Our journey to Michigan

Since we decided so many months ago that we were going to move to Michigan, it feels like we’ve had this absurdly long lead up to the actual move. In certain moments that was a relief, because we didn’t feel ready and didn’t have a house and didn’t know our work situations yet, and I still had this vision of a New York “bucket list” so to speak, that we’d need time to check off. In the more recent weeks, however, it’s just felt agonizing. Preparing for a big, emotional transition, but having most of the early logistics handled already and not yet being able to take care of the things that had to come at the very end (like the movers, or saying goodbye to our friends and colleagues), just gave me this sense of dread without the ability to just get it over with already. By the end I just wanted it to be done, so that we could finally try to begin moving on from New York, allowing ourselves to grieve the people and places we are leaving behind, and beginning to settle into our new town.

The moving company portion of our move was supposed to take place over two days: on Monday they would come to pack, and on Tuesday they would come to load the truck. The Thompsons invited us for dinner Monday night since they knew that everything in our kitchen would be packed by then. We’d been told that loading the truck would probably take from 8-3 on Tuesday, so we figured that we’d be able to pick the kids up from day care and hit the road by 4:30ish and get in 3-4 hours of driving before stopping at a hotel and still getting the kids down at a reasonable hour. We booked our hotel, figured we were being conservative, and felt good about the plans.

On Monday, the two guys who came to pack our place were amazing (they showed up early, took almost no breaks, were crazy efficient, not to mention kind and wonderful), dinner was lovely and we said our final goodbyes to our good friends. Then Tuesday arrived. The movers were two hours late, lacked any warmth whatsoever, and it appeared that at any given time at least two of them were doing nothing at all. At one point three of them were lounging in the truck and the fourth was watching You Tube videos on his phone while sitting on our couch for 15-20 minutes while I awkwardly fussed about the apartment and wondered what the hell was going on. They weren’t interested in doing anything above and beyond what they’d been assigned to do (when we needed one final box packed, which we’d been told would be fine, they all played a version of “not it” hoping that someone else would take it on). They didn’t finish till 5:00, and we still needed to pick up the kids, load our car, and have the landlord come over to look at the apartment before we left. I proceeded to freak out about how late it was getting and how impossible it would be to squeeze ourselves into our existing plans. My dad came to the rescue and suggested that we ditch our reservation and just stay somewhere locally and get a fresh start in the morning. We thought that was a brilliant idea, and it would allow us to split the drive in half rather than having a super long second day.

Knowing that we didn’t have to race out to rural Pennsylvania that night gave us more time to dilly dally and pay attention to what we were leaving. As we all got into the car to head to dinner, Kristin asked if I wanted to go back up to the apartment for one more walk through and a step out onto the balcony. I walked through each room and thanked it for the things that stood out to me in my memory, and cried as I did it. I labored in that tub, we brought our babies home to that apartment, we’ve hosted so many loved ones on that living room couch, and we’ve spent so many wonderful weekend mornings on the balcony with the kids. Watching the huge boats go down the Hudson from that balcony is something we’ll miss terribly. Very recently, Jude began to see them and say “bo!” and go to the window to watch them. All of the kids would gather at the door to watch them pass, and Jonah loved to point out the ones that have cranes attached.

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As I walked out onto the balcony, a boat went by, and it felt like the most perfect moment to say goodbye. As we drove to the restaurant for dinner, we saw a beautiful sunset emerging over the Hudson and Kristin chased it by driving down the a train station on the water. I felt so loved in that moment, and knew that she was doing what she could to create some moments of goodbye magic for our family.

Jump to Wednesday morning. After a lovely night at a hotel in Yonkers. We ate breakfast, got the kids into the car, took some pictures to document the moment that we officially hit the road (18 hours later than expected, but still feeling good!).

