Tomorrow is our ninth anniversary. Nine years ago, when I was designing our wedding invitations, I wanted them to reflect our commitment to each other, our current home, and the adventure that lay ahead of us. We had no idea then where Hubby’s career might take us, if or how much we’d be able to continue to travel as a family (of hopefully more than two). We had big hopes and dreams for the future.
But those dreams rarely unfold as we imagine. Everything seemed to be harder and take longer than we had planned. We spent all our savings on one round of IVF/ICSI that didn’t take. Hubby’s job search dragged on for years, until he was nearly ready to give up on academia all together.
And then–suddenly–things started to work out. First a successful pregnancy, then a job offer that could launch Hubby’s academic career. We were finally fulfilling the promises we’d made to each other on our wedding day, and we were willing to pack up and move to Canada to prove it.
My high school Spanish teacher gave me a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! for graduation. It has lived on my bookshelf–first in my dorm room, then in my first apartment, and now here in Montreal–ever since, mostly forgotten about until it was time to pack up and move again. In the past few weeks, Missy discovered it and would pull it off the shelf every chance she got. At first, I took it away from her each time, telling her, “That’s Mama’s book.” Finally, after the umpteenth time she sat down with it, threatening to crumple the dust jacket or shred the pages, I relented. “Come sit with Mommy. Let’s read it.” And we did. And I reflected on how much time Hubby and I had spent in The Waiting Place since the beginning of our relationship and how we’d always managed to come out of it, stronger and with a clearer sense of purpose, and ultimately, with this little girl in my lap. And after I’d read it to her, I left the book on Hubby’s chair for him to read and be reminded, too, that something was almost certain to happen “(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”
It’s been six years since Hubby completed his PhD, seven since he began applying for academic jobs. After a disastrous, year-long postdoc (half the length it was supposed to be), several phone and Skype interviews, and 198 total applications, it’s about time for something to go our way.
The second-place email was devastating, partly because it was obvious the department head did want to offer Hubby a job, if only there was one to offer. Two days later, I placed that book on his chair, knowing he had another interview that afternoon. When he checked his email that morning, before even glancing at the book, he found some good news in his inbox. The head of the department was going to ask for funding for a second position, identical to the one Hubby had come so close to getting. Would he still be interested?
The answer, obviously, was a resounding “yes!” but the idea was not a given, not even close to an offer. So we spent some more time in The Waiting Place, our second home.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
Even as funding was approved and the visa application started, I held my breath, waiting for something to fall apart. He still didn’t have a written offer. Nothing was official. It could all be scattered by a light wind. Hubby, on the other hand, became more and more confident as the days passed. He announced his new position to his former adviser and letter-writers. I tentatively kept my family apprised of the developments, reminding them that nothing had been settled yet.
More than a week after that first email, he got an “official” unofficial offer. The details were not in writing, but Hubby was beginning negotiations. Was there any wiggle room on the salary? How many/which classes would he be expected to teach? Was there any funding for conferences? I remained numb.
And then this week rolled around. Hubby started calling movers. He got an email from the head of the department with ideas of classes he could teach and another one saying how excited the dean was about him coming. And it’s all starting to feel real. I keep thinking and stressing about the many things we have to do for this move and the reality of living across the Atlantic, in a small town* in Wales. In the U.S., we lived in a sprawling city of half a million, and now we’re in a compact city of three million. We have every imaginable convenience. The town we’re moving to is 13,000, doubled by the student population of the university. A totally different world in a totally foreign country.
And I can almost imagine a kind of fairytale life. There is a castle, after all.
*So small, in fact, that I will not name it here. I don’t want it to be google-able. And if you happen to see or figure out the name of it and mention it in the comments, I will delete it (not your whole comment, just the name of the town).