Tuesday, July 31, 2007

You are all much much better than cats

THANK YOU all for the comments on that last post. The reassurance and the perspective were both incredibly helpful. And it's true, there are a lot of situations where adults don't necessarily know how much the kids they meet know, and how much those kids' parents have already told them or want them to know. I might be somewhat over-vigilant on the Mermaid Girl's behalf, not wanting her to walk into a new school in a new city (none of which newness she wanted or asked for) with the added social handicap of being The Kid Who Told Everyone About Where Babies Come From.

Though, come to think of it, that's not necessarily a handicap among the kids themselves, really; more their parents. (And, as my sister-in-law pointed out the other day, not necessarily among the parents either; we had a nice time picturing MG over at some new friend's house, said friend asking her over string cheese and crackers about how her moms managed to "have" her, and the friends' parents eagerly eavesdropping, thrilled at the chance to discover the secrets of lesbian reproduction once and for all, without the bother of having to become close enough friends with us so as to be able to ask such a personal question.)

We've had an exciting last couple of days, featuring:
  • Major housecleaning at Housesit #1
  • Two airport trips (one pickup, one dropoff)
  • The packing of two cars with stuff going to three different destinations
  • Two kitty carrier breakouts (the second one taking place in the car as RW was on her way out of town, and necessitating an unscheduled midnight turnaround and sleepover at house-sit #2, where I'd been about to peacefully retire, confident that RW had enough coffee in her to make the trip back safely)
  • The discovery, at 1 AM, of what is either fleas or worms on the part of a Cat Who Shall Remain Anonymous, resulting in the emergency hot-water washing of the bedding that some of us were going to sleep on
  • Some sprayage/pee on the part of the same anonymous cat, onto MG's carseat, resulting in said carseat being dumped into a bathtub full of hot water and left until morning;
  • One exhausted RW, who was up until 6:30 on account of all that coffee, consumed the night before in anticipation of the truncated trip
  • One trip to the mega-pet-store to purchase high-tech plastic NASA-approved cat carrier
  • One cat-peeing-in-NASA-approved-carrier incident on Take #3 of RW's return to Seattle
  • One cat bath, heroically undertaken by RW
  • One dead battery, revived by my heroic brother and sister-in-law while I was entertained by my niece.
  • Oh, and there seemed to be some plumbing problems in the midst of all that. But, things being what they were, those occasioned only hysterical laughter.
After that, things calmed down somewhat. Now we have, not necessarily in chronological order:
  • Housesit Host #1 safely returned to Vancouver and pleased with the state of her house
  • Brother and family safely seen off to their home in Florida
  • RW and MG safely returned to Seattle to start packing up as soon as RW has a couple more naps
  • Shy Kitty safely returned to Seattle, reportedly still drying off
  • Carseat still drying off, but no longer smelly
  • Me safely installed on my own in Housesit #2 until Saturday. With clean bedding.
  • Anonymous Cat recovering from Shy Kitty's overnight incursion into his territory, but banned from all bedrooms at the moment
  • All cars running adequately, though the car that made the cat-infused trip to Seattle may never be the same.
Is your head spinning? Yah. Mine too. Now it's off to IKEA with me, after I drop some stuff off at the new place.

I think when Shy Kitty dies we may just get some fish.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Not about Vancouver, per se. But maybe sort of.

Mermaid Girl's three-year-old cousin Little Bear is big on "Why." Why do some people eat meat and others not? Why do we have to leave the park? The other day she asked MG, "Why do you have two moms?"

"Because that's the way my family is," MG replied, with the patient, faintly weary air of someone who gets that question a lot. "You have a mom and a dad, because that's the way your family is, and I have two moms because that's how my family is."

That did it just fine for Little Bear, but among Mermaid Girl's contemporaries the discussion isn't always so simple. MG reports that when she tells kids she has two moms, they usually think she means she has a mom and a stepmom, and she has to explain that, no, both her moms live together, and one gave birth to her and one adopted her, and she has a bio-dad but he doesn't take care of her.

