Tomorrow morning, a team of movers will show up at our house to pack everything we own in a flurry of paper, boxes and tape. I've spent the last week preparing the house, throwing out and giving away the last piles of things that we don't need, separating stuff, dis-assembling furniture, washing linens and tuppeware, and worrying if we will be overweight or not.
On Thursday morning, we'll all happily board an Air Astana plane and arrive in Nur-Sultan before lunch time. Because of State Department regulations, we'll be skipping our usual six-week home leave in the US and instead going straight to Kazakhstan. We're sad that we won't be seeing as many of our friends and family as we can cram into the weeks-long marathon of late nights, park visits, games, movies, stories, laughter, and fun. But we're not sad to miss the jet lag, endless suitcase packing and re-packing, flights, car rentals, and nervous anticipation of a yet-unseen new house, city, and country.
Everyone in the family is ready to leave. Brandon and I are done with the endless preparations for departure, and disruptions to the usual calm rhythm of our life. The children are tired of being pressed into service to clean out another dark corner and are excitedly waiting for the delights of a new place to explore. We aren't ready to leave because we want to leave Tashkent, however, we're ready to leave because we're all tired of the process of moving.
Tashkent itself has given us a wonderful four years. When we moved here, I had six children eleven years old and younger. As we leave, I have seven children, ages almost sixteen to two years old. When we arrived in Tashkent, I was just beginning to crawl out of the swampy middle years of motherhood where the days are long, the children are needy, and mothers have nothing for themselves. They are hard years. Now four years later, I'm firmly in some of the best years of motherhood - children old enough to be helpful but still with young children to adore. I've taken up two hobbies - horseback riding and painting - and am very happy with my life.
The children have grown tremendously during our time here. I arrived with six children, and now I'm leaving with two young women and a rising young man. Kathleen, Sophia, and I can share each others' clothes, and Sophia, Edwin, and I all have the same sized feet. Two children have grown taller than me, and Edwin is close. Our baby is potty-trained, talking, feeds herself, dresses herself, and has strong opinions about how everything should be run. Sophia and Kathleen are intermediate-level horseback riders, with Sophia jumping one-meter jumps. Eleanor has gone from a little girl who knew nothing to a recently-baptized eight year old who is getting pretty good at piano, canters her horse happily around the ring, and devours novels while she's supposed to be going to sleep. William has gone from a baby who was just learning to walk to a five year-old who is learning to read and teaching himself how to write. Four years doesn't seem like a long time until you see how far everyone can go in that amount of time.
Tashkent has been a good city to spend four years in. We've enjoyed our house and our yard, and especially the pool. It can be a pain to get across town here, but the traffic isn't too bad and it's very affordable to do fun things here. We've been able to see the Silk Road cities and go up into the mountains and do some sledding and hiking. There are enough good restaurants to not get too bored and there are enough fun things to do with the kids on holidays. We've also taken some fun trips, visiting the Maldives and Sri Lanka. It's been a pretty easy four years.
We have, of course, made lots of wonderful friends during our four years here, despite the isolation that COVID brought in the middle of our tour. Kathleen and Sophia made their first teenage friends, organizing meetups and book clubs and pool parties without any input from me. It's been fun to see them grow into socialization and nice to be able to have taxis to do the ferrying for me. Eleanor has found her best friend and already has plans for letters and packages that will be sent back and forth between the two countries. We even found a family that was crazy enough to want to meet us somewhere for a vacation - and we had a wonderful time together. We have had wonderful teachers that have become good friends and that I'm already missing. I will always remember Tashkent for the wonderful people that we've been blessed with during our four years here.
And even Brandon has had a good four years at his job. He was able to see some really good progress on some of the issues he was working with and has been recognized for those efforts. Most of the time it has been the usual daily grind, but there have been some moments that have made him feel like he was pushing forward the Lord's work.
In four short days, our time here in Tashkent will be entirely in the past. It's always strange at those transitions, when your life switches entirely. One would think that that switch happens in some gradual fashion, a transition from one place to the next, but it never goes that way. One day you're living in the same place that you've been living in for four years, and the next day it's all like a dream, entirely in the past, never to be repeated. And the fuzzy future that you've been planning for and thinking about and researching and looking forward to is suddenly the very real present.
Within a month, we'll be settled into our new place and new house and new friends and new grocery stores and new teachers and new rhythms. Life will again be as it is supposed to be and the old will rapidly fade from memory. We will reminisce about our time in Tashkent and the funny stories and good friends and great pool and warm winters. But for now, we're in Tashkent, if only for a few more days. And then, it will all be over and the next part of our life will have begun.