Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An unintentional ode to my Ikea couch (that's one I never saw coming)

I am curled up on the Ikea couch in my living room, drafting a blog post. There is nothing unusual about that; this couch (which turned out to be far more comfortable than I expected when we purchased it in our flurry of frenzied furnishing) has always been my favorite place to sit and write in this flat. At this point, it's also my only option. The removals team is here today packing up the contents of our flat and virtually everything we own here is boxed or wrapped already. It is only the fact that we have sold this couch to the next tenants of this flat which has kept it from the bubble-wrap-and-packing-tape fate of the items which surround it on all sides. This is moving day, the first of two on this end. (I don't care to contemplate the number of moving days we face on the other side of the pond just now.) There are, as Julia reminded me gleefully this morning just before she left for camp, only two more days before we board our plane for America.

If ever there was a moment for a reflective wrap-up post, I suppose this would be it. Watching our London life fit easily into a surprisingly small number of boxes and containers should be the kind of thing that would make me nostalgic and maudlin. Instead, I find myself a little numb, spent from the sorting and organizing and purging and pre-packing which has consumed the last week of my life and exhausted from the sleepless nights I've spent trying not to dwell on the ways our life will change in the coming months. I've done enough looking back. I'm not quite ready to look forward just yet. And so I'm just sitting here, grateful for the opportunity to rest for a bit, trying to write a blog post on the couch as if it were any other day of my life.

I think my real issue here is that writing a conclusion-type post about our London adventure feels like drawing a line in the sand, saying that it is over. In some ways, there is no avoiding the reality that it is over. Our things are gone and soon we will be, too. But the drive to see and explore and understand that which is foreign from our own experiences is not something that we can pack in a box or leave behind when we board a plane. The things that we've learned and seen and done here are a part of who we are now and the interests and habits we've developed here aren't going away just because we are. The friendships that we made in London can withstand the distance just as well as our American friendships have over the past several years. The travel bug can certainly come with us, too; planes fly in and out of the US every bit as frequently as they arrive and depart from Heathrow and Gatwick. Hopefully, the kids' accents will last, at least for a little while. We will still talk about and think about and write about London and the people and places we love here. "Leaving" does not need to mean "leaving behind." At least that's what I keep telling myself at 2am when I can't sleep for the enormity of our impending loss. London will be in us, long after we are not in London any more.

If it's not really over then, well, then there's not much to say, is there? Except that as I sit here typing so contentedly, I do feel the need to mention that I'm kind of going to miss this Ikea couch. This "oh, what the hell, just give me whatever you've actually got in stock, then" couch, bought on what might have been the most exhausting, stressful, overwhelming, "what the hell have we done here" day of this entire London experience, is pretty damn great. In fact, it might just be the only thing standing between me and a clean break here. I'm just now realizing how much I love this "oh, if we must" purchase. I can't believe I have to leave it behind. I'm really, really going to miss this couch.

You just never know what's going to resonate, do you? If ever there were a reason to keep on moving forward, spreading our wings and taking on whichever adventures and obstacles come our way, I think I just found it in the nice, comfy cushions of my (now) beloved Ikea couch. Closure is a beautiful thing, even when you still plan to leave the door ever so slightly ajar.


Blogger Rebecca Ramsey said...

You poor thing. (And I'm not being facetious!) Moving on from a much loved adventure is so hard--even when you leave the door slightly ajar.

Five years after our move back to the States I still have waves of homesickness wash over me occasionally. But I get to go back every now and then, and I have tons of memories to treasure.

Plus, no place on earth beats the good ole USA for wonderfully weird stuff to see. A new kind of adventure awaits you!

Beautiful post!

6:00 PM  
Blogger Suburban Hippie said...

I can't help thinking back to your trepidation before leaving New Jersey for London, countless vistas and memories ago. Change is jarring, but experience is priceless. Thinking back, I don't think you're sorry at all; I think you'll always be glad the Tompkins family said "yes" to London.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Sammie said...

I don't want to see you go even though we've never met. I started reading your blog when we first started thinking of moving to London. Please don't stop writing about your experience. I'd love to read about your adjustment (and dream of the day we get to go home - I'm a little homesick right now).