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We headed out onto the Saw Mill River Parkway, and five minutes into the drive (in roughly 83 degree weather at 10:00 a.m.) the AC stopped working entirely. At first we thought that someone had jostled a button somehow, but we quickly realized that something was terribly wrong. I pulled off at the next exit (we weren’t even out of Yonkers) and we headed back to Hastings to our mechanic. He told us that the AC guy didn’t come in until 11:30, but that he’d see if he could get there sooner. Melissa and Ray offered up their house as a place to hang with the kids while we waited, so Kristin dropped us off there and then drove the car back. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without their house. We’d turned in our keys and had nowhere to go on a 90 degree day. We knew that we were incredibly lucky that this happened close to home, but naturally we were also rather frustrated and discouraged by yet another delay. Even Jonah was over it. At first he was happy to have toys to play with, but by late afternoon he just kept asking “can we go to Michigan now?”

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We were hoping for a quick, easy repair, but it turned out to be the compressor, which needed to be ordered and then installed, and we didn’t get the car back until 5:00. So much for getting a full day’s drive in. I was determined to hit the road no matter what; I needed this transition to happen already! But once again, my dad convinced me that it didn’t make much sense to feed the kids (unfortunately they do need to eat at regular intervals) and then try to squeeze just a few hours in. He said that we should just stay one more night at the same hotel as the previous night: it will be like Groundhog Day, he said. That’s when I remembered that earlier in the day, all three kids spent time watching a groundhog in the Thompsons’ backyard. I should have known right then.

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At first I said no, not a chance; we NEED to get on the road. But the more we thought about it, the more absurd that plan seemed so we agreed to stay one more night. Jonah and I got some pool time in just before bed, and we all got a good night’s sleep. We finally started our drive (for real) on Thursday morning with the hope of covering enough ground for a much shorter day on Friday. The couple we’re buying the house from had reached out to us earlier in the week to see if we wanted to come by to see it on either Thursday or Friday, which was so touching. She said that she knew we’d be eager to see it, so she wanted to make arrangements early. We agreed on 4:30 on Friday, so by the time our plans had been mangled beyond recognition our main concern was making it to Kzoo in time for that visit. Sure, we could have rescheduled, but we really wanted to get there. We wondered if we could make it 500 miles on Thursday, but didn’t think that it was likely.

Despite our usual meandering pace (lunch at Olive Garden, a stop at DQ for ice cream) we got into a pretty good groove. We stopped for dinner and, by then, Jonah had made it clear that we were getting to Michigan TODAY. We asked if he really preferred to keep driving rather than stopping at a hotel with a pool, and he didn’t even pause to think about it. We got back on the road, tuned into the DNC, and Kristin started to say that she thought that she could make it to Kzoo. By midnight, however, I’d decided that we really ought to stop. Waking my parents at 3:00 a.m. and trying to get the kids settled at that hour sounded horrible. After multiple tries, we finally found a crappy motel with space at about 1:00 a.m. in Maumee, OH, just shy of 600 miles into the trip. We felt great about our progress and figured we’d be in Kzoo before noon on Friday.

Then Friday came along, and everything seemed great until we hit standstill traffic due to an expressway that was 100% closed, unbeknownst to us. After sitting in that mess for about 30 minutes we turned the car around and backtracked quite a ways to find a new route. We eventually drove into my parents driveway around 2:00 p.m. but we were there, and that was wonderful. Throughout the drive, Jonah asked “are we in Michigan yet?” an average of once every 20 minutes. When I could finally announce to him that we were, in fact, in Michigan, he cheered. When we woke him to let him know that we were at Gigi and Papa Doc’s house, he cheered again (and believe me, he isn’t generally cheerful when woken from a car nap).

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We fed the kids, barely had a chance to settle, and were off to our future house to see it in person for the very first time. I’ll write about the house in a separate post, but we’re so very glad to have finally seen it with our own eyes. We’re all exhausted and a little bit emotionally overwhelmed, and I start back at work on Monday from my new remote (solo) office. I want to spend the weekend doing things that help us begin to adjust to our new life, but I don’t know yet what that ought to be. I think that, for now, we need to just hang tightly together and explore gingerly. We’re not quite ready to be social and dive right in since there’s still a lot to process, but we’ll get there.

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