“But where’s the rocking chair?” + Reflections on a Summer of Transition

becca-garber-kids-sicily

It was 12 noon, and Gil was still napping. Lena and I had been moving from activity to activity: reading books, doing puzzles, coloring pictures, baking pumpkin bread to finish up cans of pumpkin before we move, etc. Now we were drawing hearts and polka dots in her notebook, and I could tell things were deteriorating.

“Why don’t you try some polka dots now, Lena?”

“Nooooo… I caaaaan’t. I just want to watch you do it.”

“It’s easy. Just like this.” I tapped the marker up and down on the page a few times, and then handed it to her.

She banged it angrily up and down, mashing the marker tip into the paper.

“OK,” I said, blowing out hard through my nose, “I think this is enough. Let’s put this away and take a break. Do you want to read some books?”

The last thing I wanted to do was read picture books out loud. I desperately wanted to walk away, look at my phone, read a novel, anything.

“Noooo!!!” she said, “I want to color. I want you to do the polka dots!”

This was going nowhere, so I stood up and began to walk away. “When you have a good attitude, we can do something else. We’re going to take a break for now.”

Behind me, her frustration escalated, and then the frustration gave way to tears. I heard her get down from her chair and walk through the house. She walked into her dark bedroom, and then I froze when I heard her calling out through her tears:

“But where’s the rocking chair? I want to sit in the rocking chair! Where is iiiiiitt?”

Stunned, I raced into the room and picked her up in my arms.

“The movers took the rocking chair, Lena, remember? They’re taking it to our new house in San Diego. You like to sit in that chair when you’re upset, don’t you? It’s ok, I’m sorry. Come snuggle with me.”

We climbed into my bed, with her resting on my chest as I stroked her back. As her sobs subsided, I felt close to tears myself.

In her moment of need, she had forgotten that everything in our house was gone. Automatically, she had gone to a quiet place where she could sort out her emotions and take her own self-initiated time out. That peaceful place, I realized, had meant so much to her. The disorientation and despair had been clear in her voice.

How much more is she thinking and feeling inside? Since the movers came and went, both Lena and Gil have been cheerful, seemingly unfazed by our empty house and their altered surroundings. But so many objects of comfort — like the rocking chair — have been removed forever from this home, the only home they’ve ever consciously known.

Lena’s disorientation and sadness made me realize I’m not the only one who is going through a lot of emotional transition these days. These are big days for our family. There are so many goodbyes: the obvious ones to friends and church, and the more subtle ones to the quirky front door lock and the location of our clothes and the ability to navigate our bedrooms in the dark. It’s disorienting for all of us. Lena is just the first one to shed tears.

I know we’re not the only ones facing transition this summer. How many of you, staring at your computer or phone screen around the world, are also awaiting giant changes? There are new homes to be purchased, babies to be born, marriages to be made, books to be published, jobs to be finished, jobs to be started, and babies to be made.

At summer’s end, we’ll all be different people. You might be anticipating a lot of joy, or a lot of work, or a lot of goodbyes. The months ahead might be terrifying. Or wonderful. Or gut-wrenching. Or a relief. Or a trial.

So here’s to being aware. That’s a start. We’ll miss the rocking chair, and we’ll miss the ability to just curl up and be at home, and we’ll miss the old familiarity.

Hopefully this awareness will help us take better care of our husbands, our children, and ourselves. Especially after seeing Lena’s distress, I want to be more compassionate, patient, and sensitive. May we be rocks instead of adversaries (*cough*), a steady presence that our children and husbands can rely on as everything else changes.

And may we be careful to take care of ourselves, too, by being aware of our own limits. I want to be candid about my emotions, communicate clearly with my family, and take time outs for self-preservation when needed. May we be bold to seek closure, seek solitude, and seek rest.

For example, I have identified one thing I know I need to do to find closure to our time in Sicily. In our little town, I see so many familiar faces each day as I push the kids in the stroller to the playground, fish shop, gelateria, market, and panificio. I don’t want to just disappear one day. I love all those smiles, I love hearing “buon giorno!”, I love that sense of belonging that they give me. Before we go, I want to go to the owners of those shops and to our neighbors, give them a picture of our family, explain that we are moving, and say goodbye. (And I want to subtly pay back the man in the general store for the ten million chocolate bars he gave Lena over the last three years.) I know I’ll regret it if I don’t.

Ultimately, I want to draw strength from the Source. My own reserves are so shallow! So much has already changed, but there is so much more to come! I’m holding onto these words of promise:

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
Isaiah 26:3-4

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20 Responses to “But where’s the rocking chair?” + Reflections on a Summer of Transition

  1. Nicole June 25, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Ahhh, poor Lena! This brought me to tears. It is so hard to be that patient mother all the time, isn’t it? Right now I have two very sick little boys to take care of all while getting over a horrible cold myself. I will lift your family up in my prayers as you come to mind. I think that is a wonderful idea to not just disappear from Motta. I admire your thoughtfulness and reflection in doing something to leave a piece of the Garber family behind. Yes, life is full of so many changes all the time, isn’t it? Praise God we have Him and his Holy Spirit to bring us the peace and comfort we need in all these times. He will carry all our burdens and fears if we allow Him to. Something I’m learning daily. Anyway, random thoughts right now but this post is just really moving and thought provoking. Can’t wait for your new adventure though, and to hear of your explorations of San Diego. I’m really hopeful we will get to come see you guys. It’s really not that far from Oregon to Southern Cali! Love you and your family.

