Hard to know which was the last straw. But one of the straws was Christmas 2012, which Jules and I spent refinishing our kitchen floor.
Earlier that year we’d bought our first house – a great place – in the historic Proctor District in Tacoma, Washington. Historic comes with baggage, which in our case included an ancient kitchen that left a lot to be desired. Like working. So in the style of a grand military campaign, but with neither planning nor skills, we set off on a major remodel. As we demo’d the internal gas chimney, we discovered an historic condom box from the historic masonry dudes. (Apparently at one point of time it was reasonable to market a “Merry Midows” brand condom…).
The summer before we bought our house was full of mountain-climbing, hiking, and general happiness. Post-casa, we fell into a steady weekend routine of Home Despot (as it became) to casa to Home Despot. Rinse, repeat. A chicken coop was built, chickens were raised, slaughtered by mystery beasts, and raised again. The kitchen was laboriously redone; fireplace installed; landscaping done; basement renovated; “rustic” furniture built.
(The kitchen did turn out pretty cool. Ryan and I made a bar out of reclaimed studs from the wall that got torn out.)
At first it was all an adventure. But at some point adventure turned to drudgery, then to resentment. Pre-casa, before grad school, and before careers, we had been some breed of neuvo-hippy, exploring our way around Asia. We made lots pre-responsibility promises to ourselves, most of which we found ourselves breaking as we became owned by the house.
So as Baby 1 turned from conjecture into a due-date, we indulged in a major re-think. At the time Jules was working 3 days/week in Canada as a clinical psychologist, with me managing my nascent immigration firm in Tacoma. We decided to massively simplify.
First, we decided to jettison the vast majority of our stuff. In barely a year, the two of us had filled a 2,400-square-foot house with an appalling collection of garbage. We had four sets of china – we used one set maybe twice. 70-80% of the house stuff got sold or (mostly) donated. It was unbelievably liberating. We haven’t once regretted losing a single item.
But the garbage-purge was just the beginning. Next we undertook the most taboo transition a self-reliant person can make in America: we moved in with my mother.
The idea was first brought up in joke format one night at dinner. Mother happened to have a largish family house, which a this point she lived in by herself. Jules and I were thinking out loud about how it would work juggling work schedules with the new baby and home projects. Someone pointed out it would all be a lot easier if we just merged households. Since this was a ludicrous, the conversation moved on. The next day, Jules and I took a look walk, talked about it in earnest, and were sold before we got home.
Mother is a family person, and didn’t mind the idea of some company. Jules and I liked the idea of having family close for Baby 1. Friend often incorrectly think that mother’s on-call for baby care. It’s actually not like that, since she travels almost 50% of the time for the non-profit she runs. When she’s around, though, it’s wonderful to have some extra TLC for the Baby. As an added bonus, my aunt is just a block away.
But ironically, what moving in with mom meant most was more freedom.
As homeowners we were inexorably tied to the house. Every (rare) day we spent up in the mountains came with the guilt of not punching the home improvement punch-list. Losing the casa easily freed up 10-20 hours each week. Most importantly, this made a return to extended international travel one major step closer to reality.
With the move to mother’s Jules and I promised ourselves that we would – at the absolute minimum – spend one month abroad, and would aspire to double that. Far from a vacation, we want to return to the horizon-broadening travels we put on the shelf for grad school. My work will need to come with me, at least on a selective basis, which I’ll explore later in this series of posts.
This brings us to this coming Wednesday. Early that evening we’ll be boarding Emirates flight 230 for Dubai, connecting to Emirates 512 to Indira Gandhi in New Delhi. We’re off for a month in India, a country of endless fascination for both Jules and I. This time we’re heading to Kolkata, the foothills of West Bengal and Himalayan Sikkim. And 6-month Baby Kai will be coming along for the ride.
In this series of posts, I’ll be discussing the logistics of extended travel abroad while managing my immigration law firm remotely. Add to that the complexities of keeping a 6-month-old happy and healthy – plus the general pandemonium of traveling in India as an outsider – and I’m thinking this should be a steep learning curve.
Up next: how do you pack for India when you’re bringing a 6-month-old and a law firm?
(Below, a pre-grad-school Greg.)