I have failed. After twenty-six international relocations I have failed. Failed to remind my daughter of the importance of the red dot.
Just over thirty years ago Kate, born in The Netherlands, moved to Trinidad and Tobago for the first time. Next week she moves back. This time she is relocating with her own family and as I watch the chaos of boxes and emotions which is ‘move week’ through the lens of FaceTime, I am comforted that despite some of the agonies of new friends and new schools in new countries expatriate children experience, it does not in the long run seem to diminish their desire for adventures of their own.
I know it didn’t for me, but one wonders about one’s own children. Kate has had a roving life because of her parents but has for the last twelve years been in London. Her husband too had a peripatetic childhood, Scotland to Guyana to Trinidad to Canada and then to England where he has lived for twenty years. He is, they are, now ready to head back to the islands.
And part of me is envious. I am in no way unhappy with life in the United States, but that does not mean I wouldn’t leap on an airplane tomorrow if the chance of another posting overseas presented itself. That is my restless nature. The longing for adventure, and not of the vacation type. Rather the kind that allows us to learn new customs from the ground, to see things beyond the sights, to meet people not charged with ensuring our glimpse of their country is perfect.
Kate is up for the adventure and is going with realistic expectations. Her husband has ensured she has seen the not always glamorous side of life in Trinidad – that the sparkle of Carnival is not year around. He has been a regular returnee, but understands to repatriate is not always the homecoming one has imagined. My granddaughters are too young to understand the turmoil around them, and their little lives will continue without the addition of gloves, scarfs and coats, safe in the knowledge the two most important people will be with them. And the dog.
But in all my subtle comments about managing expectations, my disguised suggestions of how best to pack Granny’s crystal, my blatant warnings of the stressors of shipping a beloved pet, my gleeful hope that my youngest granddaughter will learn to crawl the day before they fly as her mother did, I forgot to mention the red dot.
My daughter is an organized woman, like her mother she lives by the list. Unlike her mother she doesn’t tend to lose them. So their house has been catalogued, valuables photographed, copies of important documents made, vaccinations shot for both babies and dog, and so on. In all the upheaval there is a certain sense of calm as items are ticked off as one falls exhausted into bed each night.
However one can never account for packing day. Most of mine have been done solo. So many in fact that I came to believe my husband actually paid the company for whom he worked to ensure he was away whenever we relocated. Having spoken to Kate today I think I am relieved he was.
Two vital elements yesterday were packed under the direction of her husband. The dog’s import license, and the vacuum cleaner. The former necessitated a frantic drive to the shippers today to unpack the dog’s box. I did say travelling with a pet is hell.
From my understanding of the conversations about the latter, they went something like this.
“Where’s the hoover?” Kate asks, finding the brush attachment but no body.
“Packed,” replies her husband.
“We’ll need it in Trinidad,” he explains.
“Can you tell me what use the hoover would be, when we have got rid of everything else that requires a plug?”
“Oh. Didn’t think of that.”
My daughter then challenges the packers. “Why didn’t you ask me about the hoover?”
“I asked the boss, love.”
“How long have you been doing this job?” she inquires.
“A while. Why?” asks the bemused packer.
“Then you must surely know the boss in this case is the wife.”
“Right you are then, love. Sorry.”
And therein lies my failure. I forgot to remind Kate about the red dot. Every single item not to be packed has a large, sticky red dot. A dire warning of imminent loss of the boss’s humour should said item disappear in the morass of crates that are then fitted, like a jigsaw puzzle, into the cavernous black hole that is the container.
“Aah yes,” I said to Kate today on the phone. “Never forget the red dot. Sorry.”
“Thanks Mum!” she replied.