Just weeks into dating, Michael gave me a gift: a ceramic journey boat filled not with people or goods but with a scene. An old church sits upon a green hill, a river flows in front of it, a small stone bridge connects the churchyard to another tree-dotted hill.
It was one of many precious things I left behind when we moved to Spain. Or went to Spain. As when we left US soil seventeen months ago, I still couldn’t utter the words, “We’re moving to Spain.”
We were, after all, only bringing four suitcases with us (each). I could hardly consider that a move.
Besides, for years we had been telling people we wanted to “try living in Europe for a year.” A year.
But Michael and I both knew it would be longer than that. We just didn’t want to upset anyone. Especially–specifically–my parents.
But still. I had said “for a year” for so long that it didn’t really feel like a move.
So I filled my bags with clothes, my computer and other online work gadgets, and we were off.
But in September, we went back to Asheville for the first time. And this time I was determined to bring things back that made me feel like I was home.
But the journey boat? Too fragile. Too precious.
“But you love that thing,” Michael said. “You can bring it. You just have to wrap it up well.”
“I am not going to put that in any suitcase!” I told him, the trauma of a long ago lost-forever piece of luggage still haunting me.
“Then carry it on,” Michael said, matter-of-factly.
Michael is a very practical man. If I wanted to bring the boat with me, bring it. End of story.
“In my carry-on?” I asked.
“Sure. If you wrap it well enough–“
“I don’t think I feel good doing that,” I said.
“Then put it in your backpack,” he said.
This I considered. I realized that in addition to making sure it was securely wrapped I also wanted it secured–to me.
So instead of my computer and its accouterments, instead of my journal, my book to read, my purse, my backpack would be filled with just one thing: a precious gift from my husband.
I am happy to report the boat (aptly titled, “The Pilgrimage” by its artist) made it safely to Valencia.
Michael, when I was busy doing other things, unwrapped it. When I saw it sitting there naked on our dining room table, I was a little shaken. We were planning to move soon. I had figured I would keep it packed until after we safely arrived in our new home.
And at the same time? I was delighted. To see it there. And to see it every day thereafter.
Today we moved again. And again The Pilgrimage was bubble-wrapped and secured to my back.
When the taxi came to pick us up, I refused to put the backpack in the trunk. It sat under the seat in front of me on the flight up here. And in our car ride to our new home, again it sat beside me.
I am in a temporary place here in our new hometown of Villaviciosa, Spain. I’ll be here three months while looking for a longer term rental. And I’ve already set about making this new space home.
The Pilgrimage was released from its bindings. And I opened a suitcase I hadn’t seen since I packed it up in Asheville. Inside were Camino memories in words and pictures and objects.
“In every place I’ve lived, when you walk in, you’d never know my love for the Camino,” I told Michael a while back. “In my next place, you’ll know.”
And I’ve made it so.