Levees in London: One year later...
Updated: Jun 25, 2021
Exactly one year ago today, I sat in the dimly lit and sparsely furnished beach house and decided I was going to write about our experience in a new country. I had just had family photos taken by my brilliant cousin for a "We've Moved" card, and when she returned them I thought, this is what I want to share: the story of five people and how much they would grow when had to leave behind everything they knew. The real and truthful story of travel and adventure as a family. So when Zac returned from work to our temporary housing while we waited to catch our plane to London, I asked him, "Hey, I think want to write about this move. What do you think? Would you be down for that?" It sounds funny, but I needed to know that the very private man I married was going to be comfortable sharing what could be a rough and personal road. To put him at ease, I described my first entry to give him an idea of what I was thinking... he bluntly said, "Have I ever really told you no?" He made a fair point, when I am as excited as I was on this evening, I can be hard to pull down from my cloud. I had just had a beach side epiphany, and I was ready to do this. But wait, let me back up a little more to explain...
For the week prior I had been in a series of ups and downs as we prepared to leave California. Packing up our things had kept me so busy that when I was finally finished with all I had to do, an uneasy panic had set in. Shit. I am about to move oceans away from home. I had pondered about it for days. I'd periodically begun to cry and then, full on ugly cry, as I systematically said goodbye to everyone that was part of my everyday. When I wasn't sad, I was tending to my little one's hearts that were having a very hard time processing that this chapter was officially over. As I sat out on the beach and looked out across the water, I kept feeling the overwhelming desire to scream. Just yell like a freaking banshee at the Pacific Ocean...that was stupid, and big, and a divider, and all that illogical stuff I felt. It was all so much to process and yet too much to even know where to begin to process. It's funny how, when your emotions are cycling too quickly to keep up with your rational thinking, you are kind of at your creative best. Ever had that happen? Everything inside you has been churned up to the surface therefore it pours out of you like a leaky faucet. In all realness, you have little control. The thoughts kept looming, I want to document this. I want to share this. I want to share our story for three big reasons: One, so I can look back and see the progress and remember that all beginnings are tough. I swear I have amnesia every time we move. Two, because I wanted the sharing of our story, to refine how I walked alongside others who are faced with big changes. I was looking for connection. And three, I have simply always loved writing, and hoped it would be a way to keep our families feeling like they were with us. I was already homesick. I went to bed that night with a little seedling of an idea, hoping that in the morning light, I would have more clarity.
I did. The next morning I had the clearest voice tell me everything I DIDN'T want to hear...
"Baileigh, who gives a shit what you have to say? Don't embarrass yourself."
"Baileigh, you are a discount writer that can barely speak good English. Most people can't even understand you when you speak, how will they understand when you write? Don't embarrass yourself."
"Baileigh, you are too busy to be any good. You need more time. You have a husband and kids that deserve your full attention. Don't disappoint them."
"Baileigh, you are from a tiny town in Louisiana, you are going to sound so stupid. Don't disappoint them either."
"Baileigh, you can't build a website, you barely know how to back-up your iphone. Don't over-kick your coverage."
"Baileigh, all those people that ever discarded you, well, you are about to give them the biggest, I-told-you-so-opportunity. They are going to laugh at you. Don't let them."
Okay. Okay. I thought. It was a crazy-stupid-most-likely-alcohol-induced idea. So I squashed it. I poured a cocktail into a plastic hotel cup and I thought, Girl, you dodged a bullet. What were you thinking?
That night, as we had done almost every night while we stayed at the little beach house in Oceanside, the kids walked out to play on the beach while I sat in a folding chair to watch them play. They'd roll around building sand castles and wrestling to ensure that EVERY crevice of their little bodies was packed full of sand. We had never been so polished in places we shouldn't be polished, ever, in our lives. The beach overload was joyous as we knew there wasn't about to be a beach in sight after we moved. On this night, with my solo cup cocktail in hand, Arden came back to sit with me. I could immediately tell she was in one of her quiet and thoughtful moods by the way her face twisted into a pensive smirk. "Momma, why are you sad?" Honestly, I thought I had hidden my emotions relatively well? I didn't think they could see I was teetering between sadness, fear and a total mental breakdown, but while my Arden may miss big glaring signs that say, "Don't Touch That," she never misses the signs of people in pain. I said, "Oh honey, this is just a lot to process. I don't mean to be sad. My mind just needs to catch up to my feelings is all. What makes you feel better when you are sad?" Yeah, I wanted to change the subject back to her. She was picking at her sandy feet and the wind was blowing her hair around wildly, like a golden crown encircling her little face. She replied simply, "You... and Avah, and Daddy... and sometimes Asher." Fair enough. I smiled, "you're so lucky to know that already, when I was your age and I was sad I would sneak away to my old swing set and sit at the top of the slide. I'd read for hours and I'd write short stories and poems. I thought I wanted to be the next Shel Silverstein." She piped up, "Oh! That book that smells bad! With the black and white ripped pages?!" She is referring to my well-loved copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends. Boom. It hit me. Just like piecing together a timeline that suddenly makes it all make sense. I was plucked up from my beach chair and hurled back to a time when reading was my safe escape, and that particular book was a constant on my nightstand. In my head, I could instantly remember the last stanza of the title poem like I recall my social security number at the doctor's office:
Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk white arrows go,
For the children they mark, and the children, they know,
The place where the sidewalk ends.
