Four years ago this month, we visited Delft for the first time. It had snowed, which I now know is unusual. It was Carnival, and there were adults in strange costumes, and we couldn’t find too many options for breakfast on a Sunday morning (these things are usual—Carnival is just one of many excuses for adult costume-wear).
I remember thinking: I could live here.
The day my husband had his interview, I walked all around the city by myself and sat in the same café I’ve sat in probably two hundred times since. I watched bicycle after bicycle slide by in the slush. I was fascinated, and happy.
We took touristy photos of the Stadhuis, and the Delftware shops, and the view up Oude Delft toward the Old Church. Someone in this relationship likes to quantify things, and I remember having a discussion about how we were already “80% certain” we would move here.
Take a set of vacation photos that you love, and then imagine if you went back and spent four years in that place. Yes, some of the gloss would disappear. But for me, most of the shine really hasn’t. I’ve never regretted that we came here. Every time I cross the Markt, I feel like I should take out a camera. I never get over the beauty.
Three years, we said when Tim accepted his postdoc position. It was a relatively easy commitment to make, all told: a postdoc isn’t meant to be permanent, or even long-term. We wanted a change. We wanted to see the world. And we did. And we still do.
In April things will change, and we’ll be moving back to the US: to Massachusetts, specifically, which is where we left off before. Tim accepted the job that will be the next step in his career in early January, but I’ve resisted blogging about the news, or posting it on Facebook. In part, that’s because it feels surreal. I’ve barely set foot in Boston in years, and as much as I loved it before, it is foggy when I picture dropping back in to stay. You might have noticed: I love Europe.
I’ve been making little notes about things to look forward to when we go back. They range from giant freezers to American bookstores to the possibility of finally attending my family’s Christmas party. Most of the important things in the plus column have to do with family.
When I look at the photos from that first visit, I can’t help thinking: we look young. Really. (Is the moral of this story that being an expat ages you prematurely? The verdict may still be out…) I didn’t know a single Dutch word. I couldn’t convert Fahrenheit oven temperatures to Celsius. I’d never been to Italy, or Paris, and I don’t think I’d ever even had a Belgian beer. In Belgium. I didn’t know so many people who I now call my friends.
I remember when all of this was new.
And I hope I never forget it.