived from Adelaide with a carload. Stuff I’d completely forgotten about – or never seen before – started filling the front room at a frightening speed. Boxes of papers, great-grandma’s crockery… and I’d never known that hubby had been such a prolific artist – in primary school. Where was that going to go!? The only thing that stopped me from bursting into hysterical laughter – or tears – was the four cases of wine that beckoned me from the coffee table. That would definitely come in handy.

Next day, my parents arrived with their delivery. Childhood trinkets, a surprising amount of photo albums, more Tupperware and a slightly worn-around-the-edges wedding dress were added to the pile. My brother arrived shortly after with his own contribution to the collection.

“There’ll be more next trip,” they all reassured me.

Before our first move, hubby’s secondment had been on-again/off-again for the best part of a year. And when they finally decided we were going, he disappeared very shortly after to start the new job. That left me – working full-time, studying part-time and heavily pregnant – about six weeks to pack up a house, prepare it for tenants, finish final exams and keep working full-time.

As a consequence, I didn’t put much thought into culling our clutter. In fact, there was so much going on that I decided to deal with the junk when we came home in 18 months.  Back then, I was a little naïve as to the real length of secondments and how, when you’re reunited with your possessions after a few years in storage, you realise how unimportant some ‘stuff’ can be. And how surprisingly sentimental you can get.

So, toss or keep? Surrounded by our unexpected deliveries, I catch a glimpse of steely determination on hubby’s face, and realise that this time it probably won’t be my problem to deal with. And sure enough, the stuff had disappeared by the next morning. Some things were squirrelled away on the tops of cupboards, other stuff…I’m really not sure where it ended up.

One thing’s for sure though – he kept the wine.

And then the bubble burst

It was just a matter of time, really. Everything had been ticking along really well, so it was a bit of a shock when the kids fell to pieces within days of each other.

We’ve been talking openly about the move, about leaving Singapore, about how they were coping and everything seemed rosy, but all it takes is a playground incident, a photo, and what they’ve left behind comes flooding right back.

For H, it was the school camp. She was really excited about going to Phillip Island…until the night before.

“Why are you making me go? No-one ever goes on camp after being at school for only one week!” She burst into tears and no amount of reassurance could calm her down. And we understood – it was completely reasonable for her to feel nervous about a trip away with complete strangers so soon after starting a new school in what is mostly for a her, a foreign country.

We chose not to point out it had been her choice to go on the camp but instead tackled the task of finding out what had caused the emotional outburst. Eventually we figured out that she was worried about no-one wanting to sit next to her on the bus. That – and the memory of the camp she’d been on earlier this year with her Singapore buddies – was weighing heavily on her mind.

For T, it was Monday at school. His little mate was away and although he’d played with some of the other kids too, they decided he was ‘too tall’ to play and excluded him from their games. Luckily H saw how upset he was in the playground and looked after him, but his confidence had taken a massive hit.

When he came home that afternoon, he was really sad. “I just want my friends back…” he sobbed. “They don’t care that I’m tall.” OK, swallow that lump, blink rapidly and try not to think of how you’ve emotionally scarred your children by moving – again – while explaining that things will get better in time…

But the one that really threw me was S. When they’re so young, you think that they’ll just roll with the move and it won’t affect them too much, but once again I was proven wrong.

Out of the blue one morning, S became quite distraught and he came over for a hug.

“I miss school,” he cried. “I want Miss M and Miss K.” And then he rattled off the list of kids in his class. “I want to go there now!”

S had rarely mentioned Singapore in the whole time we’ve been back, and quite simply, appeared happy just to have the backyard and a few catchups with his little friend E. But obviously he’s thinking a lot but probably doesn’t have the vocabulary to verbalise what’s he’s feeling. And it was harder to explain to him why we couldn’t just ‘go back’ and see everyone – he clearly has no concept of time and distance!

Anyway, fast-forward a few days – H had a great time at camp and  she made a few new friends; T’s mate was back on Tuesday and all was well in his world again; and S had a playdate with E and was happy.

I know there’ll be more rough patches ahead as they try to fit in, but as we keep telling them, each day will get a little easier. And like all our other relocations, it’s just going to take a bit of time.