I whispered it under my breath... (insert a look of amazement)
What makes this reference so incredible? Let's take a moment here.
This particular poem represents that place before you step off the sidewalk, into the unknown. (Exactly where I was...)
In the poem, the children, they are the ones that get it. They magically go into the unknown because it's all so simple for them. (Exactly what I thought...)
Silverstein prided himself on being able to speak the language of children. To reach an entire audience to which he didn't really belong. (Exactly what I wanted...)
Fun fact, he didn't think he was a poet, and he begrudgingly wrote the book at the urging of his editor, Ursula, for whom the book is dedicated to. (Exactly how I felt that morning...)
Another fun fact, his poetry became so popular because it was his own conversational style. He wrote as he spoke. (Exactly what I had to offer...)
Now, tell me this wasn't a God thing? Imagine this with me please. Tie a red string from my 8 year old self in Louisiana: sitting in a rotting childhood fort, reading hours of poetry, and scribbling lots of little lines of inspiration in book-fair journals. Then begin to pull that red string over the span of thirty years: through childhood, under heartbreaks, over changes, and into adulthood. Now, secure that red string to my beach chair overlooking the Pacific Ocean and tell me you don't think God was trying to speak my language? He knew Arden's reference would mean something to me that wouldn't mean anything to anyone else. I will forgive her for calling my book smelly, because HE knew what would hit me like an arrow, and so he pulled it out of his quiver and he let it go...
I pulled Arden into my lap almost toppling my beach chair over. For a millisecond, I felt like I was hugging the 8 year old me, the one that had all the dreams and none of the doubts.
Damnit, I thought. I am going to do this, and I am going to do it the way I know how to do it, event if come out with egg on my face. My mind that had been fogged by doubt, like looking through the lens of an overprescribed pair of glasses, suddenly became clear and in technicolor. Yahtzee.
That night I wrote my first entry, aptly titled, "Kid Glasses." A short story looking at the move to London from the innocent eyes of my sweet kids. I felt proud. Thank you Shel Silverstein. So NOW, now, you know the internal story of what it took to get here. When I hit "publish" for the first time, I threw up in my mouth a little bit. After falling asleep with my computer in our bed I was awoken to the gentle pings alerting me that... PEOPLE WERE READING!! Holy shit. My words, my voice, out in the ether! Since that night one year ago, I have hit publish over thirty times, and 20,000 times our story has been read across 12 countries and several time zones. Sure, I'm no Shel Silverstein today, but shit, I'm closer right?
I'm finishing up this entry, posed in a white trash lawn chair, in the front garden of the Cherry Tree Cottage. My poor neighbors, cheers to their kind judgement. Life is good y'all. If I get an "I've-been-writing-a-blog-for-one-year birthday wish, it would be this...
If you are on the edge of the sidewalk, or even if you can see it in your near future, you have two choices. You can stand and scream at the ocean like I wanted to do because it feels good in the moment, or you can quietly listen to what you are called to do, because feelings are fleeting but running towards your purpose is a forever investment in your future. My wish is for you, to skip off the sidewalk with a quiet confidence that you are ready. Ready for anything.
20,000 times thank you...
Please share... We have a year of adventures to be had!
Love From London,
Fun Fact; Did you know ol' Shel Silverstein won a grammy? He was the pen behind the Johnny Cash classic, "A Boy Named Sue." You're welcome.
Yep, Its old, and apparently stinky, but it was the perfect arrow.
For Zac- Who never tells me no.