Which is a lot of explaining for a first acquaintanceship to carry, especially one between six-year-olds. When she mentioned all that--not in a big-deal way, but in the same "this is just the way it is" manner in which she lays out the lunchbox-monitor system at school--I felt a momentary qualm, and another moment of gratitude that MG is as socially savvy as she is, that she's not the kind of nerdy kid we thought we'd have but is this poised and chatty creature who can wing off an unconventional family and then move on to more important things, like who can do more flips on the bar.

On the other hand, if she were less social she might care less. And she does care, I know.

Lesbians have kids all the time, and, frankly, most of the time the issue doesn't seem to even surface among the kids themselves. But sometimes it does. I guess I'm opening myself up for comments from any right-wing trolls who might happen upon this post, but I'll just say it anyway: there are social snags for my kid that I hadn't anticipated.

I'd figured there might be kids who thought it was weird, or who teased MG because her moms were gay, or whose parents disapproved, but none of those worst-case scenarios (as far as I know) has come to pass. What she does run into--and at this point in her life she's the one doing the most of the front-lines explaining--is simple, honest curiosity, from kids who are old enough to know that there's some kind of puzzle to a baby with two moms, and who may or may not know exactly what that puzzle is, but who are in any case generally way too young to pretend they're not dying to know how it all works.

I should mention here that the Mermaid Girl herself was only recently enlightened as to how it all works. That is to say, she knew how she got started--Uncle Skaterboy gave Mama a speck, which, together with a speck from inside Mama, started Tiny Baby Mermaid Girl. Which is all very well, but dodged the whole discussion that tends to make parents (including us) uncomfortable: the question of how the specks usually get together.

For a long time, MG--possibly because she didn't care, or possibly because she could sense that it made us jumpy--didn't ask, and we didn't tell. The topic came up a couple of months ago, while the Renaissance Woman was supervising her bath (bathtime! A treasure trove of educational opportunity!), so now MG is up on the facts of conception, non-artificial-insemination style. It doesn't seem to have rocked her world much; she continues to insist that she is never going to have a boyfriend (or a girlfriend) and never going to get married, but she said that before, too.

Anyway. Back to those pesky other kids. Here's the thing: back in preschool, the response to MG's family situation was generally, "Two moms! Cool!" And I anticipate that in a few years, it'll be back to the same (with an occasional "Two moms! eeew!" thrown in to make things interesting). But for now, the response among MG's peers tends to be: "But if you have two moms, how did...how does...um, how...." followed by an awkward silence.

This hasn't been an issue much in Seattle, where MG has three best friends she's known since birth, who don't even think to ask. But here, it opens her (and us) up to the problem of trying to size up how much these brand-new potential friends already know, how much they want to know, and--crucially--how much their parents want them to know, and really how far into the mechanics of conception (MG's and in general) we really want to get, sometimes within an hour or two of meeting them for the first time.

It's come up twice just in the past week. A few days ago MG ran into a girl at a playground who turned out to be just a week older than her, and they played for an hour or two with the ease of lifelong friends. I struck up a conversation with the playground girl's parents, in hopes that maybe here was another Vancouver friendship that might stick. No such luck; they were only in town briefly, from Australia, on their way to an Alaska cruise. Still, we exchanged e-mail addresses, just in case.

As we were saying our goodbyes and wishing each other luck and expressing the hope that our girls might be pen pals, Playground Girl asked, with a gimlet glance at dark-haired me and light blond MG, "Is she your daughter?"

I allowed as how that was in fact the case.

Playground Girl's look remained doubtful. "Where's your husband?" she demanded.

"I don't have a husband, I have a spouse."

"What's a spouse?"

"It's, um, like a husband, sort of, but she's a woman," I stammered, with much less aplomb than I ever imagine having in these situations.

"I have two moms!" MG put in helpfully.

"You mean you have a mom and a stepmom?" asked Playground Girl, right on cue.

"No," said MG, not quite sighing. "They're both my moms. I live with both of them. They live together."

"But, if you have two moms, how did..." she looked embarrassed and puzzled and also slightly thrilled. Her parents laughed awkwardly, probably as nonplussed as I was.

