I held his little hand as his climbed the front steps for the first time.
“Look, Ryan! We have a blue door! Can you believe it?”
“Yep, that’s a blue door,” he said sweetly as we walked into our new home.
It was still a couple of weeks before we would move in, but the painters were finishing up their job and I had to sign off on their work.
I took Ryan up to his new room, which was pretty scarce except for fresh paint, a twin mattress still wrapped in plastic and a couple of toys from storage that I had stashed in his closet. Still, he gasped when he saw it.
“This is my room?” he asked, as if he couldn’t believe something so magnificent was all his. “WHOA! This is MY closet?!”
He fed off our excitement. We’d been talking up our new home, our new backyard and that fact that he was going to be reunited with all his stuff for weeks.
It’s hard to know how much of this he really understands. It’s been a long haul for all of us, but especially for him. If I’ve learned one thing from this experience, it’s this: age 2-3 is an awful age to move a child across the country.
He’s old enough to be attached to things and people. He’s old enough to have memories. He told me recently how he and his friend Chance used to play together at daycare in Phoenix. “He played with the car; I played with the airplane,” he told me.
He’s old enough to miss people, but he’s not old enough to understand distance and the difference between Arizona and Pennsylvania. He doesn’t understand that all these months of upheaval in his life are for a good reason. A means to an end.
All he knows is that he watched things disappear from his home for weeks. He watched it all go on a truck. He flew on an airplane. He lived at Nan and Pop’s house for awhile. And now he lives at the house with the blue door.
Yep, we’ve arrived. As of Sunday night, we officially live in our new home.
Overall, Ryan has handled it pretty well. But I can see the ways in which this “adventure” is starting to take its toll.
He tells me sometimes that he’s sad. When I prod him to explain why, he tells me “because people go away.”
They do. He’s absolutely right. As far as he’s concerned, other than me and Mike, people are coming and going out of his life like crazy.
We have been to Ohio to see my family twice since we’ve been on the East Coast. He gets to see his grandparents, great-grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins every day for a week. And then we leave.
His other aunt and uncle come fairly regularly from Maryland for weekend visits. He has the time of his life for two days, and then they’re gone for another month.
The week leading up to the move seemed especially hard on him. Mike was at work all day and I spent the better part of every day at the new house, cleaning and hauling boxes and unpacking and cleaning some more.
One day toward the end of the week, he woke up from his nap to his Nan. “Where’s MommyDaddy?” he asked her.*
Nan told him that Daddy was at work and Mommy was at the new house.
“Ohhhh, nooooo,” he said, laying his head down on the bed. “How will I get there? How will I get to the house with the blue door?”
Every time I think about that, my heart breaks apart all over again.
After two nights in the new house, he still is confused as to which place is actually his home. He tells me that a certain toy is “at home at Nan and Pop’s house.” Or we’ll leave a grocery store and he’ll announce that it’s “time to go back to Nan and Pop’s house!”
But he’s also very proud of his new big boy room. He gives tours of the room to visitors, showing off his large bin of dinosaurs and explaining that his closet is where his toys belong.
So, we’re adjusting. All of us. We’re tired, we’re happy and we’re overwhelmed. But at least we’re finally home.
*He has always referred to me and Mike as the collective MommyDaddy. It’s amazing.