Julie-ville? Yes, that's what my friends here call my neighborhood at home in the US. It's mainly because I talk about it so much and have made it out to be pretty much perfect... and it's damn close to it!
Before I get going on this entry, I first want to preface it by saying that I love all of my friends and family... dearly and truly... all of you. So I don't want anyone to take offense that I'm singling out one particular group, but I feel in this case (as you read on, you'll see why), it warrants it. Read on...
We're a close knit neighborhood, no doubt. I've heard a few Stepford Wives references and while they make me laugh, perhaps they aren't that far off sometimes! The boys get together on Thursday night at various houses in the neighborhood and hang out. The girls see each other after work, most often with the kids, but get out at least once a month as a group and we do girls weekends away at least once if not twice a year. For the most part, our kids are all around the same age. As a matter of fact when I was pregnant with Liam, coincidentally, 8 of us were pregnant that year... perhaps there is something in the water!
We do block parties and bonfires and luminaries at Christmas time... and really so much more. We get together on the weekends and when in need, these are the people I go to. If there is an emergency, we call each other. If we can't be there in time for the bus, there are 5 other parents to call to ask them to help out. They are my support system at home and I'm theirs. Playdates? Easy peasy as Aidan would say - just walk out the front door and you've got at least a half a dozen kids playing outside your front door. Our children are all best friends and as a result we have all become close as well and even as the kids have gotten older and in some cases gone to different schools or decided to just hang out with the boys or just hang out with the girls, our group still stays together.
When we found out we were moving to Barcelona, the first people I told aside from my parents were my friends in the neighborhood. There were smiles and there were tears... those that said congratulations and those that said please don't leave us! I was a mixed bag of emotions. In one way, I was super excited to go on this adventure - a chance to not only see but to experience a part of the world that most people will never get to do. But on the other side I was torn, I felt like I was betraying my friends by leaving and felt incredibly guilty overall. I tried to minimize my excitement of things to come because I felt bad about leaving them.
I still feel some of that guilt today. Josh and I have talked off and on about a possible move to Australia next. It's in the talks - some days I feel good about it and others I don't (today I'm in the let's NOT move to Australia frame of mind). But we'll table that discussion on the blog for another time since it's not being resolved on our end any time soon. Regardless, that guilt still comes in to play when making future decisions as well.
Back to telling our friends. When we moved I was worried about staying in touch, about whether our friends would still be our friends once we lived abroad (though if they are truly friends than the answer to that question of course is yes, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a thought or concern!). And about what it would be like someday when we move back. We chose not to sell our house because we knew that some day we wanted to come back and be a part of this special group of people.
But the reason I wanted to write this entry is because my neighborhood is special and one of a kind. I know very few people who are as lucky as we are to have the kind of friends that we have in our 'hood. I don't think I realized how lucky I was though until I left.
I do not have the same support system here in Barcelona which honestly took years to build up at home and we've only been here a little over a year. However, keep in mind that we are in a city now and not the burbs and so our friends are spread out. But if I had an emergency, it would take at least 20 mins for the closest friend to get to us here. The kids' friends are also spread out around and outside the city. Playdates are a challenge because (1) the kids get home at 5 which is late to have a playdate and (2) we don't have a car to get my kids home from another kid's house and or return someone else's child.
But aside from the support system and playdates which are certainly important, what's more important is the true friendships that we have. Not only have our friends been huge supporters of Josh and I thru this entire transition - via skype, email, facebook and phone calls, but they have gone above and beyond in helping us from abroad. From running with my friend Sue via the web (we will run again Sue!) to having the boys take Josh's car out for a drive, they have continued to be not only amazing friends, but amazing support even from afar. And the support doesn't stop there.
We've had some problems at home in the last few months that have caused a lot of stress for us here in Spain since it's hard to deal with from so far away. In the interest of some people's privacy, let's just say that we had to ask our tenant to leave our house and leave it at that. Our friends have rallied for us during these months in support, asking us how they can help out. And now that the house is empty for the moment, they are going above and beyond again - helping us with legal documents, taking out Josh's car, setting up appointments to meet with movers (to put our items in storage), finding new tenants for us, appointments with repair people, letting in the sprinkler people to turn on the outside water, etc etc. They have done all of this without asking for anything in return and do it out of the kindness of their hearts. It is moments like these when I realize how lucky I am to have them in my lives that I can't return home quick enough. It's weeks like these last few that make me say, no Josh, we can't go to Australia because we have to go HOME.
I want each and every one of you to know how much I love you and how much I miss you. Words can't describe how much you mean to us. You are the most wonderful friends we could ask for. We are enjoying every moment of our adventures overseas but no matter how much fun we have, one thing that helps me get thru those days that aren't so fun, is knowing that eventually we will come home to be with all of you. And the kids and I can't wait to see you all in June!!