This past Easter weekend, my parents came to visit me and my family here in Houston. They still live in Wisconsin, where I lived for the first 27 years of my life. Now that I'm 38, I've lived far away from them for over 10 years, but time has not lessened the degree to which I miss being physically close to them.
I came to Houston after meeting my husband in grad school. He lived in Houston at the time and I was in Milwaukee. We dated long distance for a year, became engaged, and then I came here to be with him after getting hitched. Someone had to make the move. Because he had had several more years invested in his career (and hence retirement account) than I did, we decided it would make more sense for me to embrace the southern lifestyle.
I was enthusiastically on board for the move. My many years in Wisconsin had made me a bit restless, and I was never a fan of Wisconsin winters which seem to go on for an eternity before spring finally kicks in.
So many good things have come from leaving my comfort zone. As a young woman who was pampered by loving, doting parents all of my life, I needed the swift kick in the rear end that living on the other side of the country provided. I had never realized how much I had depended on my parents for so many things, how spoiled I had been, and how I had come to assume that their immediate help would always be there if and whenever I needed it.
Leaving that was both the hardest and best thing I've ever done. I've been independent, self sufficient, and productive in every aspect of my life: as a teacher, a student, a wife, a mother, and a friend. While here in Texas, I have accomplished so much. I've worked harder as a teacher than I ever have. Marrying my husband, who is also a German teacher, has had a huge impact on my career. We've both learned a lot from each other and have become better educators as a result. I had started my master's degree a few years before getting married and completed it here in Texas. My husband had completed his same degree through the same program shortly before we were married. His guidance and advice through my final coursework and thesis were indispensable. He also provided me with the emotional support I needed to follow through with my studies and get the job done. With a master's in hand, I've had a world of choices open up to me. It allowed me to stop teaching full time and stay at home with my son after he was born four years ago. I was able to find another part time job teaching a couple of evenings a week at a local community college (which requires a master's degree). It's supplemented our income just enough to keep us going, and my son can spend evenings that I am at work having fun with his Papa at home.
Being a mother to my son has not always been easy for me. It's been a heckuva lot of hard work that oftentimes overwhelms me. Lately it's been easier and I've enjoyed it much more. When my son was 3, we found out he has a diary allergy. It was such a relief to get an answer to so many questions that we had about his behavior and a few troubling health issues. My son had cried a lot as an infant and then became a difficult child as a toddler who was often very moody and even beligerent. He also suffered from chronic constipation which made both him and us miserable. It took us a while to figure out that all of that was not normal and that he needed to undergo some tests. Making his diet dairy-free has turned everything around for my son who is now a pleasant and fun-loving four year old. And the changes that we've made are something that I'm very proud of, because all of the hard work that has gone into helping my son cope with his allergies has been a success story that is mine and mine alone.
Leaving my friends in Wisconsin was almost as traumatic as leaving my family. I miss (and will always miss) their regular presence in my life and mine in theirs. Making friends here in Houston took forever; I almost thought it would never happen. And heaven knows, for most of us women out there, we all need our girlfriends, right?! After seven years here I still had not even one single good friend. And it certainly wasn't for a lack of trying. But all of that changed after my son was born. Slowly but surely, I've met other moms who have children the same age as my son. And it's been delightful to welcome other women into my life again. I've met some incredible women here, and they enrich my life on a daily basis. I've learned a lot from them about adult friendships as grown women.
After a visit with my parents, I like to take stock of all of the wonderful ways Texas has made its mark on me. It helps me deal with the sadness I inevitably feel whenever I say goodbye to my mom and dad at the airport. There are so many ways that I do miss them. For me as a woman, the relationship I have with my own parents is still crucially important. I love them dearly and always will. I deperately wish that we could see one another whenever our hearts desire, that the distance between us were limited to minutes instead of days in a car. I know that they feel the same way about us, especially concerning their only grandchild whom they love passionately.
It's not easy living so far away from loved ones, but we manage the best that we can. Luckily, good things come from change, too, and I cherish the changes that Texas has brought about in me.