FINALLY HOME Connie K. Pombo
I reached for my favorite coffee mug with the message that I had taped on it the day before: "If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!" It was to remind me that what we were about to do was not only difficult, but gut wrenching. How do you pack 35 years of marriage into four suitcases? I realized that all the other 29 moves were just practice for our final move -- to live and retire overseas.
I laid the coffee mug down on the cardboard box -- one of several -- that contained precious memorabilia that were being sent to my mom in California. She was going to be the keeper of our memories, which included photo albums, pictures and mementos from our boys' lives.
As I passed by the living room filled with boxes of various sizes -- an accumulation of a lifetime of memories -- I had to wonder if this final move was worth all the pain of sifting, sorting, selling and giving away. I sat with my elbows resting on a box that contained our boys' baby albums and felt a tear slip down my cheek, then another, and another, until the mailing label smeared into an unrecognizable blob of black. My thoughts were interrupted by the cellphone ringing in my pocket.
"We have a buyer for our home!" my husband announced.
I gulped back tears, trying to muster some excitement in my voice. But I simply couldn't. After 35 years of marriage, there's not too much I could hide from my college sweetheart, Mark.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing ... I mean ... everything!" I lamented.
"Stop what you're doing right now and take a coffee break," Mark demanded. "That's an order!"
The message came through loud and clear. I grabbed my coffee mug, jumped into the car and drove to the park around the corner to let the cool spring breeze dry the tears from my face. I thought about our new life in Cuenca, Ecuador -- the land of eternal spring -- and realized that all of these little sacrifices were nothing compared to the paradise that awaited us.
But keeping to our limit of four suitcases presented a challenge. Night after night I practiced packing -- using every inch of space allowed. After careful consideration, I realized that my favorite coffee mug would have to be left behind. As I placed it with the things to be dropped off at the thrift store, I stared at the toothless grins of our boys on the front of the cup. It was a Father's Day gift to their dad when they were 5 and 10 years old, but I had claimed it as my own. After sitting on the suitcases to keep them from popping open, I realized that I had made the right decision.
The next few weeks were a blur until we boarded our flight for Ecuador, which was a relief after all our moving and packing. We arrived at our condo complex as scheduled, and I saw that the glossy-print magazines hadn't betrayed us. It was all that I had hoped for and more.
The elevator to the sixth floor gave me just enough time to quiet the butterflies in my stomach! As Mark opened up the door to 6-J, I held my breath.
"You're going to love this view," Mark announced. "Close your eyes and don't open them until I tell you."
Holding both hands over my eyes, Mark ushered me toward the balcony. "Open your eyes!" he shouted. I marveled at the view from our living room, which was a cityscape of Cuenca -- complete with the familiar blue domes of the Catedral Nueva (New Cathedral).
As I oohed and ahhed over the landscape and the white clouds in the crystal blue sky, I felt a calm overtake me. Mark grabbed my hand and led me into the kitchen and announced, "Now, open the cabinet!"
My heart swelled as I ran my hand over the rich walnut-stained cabinets with the modern stainless-steel handles and thought, "This is the nicest home we've ever had!"
Mark grinned and said, "There's something in the cabinet for you."
I gasped when I saw my favorite coffee mug staring back at me. "I can't believe you managed this! But how? And when?" I choked.
Mark looked at me and smiled brightly. "We couldn't leave the boys behind, could we?"
At the last moment, Mark had managed to fit the mug in his carry-on luggage, leaving his favorite book behind.
As we held each other in a tight embrace, Mark kissed me lightly on the lips and whispered, "Now we're finally home!"
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