    • Becca June 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

      So sorry to hear about being sick, Nicole, and I owe you an email! I was thinking of you because I went to your old house in Maranai for Book Club last night. It is always so funny to be there, standing in the carport or sitting at their dining room table or browsing books in their living room and thinking about the play dates with you and Samuel! So many memories in so many places…

  2. Eden June 25, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    So glad you could blog to process this! What a familiar-sounding vignette. When I was getting married last year, my favorite pre-marriage book encouraged brides to be open to all the goodbyes they were saying, and to the grief of closing certain good doors in life. As I think about having kids one day, I’m glad that I feel comfortable sharing ambivalence with some people in my life, knowing from experience as and older sister and many-years babysitter all the things I will be giving up… knowing that I am less familiar with the joys and good challenges of parenthood.

    • Becca June 26, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

      I remember that pre-marriage book! I read some of it in Michigan about a year ago when we were on the family reunion. Yes, ambivalence is right, that poignant combination of joy and loss.

  3. Lucy June 25, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    How beautifully you captured your feelings in this story! That idea of going to say good-bye to friends and shopkeepers in Motta sounds so helpful. It will probably be a help to Lena, too, as she processes this big change in her life. She has you and Elliott, and your faith and confidence in the Lord to be a strong shelter for her in the midst of this giant transition.

    • Becca June 26, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

      That’s true! I didn’t think about how much Lena might enjoy the process of saying goodbye, too. Now I just need to get a picture printed…!

  4. Rebecca June 25, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    I’ve always been very emotional about goodbyes. I love going on a holiday, but I hate leaving in the end. Views, restaurants, memories … I love going home but I also miss a lot of stuff. I can still see the view from our holiday home in Spain 2 years ago. And it’s always so silly as we’re only there for 2 weeks. I can’t imagine how I would feel having to leave a place like you have. Oh, I do remember as a kid I already felt like this and I had the habit to write notes in the car to say goodbye to the place. I often just let them go out of the window of the car while driving home …

    I’m having my first baby in a month and that’s making me nervous too. Being the person I am it’s going to be huge to adapt to a little one in the house. I’m sure I will manage but I can’t help feeling very nervous about it all. Thanks for your lovely post, sometimes we just need to be reminded we all have to deal with change …

    • Becca June 26, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

      Thank you for your honest thoughts, Rebecca. Change is a scary thing when we really love the comfort and familiarity of the place we’ve found. I do think that babies bring deeper joy than you’ve ever known or imagined, though, along with all the changes and sacrifices. I hope that this is the most wonderful change you’ve ever experienced!

  5. Tiffany June 25, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

    Not enough words to say how much this resonates with me right now. Love this post and those verses and wishing your family many blessings this summer!

    • Becca June 26, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

      So glad. Thank you, Tiffany, and the same to you!

  6. Amanda E. June 25, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    Absolutely beautiful. Though we’re not in a season of transition here (for the first time in 9 years of marriage, it seems!), this really really hit home – I wish I’d had more empathy for the small people in the midst of turmoil instead of being so self-focused and stressed out. Hoping you guys have a wonderful end to your time in Sicily.

    • Becca June 26, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

      Here’s hoping that that empathy continues for me! Transition has been a way of life for so long for me, and it seemed like we finally got a respite from some of it recently in Sicily. Here we go again!

  7. Courtney June 25, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    Oh, Becca, I can relate. We uprooted from our home in Boston to spend the summer living with my parents in Denver. Just today I was reminded of the need to be patient with my little one as she continues to talk about going home and deals with relatives and friends coming and going in and out of her life. Thank you for this beautiful post and reminder. Blessings to your family as you say “good-bye” to Sicily.

    • Becca June 26, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      You’re brave — but so right — to leave Boston and spend the summer with Alex in Denver! I hope Audrey adjusts and that you can find rhythm and routine at home to help her… and you. ;)

  8. Laura June 25, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

    Poor Lena. I feel her pain. My family moved after my freshman year of college and it was extremely traumatic for 19-year-old me. Your insight is fantastic, and you’re all in my prayers as you get ready for the big move. Stay strong!

    • Becca June 26, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      Thank you, Laura!

  9. Stephanie ("itsaprettyswelllife" on IG) June 25, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    You brought me to tears with this, as if someone who knows me intimately had sat me down, looked deep into my eyes, & said “it’s ok, I understand, you’re feeling this way and it’s totally normal, it’s ok…” – which is remarkable because you’re pretty much a total stranger. So I had to leave a comment to compliment the power of your observations & words & thank you for posting them. God definitely used them to hug my spirit today. Thank you!!!!!!! (Moving, even if your choice & wonderful & exciting, is sure TOUGH, isn’t it?!)

    • Becca June 26, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

      Such an encouraging comment, Stephanie! Thank you so much for sharing this and letting me know that it hugged your spirit (I love that). Blessings on this summer of change for you!

  10. Autumn June 26, 2014 at 1:52 am #

    This is sooooo sad, made me cry :(

    • Becca June 26, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

      :( When you see Lena’s laughing face on Skype in an hour, hopefully you won’t feel sad anymore!

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