In eighty-one days, my landlord will hand over the keys to the rented house I’ll have hailed as home for four years of my adult life. After a brief honeymoon, Charming will hand me one set of matching keys to a house we haven’t bought yet, and we will make it our first home together. It’s either a miracle or madness to think in just three months time, I’ll be a foreigner on German soil, starting a forever and always that resembles nothing akin to a familiar lifestyle.
It’s exciting and terrifying, wonderful and intimidating. Yes, it’s all those things that everyone asks me, sometimes separate, almost tangible feelings I can isolate and analyze, but also occurring simultaneously such that prevention of the bubbling, meandering train of conflicting emotion finds me simply nodding and agreeing that, yes, it’s an amazing opportunity, but it’s scary, too. Not particularly profound.
It’s what I don’t say that would entertain a passerby at the intersection of sentiment and logic somewhere in the limbic system of my brain. There is no way we could recreate the potential life experiences and adventures available to us when we touch down at home base in Stuttgart, Germany come mid-July. The ability to travel and interact with other cultures will certainly broaden our perspectives and cement our commitment to global citizenship by situational catalyst. That’s to say nothing for what an incredible career opportunity my husband will settle into in the week to come. That’s the plan, anyway. He’ll go ahead and start his post while I wrap up my last eighty-one days as a high school teacher in Hampton, Virginia.
Our world is going to get a lot bigger. Right now it’s hard to see past the daily grind of poetry lessons, yearbook training video scripts, workouts and physical therapy, and attending to the neverending car repairs that suggest my faithful Honda ages like a dog – eleven years has my Bella panting, ready from a break from my Pokemon hunting cruises and trips back and forth to DC nearly twice a month for over two and a half years. It moved me here from Syracuse four years ago, and there from Nashville eighteen months before that. I bought the white Fit the summer before my divorce, and Bella has quite literally carried me through half a dozen crises, keeping me safe despite my predisposition to wreck, navigating me from new home to new home. She won’t be making that flight with us.
It’s a new era. The Dunkin’ Donuts app can tell you my favorite coffee break is at 9:45 am. The folks at the front desk after school haven’t needed to scan my card in ages. At Marker 20 downtown, the bartenders will ask if I’m having the “regular”. Whereas my first day of school it took me fourteen minutes to navigate the three-and-a-half mile straight shot from my place to Kecoughtan High, Bella can now effectively execute a nine-minute commute with nearly a dozen right and left turns to weave me past red lights and congestion. I recognize the names of the players as the announcer’s voice drifts with the Darling’s stadium lights to my front porch, reminding me to walk over and watch our football team (or take pictures of them and the stands is more accurate).
When I first landed in Hampton, there was no “my Fort Monroe Beach” programmed into Bella’s antique, USB powered GPS unit which would take me to my preferred parking spot on countless days and nights in the years I didn’t know I would love. Of course, it’s difficult to consider what the next eighty-one days will require of Charming and me, but the ones to come? We really can’t imagine. At least in America, I know my day will start with a Keurig coffee that never truly tastes good in comparison to the one my former student will hand me at Dunkin’s window between class changes a couple hours later. Would finding another Fort Monroe beach spot comfort me when it’s partly cloudy year round?
I couldn’t imagine the quality of life and sense of belonging I would find in a rented bedroom that had room for a family I wouldn’t start while living here, as I’d hoped a lifetime ago. I didn’t know I would wind up on a first name, text-exchange basis with a mechanic for every auto specialty need, or be greeted with a hug by Robin at the cigar shop with an empathetic question that lets me know he’s read my most recent blog post.
I don’t know what our lives will look like in Germany. In fact, the only thing that will be in Germany that I will have already seen, known, and been familiarized with for years is going to by my new husband. Charming is the reason I will face the miracle or madness of starting over together in a foreign country. After the honeymoon period ends, my plan is that we’ll be clinging to each other, forced to thrive as a team or perish in the Black Forest of our best intentions in forging our own paths.
This weekend was the first time I’d seen my fiancé in a month. That’s twice as long as we’ve gone in the past without refilling Charming’s quality time, love language fuel tank. Adoration and affection rank hand in hand for what’s most likely to get me to bend over backwards and cook a homemade meal with a bum shoulder, so we were both feeling pretty emptied upon first encounter. A theme of the weekend seemed to be teamwork, recognizing that we have a lot of hurdles to clear in the next eighty-one days, and simply creating and beginning implementation of a plan that finds us officially married, moved out of two homes, belongings shipped or stored, and in possession of all the legal documents necessary for this move.
I’ll admit, last week when Charming clued me in by phone as to the coming weeks’ demands, I practically froze, the anticipated stress already working its debilitating magic. However, after an afternoon systematically agreeing on the future of each piece of furniture in both of our current houses, the myriad hurdles remaining didn’t seem so insurmountable anymore. I left DC with a renewed spirit, hopeful about the means which this particularly end will justify for us. We filed paperwork for government passport identification, and Charming asked me a serious question.
“What will your name be?” he’d posed, clarifying that it was an actual question. Perhaps he didn’t want to assume I’d be traditional, but I’ve never been anything else than that and a hopeless romantic, though the oxymoron isn’t lost on me. In Nashville, having a double first name was as common as beans and rice were at my former in-law’s dinner table. It does, following logically, allow for the addition of a middle name. Today, after thinking the question over, I asked how Charming would feel about my maiden name becoming my middle name.
His response over the phone truly warmed me despite the cold, April showers outside. His support of carrying my Italian heritage over into our forever and always was perhaps an unintended expression of a love language I understand without any translation. Maybe, like me, he’d considered the possibility that I’d relish the opportunity this move affords me to travel abroad to my ancestors’ towns and villages, in a hopes to write our story. Keeping the namesake between who I and my husband have always been, this link to my Italian heritage, it makes the new name twice as special.
It’s possible to feel two things at the same time: excitement and fear about moving halfway around the world, or about getting married, or about shoulder surgery, or about packing up my life into boxes to be shipped, stored, or trashed. It’s possible to be Charming’s wife and an Italian-American searching to unearth her family’s legacy and answer questions we didn’t know to ask yet. Anything is possible. A lot can happen in eighty-one days, and a lot has to happen. I’m confident, though, with Charming and dividing and conquering where necessary and teaming up whenever geographically possible, that we’ll start over like I did and Hampton and find ourselves saying goodbye to our German mechanics and cigar and coffee shop vendors. Maybe it won’t be a beach, but they’ll be a place I’ll escape to find peace on the other side of the world, too, I’m sure.
In eighty-one days, everything changes. In eighty-one days, our lives are ultimately unwritten. Just our names, really, we’ll start over with… the best of two, dichotomies and paradoxes and oxymorons juxtaposed with a oneness I’m not sure I’ll understand fully until we’re thriving in Germany, doing life together in our home, where the only familiar thing I can imagine is the man I’ll marry. In eighty-one days.