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Preparing for Goodbye

  • 14 June, 2018
Preparing for Goodbye

We didn’t come here for ever.

We didn’t mean to stay much longer than a year. We never intended to make the Bahamas our home; we didn’t mean to fall in love with it, and we could never have predicted that from the first moment we got that white white coral sand in our shoes it would feel like it had always been there.

But that was what happened.

Two years ago next month we arrived on this island with our belongings in 10 boxes and – as with so many leaps of faith in life – found that the risk had been so much more worth it than we could have imagined when we waved goodbye to our happy and very comfortable life in Europe. Quickly we settled in this place so very far from home. The laid-back way of life and the bright, welcoming smiles of the locals reminded us of where we had grown up, under the big African sky where the air has a smell all of its own, rules are flexible and the birds sing wild in the treetops. The sand between our toes was different from that of the hot Cape beaches we knew, but somehow familiar at the same time. The bourganvilea brightening the roadsides was like a postcard from home and the heat rising off the tarmac was a mirage straight from our childhood.

We watched our own two girls thrive as this island life surrounded them like the sea. They grew strong in the sunshine and blossomed with each new experience. For them, this life in paradise is just normality. Yet I’m full to bursting every time I watch our eldest dive down in the water to get a closer look at a fish in the coral reef, or our youngest bend her bleach-blonde head to examine a starfish in its natural habitat. And I have to pinch myself that this is the life we are living – that this is our everyday.

Of course not every day in paradise has been spent on the beach. And I think, for me, “real life” has been even better. The school run on scooters as I watch Annabel race ahead, her sweet yellow gingham dress flying in the breeze, her little black school shoes a blur as she runs to greet her teacher with an enormous hug. The toddler playdates with friends for Ruby, the ballet lessons and swimming lessons and tennis lessons and backpacks packed and unpacked every day and the homework at the kitchen table and all the delicious minutiae that make up this wonderfully ordinary life.

And soon everything is changing.

It was tempting to stay on here for years to come, but in the end we’ve circled back to the goals we set for ourselves when we agreed to come here, and we know that being so very far from home and family will soon become too hard on us all. So in a few short weeks we will be moving again – closer to the people we love and far far away from this turquoise sea forever.

For me, the prospect is gut-wrenching and exciting at the same time. I’m approaching it with my eyes wide open and I know what we’re getting into because we’ve done it time and time again… I know how to do change and I know that come what may we can handle it and it will make us stronger.

But our five-year-old? Nobody can expect a five-year-old to know any of this. And moving a five-year-old from the life that’s her reality to something completely foreign…? This is something I haven’t ever done before and it’s weighing heavy on my heart.

So how have we approached the discussion of change? Well… slowly. We started making suggestions a few months ago that we “might” be moving, and then when we knew for sure it was happening we started slipping it gently into conversation. There has been no grand announcement, no big reveal – it has just been slipped into our daily life like sea sand falling through fingers.

We have talked about all the exciting things about living back in Europe. About the friends we left behind and the grandparents who will be that much closer. We’ve talked about favourite foods and holidays and snow in the winter time, about her new school and new home and the ducks she used to feed when she was a toddler.

But we’ve also allowed her to feel sad. And nervous or anxious or worried. We’ve answered all her questions as honestly as we can and we’ve assured her that we will take along with us all of her toys and all of her artwork and all of her books and the photo frames on the shelves. We have promised her there will still be ice cream and pizza and burger night on the other side of the Atlantic and that although everything will feel strange for a while, it will soon become the new normal.

As we begin to say the first of our many goodbyes at the start of the summer, I know she’s going to see me cry. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not – I feel like I should be as strong for her as I can, making it all okay. But then maybe seeing me cry will mean she’ll know it’s not a bad thing to feel sadness and to give it a voice. Maybe I will tell her that you can cry and then find that all will be well on the other side.

I will tell her that endings are sad. I will tell her that from endings come beginnings and that beginnings are hard too but that hard is where we find what is good and true and wonderful.

Most importantly, I will tell her how lucky I feel to have lived this extraordinary adventure alongside her and her sister and her dad, but that our lives are really just beginning, and the end of one adventure only means the beginning of another.

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  1. thenewmrsm2016

    15th Jun 2018 - 11:24 am

    Wow what an incredibly hard decision for you both. Your girls will always remember this paradise and maybe will bring their own families back one day.

    • Catherine Dietrich

      15th Jun 2018 - 12:46 pm

      What a lovely thought that is… Thank you.

  2. Jane

    16th Jun 2018 - 5:29 am

    Thank you for sharing this, I’m really glad I saw your post, as I might need to tell my 5 year old about us moving country soon (from South of France back to UK). I’ve been talking about the things we enjoy about England, like favourite places, museums, parks etc as well as family and friends who live there. I am worried though, about upsetting him with the change . Like you say, acknowledging it is important, the sadness, the hard parts, but showing that things will be okay. I wish you all the best with your goodbyes xx

    • Catherine

      12th Oct 2018 - 8:26 am

      Thank you so much for your good wishes Jane. I hope that your adaptation is going well and that you are finding your feet. It is so hard when it’s not just our littles ones’ emotions we’re coping with. xx

  3. Stephanie Ceelen

    1st Aug 2018 - 6:33 pm

    Sweet Cathy,
    I have read this post several times and every time I attempt to respond, I feel a big heart tug that just doesn’t want to say its so:(
    Having a hard time preparing for goodbye.
    Our family will miss your family so much!
    I will always treasure last Christmas when my hubby, girls and I decided to celebrate the holiday by going boating to a nearby beach and there you were with your hubby & girls having a picnic!
    You invited us to join you and it was so wonderful to share the day in such a simple, easy, barefoot, my kinda way.
    No oven cooked turkey could have tasted better than those sandwiches!
    It was glorious to feel the warm sun on us and watch my “big” girls splash around with your “lil” girls.
    4 blondies enjoying the sand, sun & surf.
    No wrapped present under the tree could have been better!
    So grateful we took photos of your clan & mine so I can look back this Christmas and keep the memory of our beach celebration in my heart.
    We didn’t plan it, it just happened and will go down as a favourite.
    We have shared many great moments on our little island/canal street, sipping Rose and watching kids in the pool.
    Very grateful the universe brought us together in Bahamas.
    Wish it was longer, my friend.
    I hope you will keep writing about your life and I can follow your blog to see your next adventures?!

    • Catherine

      12th Oct 2018 - 8:27 am

      We miss you Steph. Thank you for all your kind words and for your friendship and love while we were in the Bahamas. As I always said, I hope to be you when I grow up! xxx

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About Catherine

Wife, mum, tea drinker, shoe lover, South African Brit living in the Bahamas with my husband and two small girls. I write about the gloriously ordinary everyday of motherhood - and occasionally about sunshine, shoes and perfect cups of tea.

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