“Last US Exit,” my husband, our driver, reads aloud. I reach for my iPhone to capture the image of our departure, but we whiz by too quickly. Too unceremoniously.
Can I really leave my home, take my children out of their excellent school, say goodbye to an amazing job and kind friends and a beautiful neighborhood–again?
We’re not American, though the country feels like home to us. Graduate school brought us to the US from Canada for a long stay that began in the 1990s, and we have since left and returned to the country with every job change and new opportunity.
And now here we are, leaving again. With each departure, it seems we’ve installed another car seat in the van, filled with another child to be shuttled from home to home. Who knew how like the army academia would be?
Ding. After we cross the border into Canada, I get a text from T-Mobile to tell me I’m in a foreign land. Ha. Just wait, I think. Quebec is just a way station. From here we’ll continue on to Shanghai and Beijing and Kuala Lumpur and Phuket–and finally onto our new home: Birmingham, UK.
Once there, we have no idea where we’ll live, or where I’ll work (we’re moving for my husband’s newest academic job), or what our lives will be like. The only thing we’ve arranged is the boys’ school: King David Primary School, the fourth Jewish day school they’ll have attended in three different countries. One day, Jewish day school principals world-round will want to consult my boys when planning their education reforms.
“Remember,” my oldest son, who has just finished third grade and is not appreciative of this move, reminds me repeatedly, “we need to be back here before my eighth grade class trip to Israel.”
I nod half-heartedly each time he says it. I’m not going to say no (who knows?), though I can’t say yes either. We’ve never lived in the same place twice. On the plus side, many Jewish day schools have eighth grade trips to Israel. Maybe one Israel trip can substitute for the other.
At least, I think, there’s that: the consistency of the Jewish day school. Tanach. Talmud. Sifrut. Kids with similar names and ancestries. Families that invite us for Shabbat dinner and party with us on Simchat Torah at shul.
Ding. This time it’s an email. It’s from a fellow mother at King David. I haven’t met her, but the head teacher gave her my info, and she’s been scouting suitable homes for us. “What day are you arriving?” she writes. “We want to have a get-together to welcome you. Many parents are excited at your coming. We will welcome you warmly.”
And just like that, my despair lifts. We might be peripatetic professors, but my dedication to Jewish school–one that my husband grudgingly indulges–means more than a consistent education in Jewish subjects for my boys.
It also means that home always awaits us.