With an adult, I'd be fine letting them know--diplomatically or snarkily, depending--that this was a pretty personal question. But for some reason I don't feel comfortable fobbing off a kid like that. "Um, we had a friend. Who helped us." I continued dorkily.

"My bio-dad!" MG chirruped.

"Yes!" I said, talking half to Playground Girl and half to her parents. "MG's bio-dad! He lives in Vancouver, actually. We'll see him more now that we're here!" I stopped myself before I'd nattered out our whole life story and week's itinerary.

Then their bus came, and they ran for it, waving, and I was left with an unprecedented appreciation for the diplomacy MG has developed, and with the nagging sense that I'd given both too much and too little information, and that I could have handled that one much, much better.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Oh, the Humanity. And a brilliant video.

In lieu of a Wednesday Whine, I hereby present to you the following complaints:

1. I woke up at 4:30 this morning and was unable to get back to sleep.

2. I'm hungry and there is no food around here that I can just pick up and eat; it all requires some preparation.

3. I feel all itchy and need to take a shower, but all my shower stuff is downstairs and MG is asleep upstairs and I'm afraid that if I go that far away from her for that long SHE'll wake up and be freaked out and then we will both be sleep-deprived and crabby all day.

4. I can't afford to be off my game today because I have
a. A job application to complete, and
b. Relatives in town.

5. RW is out of town these past few days, working, and then will be out of town again starting the 31st, which means I have to do several transitional things (meeting family friends to learn about their car, which we will be caretaking; sitting in the new empty apartment all day to wait for the phone/Internet guy; oh, and SIGNING THE LEASE) on my own, with edgy 6-year-old in tow.

6. I had to opted to bail on a fun playdate of my own yesterday in order to facilitate one for my kid. I reasoned that I already want to move, so I can wait to see my Vancouver friends, but if MG has friends here who she actually gets to see sometimes she may stop whining about wanting to go HOME.

7. Our main house-sit-ee is coming home in a few days, and we have to clean. A lot.
7a antiwhine corrolary: RW will be here for that part.
7B: And the relatives in town will be taking MG away for a day so we can focus on getting the house back into reasonable order.

8. The library staff and garbage collectors are both ON STRIKE. As are all the staff at community centers and pools. I've read up on it and think what they're asking for is highly reasonable, and the city is being a dolt. But still. Couldn't they have waited until next month, when I'll be in Seattle, packing, rather than here, caring for two different houses and with all my books across an international border? Because, you know, all collective bargaining agencies should consult with me before taking any action.

9. Shy Kitty seems to be traumatized by his relocation and has been throwing up. On sheets that are not ours.

10. Now I'm even hungrier than I was when I started this list. And itchier. And no closer to completing that job application. Where to start? Oh, where??

10a. At least I know I'm not alone with that particular problem. [Thanks to my friend Jody for the link.]

Monday, July 16, 2007

Quest for a Three-Bedroom Flat: The Thrilling Conclusion

I will henceforth dispense with the dramatic-script format so as to, well, not to make a long story short since it's obviously way, way too late for that, but to cut as quickly to the chase as possible while including some relevant details for those who want to follow every step of the chase:

I came back to Vancouver on my own late last Sunday night, leaving Renaissance Woman and the Mermaid Girl in Seattle for the week while I fed all the various cats and worked as a volunteer counselor at a writer's camp for kids.

Monday night, after my volunteer gig, I called and e-mailed a half-dozen prospects from Craigslist and renting.ca, including some that said "no pets" just in case they didn't totally mean it.

Five of the places got back to me. Two were in areas we think are too dangerous, in catchment areas for schools we've heard bad things about.

The third place invited me over for a viewing if I could get there in the next ten minutes. It was in a pleasant, if remote, neighborhood near the university, but the living room and kitchen were both tiny. I put in an application.

Tuesday night I went out to see Apartment #4: in a heartbreakingly wonderful location, just a couple of blocks from our very favorite children's bookstore. The ceilings were 6 feet tall, it was really only two bedrooms, and the landlady was firm about not taking cats.

