writing this post – about our very last days in london – has been difficult for me. so many intense feelings have flooded back and even seven months later they feel cutting. i’m remembering that in a way i felt the most alive i’ve ever felt in those final days of june, twenty twenty one – blisteringly, searingly alive. the culmination of six years, four children, thousands of adventures and so much growth … and the anticipation of a totally new life ahead – it was just all really, really intense.
two days before our flight to the united states, a few good friends came over early in the morning to help ian bring our carefully packed shipping crates out to the street, where they would be picked up. it was pretty wild to look out the window and see everything we own in three big cardboard boxes (sans the five suitcases we had inside).
i had run outside to snap these photos and when i looked back at the window, here’s what i saw of gabriel … providing some comic relief amidst all the stress and sadness 🙂
that afternoon we had a combined birthday party for moses and goodbye party. we had mo’s school friends come over right after school for an hour and then invited all our other london friends to drop by after that. both ian and i had been so stressed about the weather on this day – the forecast said rain, rain, rain … which was no good for both getting the crates packed up on the street and having an outdoor party. ian arranged to do the crate packing super early in the morning when the likelihood of rain was slightly slower, and i had arranged with the garden square committee to put up a couple of canopies (which i didn’t know was an option until the day before!). a tender mercy straight from heaven was that there was not a drop of rain on that twenty eighth of june. in the grand scheme of things obviously the weather on this day doesn’t matter at all, but for us in that moment in time, it mattered a lot – and we were grateful.
moses had requested a rainbow theme for his party so i did my best (on a totally fried brain from all the moving logistics and emotions) to incorporate some colourful party aspects. we kept it simple with balloons, bubbles, and a game of pass the parcel with school friends, and then with other friends we did mo’s traditional birthday piñata (improvising when we didn’t have a whacker or rope by having ian just hold the piñata and using an old mop to hit it, haha!) and my dear friend skye did face paint. my weary, weary soul was so happy to see mo absolutely delighted by everything and to be able to spend time with dearly beloved people in our london community. our friends gave us a book about london with heartfelt, handwritten messages inside the front and back covers, and i was so touched. the kids had a blast and it was all a wonderful break from packing and emotion processing.
the next day was the boys’ last day of school at st. cuthbert with st. matthias church of england primary school. i have grown to love this school so much. navigating schools for your kids in london is a trip, but i’m so glad about where we landed. on their last day i just felt flooded with gratitude for all the people who have cared for moses and gabriel, for their experience at such a diverse school and a church school, for all the pickups and drop offs. we took some pictures before dropoff and then i soaked up all the little things about sending them in and collecting them that day. there’s a lot i miss about st. cuthbert’s, but i think most of all i miss it being right around the corner!!
moses was a little late to school because he and i had to go get pre-flight covid tests done. our last ride on the tube. and then it was back to the seemingly never-ending odds and ends to go through at the flat.
while the boys were at school, ian and i went with the babies to take a photo of them having been outside of me for (nearly) 38 weeks at the same spot we’d taken a photo of them having been inside of me for 38 weeks. i had to get this shot before we left, because frankly i’m really proud that i survived both of those 38 weeks.
when gabriel got home, he was a good helper in entertaining the babies.
and then he entertained himself by taking about a thousand pictures of eve. haha!
a few of my favourites:
when i picked up moses after school, i had to take another photo – one of him in the same spot where i’d taken a photo of him on his very first day of school at st. cuthbert’s. look how much he’s grown! he gave lollipops to his classmates as he said goodbye and a great big hug and thank you to his teacher. we sat on our porch and he showed me a really thoughtful present his teacher got him and a book of pictures/notes his classmates made for him. it made me cry, it was so sweet.
after a tough afternoon and evening with everyone just struggling and still lots of work to winnow down the very last odds and ends, we all went to bed on the floor – the boys on their old mattresses we were throwing away in the morning, and us on an air mattress that some friends had lent us. ian held me that night on the cold air mattress under our tall ceilings while i just sobbed and sobbed. i was sad that our last day was pretty crappy instead of wrapped up a bit more nicely. i was heartbroken to leave this city and this life. i was terrified about building an entirely new life in a totally different place. i was unloading months and months of emotions. all these images flashed though my head – our garden square, snapshots from biking around the city, the views from the top deck of a red bus, our kids playing with their friends at london playgrounds … as well as these blank and/or black images of life in provo. so much in my heart and mind. *so much*.
when i came out of my bedroom to greet my family the next morning, i was blasting neil diamond’s “america” on my phone. the boys were pumped, quickly catching on to singing along: “we’re going to america…today!” i felt ready to bring all the joy and leave behind all the pain i’ve experienced in the past six years – ready for a new beginning and a new adventure. ready to put aside grieving and embrace things to be excited about. i took the boys out to the garden and we did the “biggest push ever” on the swings one last time and a couple final “challenges” (where i tell them to do specific things on the playground equipment), and then we went to the middle of the garden under the huuuuuge plain tree and i talked them through a sensory exercise – noticing everything they could see, hear, touch, taste and smell, to imprint earls court square garden on our hearts. (there were about a dozen little squabbles broken up in this few minutes…) then we went home and ian gave the three of us each a blessing sitting on the carpet in our empty flat. ian and i had a big hug and a little prayer and then the chaos continued … up to the very last second as we tried to get everyone and everything into the van that had arrived to take us to the airport while attempting to gift the babies’ crib to an overdue pregnant neighbour (but we didn’t have an allen wrench to take the crib apart and it didn’t fit through the door without being dissembled). in a total blur we set off. ian reminded me that london is inside of us and we are bringing that with us.
and then it was on to our “perilous journey,” as i had been describing it to the boys in an animated, storytelling voice 🙂 we hadn’t been in an airport for sixteen months, but it kind of felt like riding a bike, even with so much luggage and two babies added on to our last travel load back in february 2020. check in, security, grab some food, get to the gate, waiting, boarding. and then the flight to san francisco was long but way less bad than i expected. all the kids did great, really. the flight was super empty, my preparation in packing paid off, and we all basically slept the last three hours. i loved singing moses and gabriel sleep, watching their eyelids get so heavy as they sprawled across three seats in a row. gabe was grumpy when he woke up at the end but other than that we had essentially no crying. a big success.
we had to sleep over in san francisco, so we gathered all our bags, went through passport control and customs, and took a shuttle to an airport hotel. you can imagine that was quite the production with loads of luggage and four jet-lagged small children in tow … but we made it! and then were woken up by our kids at 1:30am thinking it was 8:30am, had to pack everything back up and get on the first early morning (and super packed!) shuttle back to the airport, and do check in and security and boarding and etc all over again. this was by far the craziest part of our “perilous journey” and involved running furiously through the airport with kids going wild and seriously nearly vomiting … ! … but a short southwest flight with a sunrise out the window later, we were in phoenix and the welcoming arms of grandma and grandpa.
what. a. wild. few. days. it took several weeks for it to sink in that we weren’t just on a summer trip to the states – we had moved to the states.
let the next chapter begin!