At my daughter’s dental appointment recently, I was making small talk with the hygienist, and she asked if we were new to the practice.
“Oh no, we’re new to the state. Moved here in August.”
“Oh. [Long pause.] Gosh. What’s that been like?”
Well. It’s been about as surreal as you’d expect. Like almost everyone at the start of 2020, my husband and I had no idea what the year would bring. His job as a flight officer in the Navy had taken us to Washington state about twelve years ago. We were both raised in Wisconsin, and long before Covid-19 or quarantine became common everyday words, we had a plan to move back home. He would join his family’s small business, my five-year old would spend a good portion of the day at school, and I’d figure out what to do next, since my life would no longer revolve around Navy deployment schedules and solo parenting.
Ah, the best laid plans… Instead, my daughter is doing 4k entirely virtually. She has never been inside her school building. We’ve used the outside playground there, but she says it doesn’t feel like her school. My husband’s job is secure (thank goodness), but he’s at the office for ten hours most days. It made sense for me to continue to be a stay at home mom for the time being – but now it’s an extreme sport. Truly STAY at (your own) home mom, and order your groceries for curbside pickup, and play innumerable rounds of Candyland while trying to remember what day of the week it is.
None of this might be any different if we still lived in Washington, but here it feels more alone. More isolated.
We had been excited to move to the Madison area. My husband grew up in Monona and has great memories of attending Badger football games, exploring State Street, visiting Christmas Zoo Lights at Henry Villas Zoo, and getting Babcock Ice Cream from the small bait shop near where he lived as a kid. We’d talked about taking advantage of the culture and events of a larger city than we’d lived in previously. I had mentally planned a housewarming party to reunite with family and friends that had lived 2000 miles away from us for so many years. We had lists of restaurants to try, and sights to see, and Madison hotspots to check out (many of them thanks to a certain mom focused Madison website I had been perusing for months!). Practically giddy, we talked about what a luxury it would be to have grandparents nearby to watch our daughter on date night!
But beyond putting a hold on the bucket list of Wisconsin to-do’s, what we’ve realized is even harder about moving during this unprecedented time (a phrase we can happily banish as soon as possible), is the feeling like this isn’t home yet. We aren’t a part of anything. We haven’t been able to really meet new friends, establish relationships, or build a community. Zoom calls are great for catching up with extended family, or chatting with old friends, but the platform doesn’t lend itself as well to making new connections. We were thrilled when we met a few families on our street after the moving truck left. But as true Wisconsin winter has descended, even socially distanced driveway chatting becomes too much. Over many years as an introverted military spouse, I’ve had practice finding “my people” in a new place. But most of those opportunities just don’t exist when we’re all encouraged to socially distance. No ballet lesson waiting room time to perhaps strike up a conversation with a fellow mom. No library storytimes, no playdates, no book club, no school pickup line, no office parties. It always takes time after you move to adjust and settle in, but Covid has even robbed us of the initial burst of excitement that usually accompanies discovering your new town, meeting people, seeing all the possibilities of what’s to come.
We are luckier than many. Our economic well-being and physical health have not suffered because of the pandemic. Even if we can’t see all of our family in person, we know they are just driving distance away. We are happy we moved here, because I know this – this strange Covid pandemic life – isn’t forever. Eventually, things will improve, and we will start to put down roots and make friends and build a new life here. Our house already feels like home; now I’m just waiting for the chance to venture out safely and make Madison feel the same.
Guest Post Submitted by: Meaghan Swanson