Here and There and Heirloom IKEA

by Alissa

Back in January in the anxious days of job application mode, when it was easier to imagine floating in perpetual orbit than to imagine moving to any actual place [let alone Australia–which wasn’t even on the list at that point], I came up with a way to help us cope with the wait. I can’t say for certain that it worked for Ace. He spent a lot of time looking at satellite maps and potential housing for us in every place he sent an application–but it worked to some degree for me.

I couldn’t plan for seasons, for a particular climate, or country, or population density, or even daily life in a particular language, but I could take individual moments and reconstruct them on the other side of the move.

We opened a bottle of wine. We would open a bottle of wine in our new place, too.

We read Beatrix Potter on the couch. We would read Beatrix Potter on the couch in the new house by September.

I folded socks in the living room with Octavia. I would fold socks in the next living room with Octavia. [Not sure this will happen as frequently in Oz as I initially imagined. Who needs socks?]

These moments gave me little buoys to latch onto when the swooning void of the future threatened to overwhelm me. Once we knew we were moving to Australia, I started imagining these moments taking place in Newcastle:

We will open a bottle of Australian wine. [Not a big adjustment there.]

We will visit the Newcastle Museum at least once, and probably once a week: they actually had a poodle circus perform at the one-year anniversary of their opening. I was disappointed to have missed the event, but it isn’t every year that my brother gets married.

We will shop for groceries, wash fruit, roast meat.

We will recreate our favorite dinners. Goulash could well become ‘roolash.

As much as globalism gives me pause, and I cringe to pass on a consumerist attitude to my daughter, I must confess that the physical settings of these imagined moments are littered with objects familiar to millions: the Ektorp. The Poang. The IKEA pieces that have marked home for me since the first move to Hungary when I was in high school. Our Ektorp with blue striped cover is identical to the one in my parents’ living room in Budapest. It doesn’t even matter that it’s not the same couch. It feels like home, and is entirely replaceable. Even if the boat carrying our household goods sinks somewhere between Panama and Fiji, there is an IKEA up the road in Sydney and we could still sit on an Ektorp. How cool is that?

After we finished moving out and left Waterloo, we drove across America, Ace left for Oz, and O and I settled in for a summer volley between my sister’s house in the Bitterroot Valley and a friend’s house in Kalispell, our old hometown. Summertime in Montana is exquisite–the dry air, the long light, familiar faces and highways. It’s been good to check in with my old world in the middle of this transition.

Forest fire smoke and a rainstorm sweep the mountains by my sister’s house. I can’t seem to get enough of this landscape. The kids just want to swing and eat cherry tomatoes straight off the plant.  They could be anywhere, but it was so sweet to be there together.

The count-down to Oz paper chain in mid-July, on the kitchen counter at Emily’s house, one street over from the house where I spent most of my childhood. We will miss this place. And the 3:1 adult to child ratio we’ve enjoyed here.

It has been a long wait, but also a perfect pause–enough time to get over the exhaustion and some of the sadness of leaving Waterloo, enough time to really miss Ace, enough time for him to get started at work and find us a place to live, enough time to check in with family and friends and my old self and get truly excited about starting over in Newcastle.

Yesterday’s portrait of the paper chain, same kitchen. Less than one week until we leave for the wedding! One week from then we will be in Oz.

The past few days, Ace has been sending us pictures of the new place to help us get through these last few days before we leave our summer idyll:

The olive tree in the yard that is almost ready for harvest.

The new-to-us car.

A very pink little girl bicycle with basket, bell, and streamers.

Yet another Malm bed frame, and a clone of the same duvet cover we bought four installations ago.

O’s first bed. Our third Malm. Duplicate duvet cover of one from 2005.

It will feel just like home.