After the #4 landlady and I had expressed our mutual regrets, I gunned the car ten miles away to Nearby Suburb to view Apartment #5. It was a suite in a triplex, just a few blocks away from the very first house we had looked at, eight days and maybe a couple years of my life earlier. The landlords were a young couple who lived in the upstairs suite; they had only bought the house a year earlier. There were three real bedrooms. There was indeed a bathtub. There was a (shared) washer and dryer. There was a (shared) yard. It was a short bus ride away from a skytrain station.

It was in the Preferred School catchment area. And it was over $200 per month cheaper than the Skytrain Apartment, with an August 1st start for the lease.

Reader, I took it.

The best part was calling RW, who was out drinking with friends in celebration of her 45th birthday, and yelling into a bad cell-phone connection "GUESS WHAT I GOT YOU FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY?"

The worst part was calling the Skytrain Apartment landlady to tell her we wouldn't be taking her apartment after all and that we would be forfeiting our deposit.

The weirdest part, and the part that will make both my parents cackle with glee, is that I'm satisfied--nay, happy--to have found us a nice, safe, relatively affordable place to live, near a good school.

In the suburbs.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Three Bedrooms, etc.: The Seemingly Endless Saga. Act IV: Hope Springs

So far, our protagonists have endured disappointment, celebrated triumph, and, most recently, succumbed to despair in their quixotic quest for a three-bedroom apartment in the Vancouver area. Let's see where fate takes them next, shall we?

IV: i

As the curtain rises, elswhere and Renaissance Woman are curled up in fetal positions on the floor of their comfortable and familiar Seattle house, where they have perhaps foolishly returned for a visit before taking up residence in the--once-rejoiced-upon, but now maligned as too small, too remote, too expensive, and too bathtub-less--2-and-den near the Skytrain, for which they have already paid a deposit. They are alternately hyperventilating, weeping uncontrollably, and mumbling vaguely about staying in Seattle after all.

RW, sniffling, wiping her eyes, and hoisting herself painfully into a sitting position: Well, we have to go back for this month, anyway. We have all those houses to sit.

elswhere: Plus, we don't have to decide right now. We have a week before we sign the lease at that place. We can take a few days and think about it.

RW: Sure. We could go on looking for a better place, even!

elswhere: We did pay the deposit already. We'll never get it back.

RW: Yeah, but that was a half-month's rent for a lease starting July 15, which we didn't need anyway. If we find a place for August 1, it'll be a wash.

elswhere, whose calculation functions have temporarily shut down due to lack of oxygen because she keeps forgetting to breathe: What? How? Oh...I see. Right. I get it. Wow! You're brilliant!

RW: So we can just go on looking. If we don't find anything better, or cheaper, or both, we can go with the Skytrain place.

elswhere: Or come back here.

RW: Or come back here.

elswhere: But you and Mermaid Girl are staying in Seattle most of this week! I'll have to look all by myseeeeelllllllf! What if I find a place and then you hate it?

RW: I trust you. Keep me posted.

elswhere: Okay. Yikes. Okay.

To Be Continued, even though I fully intended to finish it up tonight, but it's 1 AM and we spent the evening at the folk music festival and have to get up early tomorrow to make the first concerts there again (oh, the humanity!). So. More of Act IV anon. Tomorrow night after I finish watering the plants, maybe.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Three-Bedroom Apartment: A Continuing Stooooory. Act III: Misgivings

When last we left our heroines, they had overcome the disappointment of being rejected by a possibly homophobic or possibly just generally jerkish potential landlord in their school catchment area of choice, and were dancing with glee at obtaining that coveted prize: the offer of a lease on a 3-bedroom (or nearly 3-bedroom, anyway) apartment near the Skytrain. Now they are ready to meet the landlady to hand over half-a-month's rent as a security deposit.

III: i
The next day, at the Skytrain Apartment.

Landlady: Oh, hi! So nice to see you. Here, come on in. You want to look around again? Sure. Okay, here's the kitchen, and the bedrooms...