Thanks for helping one expat feel a little more at home in such a big foreign city! Good luck on this next part of your journey. Sammie

10:56 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

I can't believe it's coming to a close. I hope your return trip home is uneventful. You have recorded the children talking, haven't you? (either audio or video)

4:28 AM  
Blogger Iota said...

When we arrived in our new home, I bought an enormous pink couch which was 25% of its original price from Haverty's (is that a US-wide store, or just a Midwest one?) It's far too big ever to fit into a house we would be likely to own in the UK, so I bought it (I think) as something of a celebration of the hugeness of the house we had just bought in the Midwest. I really love it and will hate to leave it when our time comes. Perhaps there is something about a couch...

Bon voyage (again...)

11:49 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

It's hard to believe that your London adventure is coming to an end. Safe travels on your way "home" and can't wait to hear about your re-entry into US life.

1:03 AM  
Blogger Victoria said...

Loved this: "London will be in us, long after we are not in London any more."

All my best to you on this transition. I've never faced one like yours (especially with children), but I don't handle change and/or closure very well. Take care and safe travels.


12:52 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

i loved that couch too...


Welcome home,

6:11 PM  
Anonymous Bec said...

Thank you so much! I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your blog over the past few months.
I just want to wish you and your family a safe trip home and hope to read more about the big move soon!
From one who has done both the Expat and Repat thing, I wish you all the best!
bec ;-)

6:00 AM  
Blogger mk said...

I have never lived overseas, but I have enjoyed reading your blog SO much over the past two years. My completely-American-materialistic mind, though, wonders: which model IKEA couch was it that was so comfortable? That's one thing we've never purchased from IKEA is furniture...and we actually have to get one for the guest room (because I am tired of the guest room being JUST a guest room, so now we want to make it more of a hanging-out room).

1:01 PM  
Blogger mk said...

...I mean UPHOLSTERED furniture...we have actually bought furniture from IKEA.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Constance said...

Good luck with your return! If you're at all like me, years from now you'll still be missing the couch- and even odder things! It's the little things...

Thank you for sharing your family's amazing adventure!

3:14 PM  
Blogger E said...

Your sweet contentment makes me envious. I have such trouble with the transitions. Oh I pile them up like mad. We moved our whole lives a thousand miles too and are considering a year abroad and and and...but the pause as we leave one stage and move to the next like this summer with two of our big kids away, always leave me teary and vulnerable. You are brave and wise.
Safe travels Rebecca....Keep telling us your stories

(And record those kids fast)

1:17 AM  
Blogger Liesl said...

Oh Rebecca, that was beautiful. I remember your despair when you bought that couch, and it seems like it was last month. What an adventure you've had; I have a feeling there will be many more to come, whether in London or NJ or elsewhere. But I've loved reading about your adventure as it has unfolded day by day. Than you for sharing it :)

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please don't stop blogging...I stumbled across your blog last year and have been faithfully reading and enjoying your family adventures ever since. I love your witty and entertaining writing style and urge you even to write a book. As a fellow mom I thoroughly enjoy how you can take the simple joys or gripes of life make them entertaining...Please keep us fans updated and do keep writing!
-A Long Island Mom Fan!

7:03 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

I hope your move went successfully. I just wanted to mention that I have been enjoying your delightful posts. Keep on blogging.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Loyal reader here, missing your witty writing and looking forward to details (and posts!) about your repatriation.

12:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you go? Hopefully, everything is doing fine.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Mommy dearest said...

I hope everything went smoothly with your move. I have been checking back periodically, and have missed your posts! Hope to see you again!

6:05 PM  
Blogger Lisa Waters said...


I just had to comment to tell you that I stumbled across your blog by searching for stories about expats living abroad in the UK, and your blog captivated me from the very first sentence to the last; I stayed up most of the night reading it! It is the most real, inspiring, funny, and informative travel-writing work I have ever read.

Have you ever thought about trying to publish a book based on your blog and experiences abroad? I would gladly be your first reader! :) Thanks for sharing your wonderful story. Take care!

Lisa Waters

10:58 PM  
Blogger Timmy said...

It's unfortunate, if you ask me, that this wonderful looking blog has been left like this.

moving company

2:13 PM  

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