RW [sotto voce]: You were right. The other place was bigger.

e: Yeah, I thought so. It's okay, though. This place is nice.

Landlady: Now, there will be a deposit for the cat, too, but you can give it to me later...

Mermaid Girl, rushing over from her inspection of the bathroom with horrified mein: MAMA!! Mama, come see. There's something...something...you have to see something.

[elswhere and Landlady continue chatting in kitchen as a wail breaks forth from the general bathroom area]

MG storms out of bathroom and out to back deck, where she proceeds to sulk.

RW emerges from bathroom and shrugs.

Landlady looks quizzical.

elswhere [to landlady]: I think she's upset that there's no bathtub.

MG [from deck]: I HATE showers! Showers are the worst thing!

RW: It's okay. We thought she might be upset.

elswhere: She's taking the move hard in general.

MG [storming down pathway]: I'm going to call our friends and find another family to stay with!

elswhere, fatefully handing over deposit: Yeah. There will be a lot of transitions for her.

Landlady: Okay, well, here's your receipt! See you next week to sign the lease. Can you bring the first month's rent in cash?

RW and elswhere, with shaken and grieving MG in tow: Sure! Okay! See you then! Bye!

III: ii
The next day, in Seattle, where the family has returned for the weekend for a longstanding social engagement.

elswhere: We could get a storage tub that fits inside the stall, and fill it from the shower, and she could sit in that and splash.

RW: I don't know. It's definitely smaller than I remembered. There's no washer or dryer and no dishwasher. And I hate the paint. I'd have to paint the walls before we could move in.

elswhere: We can't let MG's being upset sway us too much, or we'll never get anywhere.

RW: I know. But it's hard not to.

elswhere: Well, yeah. But it is near the skytrain; she'll like that. And there's that deck...

RW: The mom downstairs smokes; I saw her ashtray outside. And there's not much in the neighborhood. No coffee places, not a lot of stores we'd go to.

elswhere: Well, yeah.

RW [looking around the Seattle house, as MG chatters merrily in the background, getting reacquainted with her old toys]: It's just so much more expensive, for so much less than we have here.

elswhere: I'm just not sure if we can get anything decent for cheaper. I mean, we might, but it's a risk. And we paid the deposit already...

RW: Frankly, if we just wrote off the deposit and decided to stay here, it would still be cheaper than renting there. We have this nice house here, in this beautiful neighborhood.

elswhere: And MG's so happy here.

RW: She loves it here.

elswhere: Why are we moving, again?

RW: I don't know!

[elswhere and RW weep, in turns]

To be continued.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

3 bedrooms, a Tragicomedy, Act II: Possibilities

In which our heroines, disenchanted by their first brush with the brutal Vancouver-area rental market, venture into the fray once again.

Scene i: elswhere, RW and MG tour a 2 bedroom plus den half-duplex in a somewhat remote working-class neighborhood that is nonetheless walking distance from the Skytrain. (The Skytrain! Ooo, the wonderful Skytrain that is like unto nothing in Seattle except the pointless and useless Monorail!)

Panoramic view of the apartment (wood floors! fireplace! garage! Concrete deck! Though that den does seem awfully tiny, and the outside is a little run down) and the neighborhood (some trees, kids riding bikes, a few stores but not much, a huge--sort of scarily huge--elementary school a couple blocks away).

Landlord: You have references? Credit? Okay, fax it by tomorrow, and I'll let you know.

Us: Okay! Thanks! thanks a lot!

Scene ii: The next morning. elswhere and RW tour an apartment in Nearby Suburb. It is big and the landlady is friendly, but the building feels gloomy and is on a bleak stretch of busy street, heartbreakingly close to but just outside the Preferred School catchment area and a long bus ride from the Skytrain.

Landlady: I'd be happy to rent to you, but I need to keep showing it. Look, I'll be here vacuuming for the next 45 minutes. Why don't you go out for coffee and then call and let me know?

Scene iii: elswhere and RW are huddled in the alley behind the building, frantically weighing the possibilities.

RW: I think the other place is just as big as this one.

elswhere: You think?

RW: And I hate that street. We'd be miserable in winter.

e: You think?

RW: This place is a little cheaper, though. And maybe we could get MG into that school anyway.

e: Hmm, yeah, maybe.

RW: Well, which one do you want more?

e, from the bottom of her urban, public-transportation-loving soul: Truly? I want the other one. But I thought you'd want this one more. It's bigger, and it's in Nearby Suburb.

RW: I don't know. I hate the carpet. But she'll give it to us now. And we'll have to wait to find out about the other one.

e: and maybe no one else will rent to us because we don't have jobs!

RW: And we have that cat!

e & RW: Argh! Argh! What should we do, what should we do? Argh! Argh!

one of us, can't remember which: Okay, let's call and tell her no, let's go for the one near the Skytrain.

other of us: Okay! Whee!

Scene iv: that evening. elswhere and RW, having spent the afternoon writing a cover letter and assembling and then faxing a dossier of recommendation letters and financial information so as to lack up for their new-resident status and lack of jobs, are checking their voicemail:

RW: It's the Skytrain Apartment landlord! He wants to rent to us!!

e: Oh, yay!

RW: But he wants us to start July 15, not August 1.

e: Huh. That's expensive.

RW: There are two other people who want it, but he says we were first.

e: Um...okay, let's do it!

RW: Okay!

RW, elswhere, and MG, dancing around their house-sit: [to the tune of "nyah, nyah nyah nyah nyah]: We have a place to li-ive! We have a place to li-ive!!

But the story's not over. To Be Continued...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

3 Bedrooms, 1 Kid, 1 Cat, No Jobs: A Tragicomedy in Several Acts

Act I:

Scene i: Seattle, a couple of weeks ago. Elswhere is indulging her newfound obsession with Craigslist Vancouver, searching for 3-bedroom apartments.

Elswhere: 2 bedrooms; no pets; no pets; way too expensive; scary neighborhood; way the hell out of town; 2 bedrooms; way too expensive; way the hell out of town; 1 bedroom; another no pets and it’s way too pricey anyway…Oh, lookee! Here’s one in our Preferred Suburban School Catchment Area Not Far from the City! It’s a whole house!! And it’s in our budget! And it doesn’t say no pets! Let’s go see it!

Renaissance Woman: Okay! You call!

E: No, you call!

RW: No, you!

*ring, ring*

E: Hi, can we come see your house?

Young Guy on Phone: Sure! How about 6:00 next Monday?

Scene ii: The house, a sweet little place just outside of Vancouver, only two blocks from our Preferred School.

6:15ish the following Monday.

Young Guy: Actually this place belongs to my parents; they live down the street. I just show it around.

E & RW: Oh, that’s nice. Did we mention we own a house too? We have equity! And savings! We can pay!

Young guy: Sorry, what jobs did you say you had?

E & RW: Right, well, none yet. But! Equity! Pay! And, here, we have references! Also we’re very responsible and promise not to smoke crack in the yard!

Young Guy (to mommy-daddy-baby family coming in behind us): Hey there! Can I show you all over the house? Here, let’s go down the street to meet my parents… (to us) oh, right, bye! You know where the door is, right?

Mermaid Girl (to the mommy): I like your baby! He's really cute!

[exeunt Booland family]

Scene iii: At the park, ten minutes later.

RW: Well, he was a jerk. And I didn’t like the feel of that house.

E: Yeah, me too. It would’ve been totally wrong for us.

RW: Totally wrong. I'm glad we didn't get it.

[elswhere & RW cry]

To be continued…

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Random Bullets of Vancouver

  • We tried not to mention to MG that today was July 4th, lest she be provoked to tears over missing the fireworks in Seattle: "The BEST fireworks! The best in the world! We HAVE to see them, we just have to!"
  • Never mind that we had a great view of the Canada Day fireworks on Sunday night (tip for Vancouverites from the friend we're house-sitting for: drive all the way to the North end of Main, past Chinatown, past Junkie Central, to the park and the beach near the loading docks. There's lots of room--we even found parking right as the fireworks were starting! And we could see great!).
  • Despite her constant declarations that she wants to go home and misses Seattle, MG is having a fabulous time at circus camp. This morning she insisted on wearing her sparkly white leotard with the little skirt. I left her amid a crowd of little girls who had gathered around her and were saying, "Oooh, I love your outfit!"
  • She is vague about most of what actually happens at circus camp, though apparently she and another girl are practicing an aerial act together on the hoops for Friday's performance.
  • We are charging the video camera battery in anticipation.
  • We looked at a rental yesterday, but are pretty sure we didn't get it, which is a bummer. We see For Sale signs everywhere, but few rental signs. We may have to head further into the southern hinterlands than we'd thought.
  • However, I did score a library card today, on the strength of one letter addressed to me (at the house-sit) and my Permanent Resident visa sticker.
  • I also got proposed to by the (cute, nose-pierced) library clerk who issued me my new card. "Wanna same-sex marry me so I can go to Hawaii?" she asked, upon seeing my passport. When I said I was already same-sex married, she told me all about St. Louis, where spent some time. My very favorite quote all week: "The patriarchy really sucks down there, eh?"
  • Truth be told, she might not have actually said "eh." Even without it, that encounter alone pretty much made my day.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I Think My Spaceship Knows Which Way to Go

The Mermaid Girl has been listening a lot to the Langley Schools Music Project in the last few weeks. She says she likes that it's kids singing, and I think she likes the slightly spooky arrangements. One of the spookiest is their version of "A Space Oddity," which is a pretty eerie number to begin with. And so it was that a couple of weeks ago our bedtime routine included a discussion of whether Major Tom cut off his controls and floated out into space on purpose or by accident. MG thought it was an accident, and I didn't contradict her (nor did I try to persuade her otherwise when she said fervently that she never wants to be an astronaut).

But I'm not so sure about it; I've always thought he might have cut off those controls on purpose. Just to see what was out there, and what it was like to lose that tether to everything he knew, even though it meant floating out into space forever.

This is our third night in Vancouver. The Renaissance Woman and Mermaid Girl are asleep, and I should be, but my brain is buzzing.

We're in a limbo-ish state: officially,we're just visiting the city this month, house-sitting at two different houses in a beautiful neighborhood. We won't be declaring Canadian residency until we move up for real in late August. We haven't packed up our house, and we only came up with a few suitcases. It's hard not to feel like we're just on vacation.

But really, we've got one foot here: I've quit my job. Our renters will be moving in as soon as we get our stuff out. We're going to look at a possible rental apartment tomorrow. We need to open a bank account and get library cards and see about school registration and apply for jobs. So even though it feels like a vacation, it's not.

The whole last three days, I've had a strange disoriented feeling whenever we're out and about the town. And the more familiar the neighborhood, the more disoriented I feel. For the past seventeen years, this city has been the place where we went to get away, a beautiful refuge, slightly unreal. But it's about to be (if all goes as planned) the place where we live: where we work and commute and buy groceries and pay bills and deal with neighbors and complain about traffic and local politics. We won't be spending all our time eating sushi and walking by the beach in the West End; we'll be eating hot dogs and bagged salad in some relatively boring neighborhood with good schools. Our Vancouver friends won't be putting their regular schedules aside to see us whenever we're in town; we'll get together when we can, when our lives permit.

Basically, once we get settled, I don't expect the general outlines of our middle-class, middle-aged lives to change that much (though, who knows? they might). It's the details I don't know. I have no idea what that apartment will look like, or who our neighbors will be, or who will pick up MG after school, or where she'll be going to school, for that matter.

So, we're not lost in outer space; not really. We're not even moving more than a few hours' drive from our old home. But it feels like we're cutting off our link to ground control, on purpose. Everything is up in the air, and it's nervewracking and scary and exciting, the proportions of each changing hour by hour, and different for each of the three of us.

In a year, I'll know where we've landed, or at least more of it than I do now.

For this month, we're floating.