The boxes got packed. The truck got loaded. The house got cleaned. And just like that, we found ourselves heading west on I-64 leaving Virginia. I wasn't sure how our last few hours on 12th St. would affect me or Gina. Would we be emotional? Would it be sad? I think, more than anything, it was relieving to have such a tough string of days behind us. The last week had been filled with so much activity and many late nights, and to top it off we had nowhere to sit. We were all exhausted, so the moment we finally pulled away I knew there would be a chance for rest.
Well, kind of. The first day of traveling was really rough. The boys were already tired when we left, and they didn't really sleep that well in the car. I should clarify, Gina and the boys were in the car, and I was in a Penske truck with Sydney. The plan was for Gina to let me know when we needed to stop for the boys. I was in the lead with a GPS keeping us on track. A little after noon, Gina called and said the boys were having double meltdown, so I needed to exit ASAP. I don't think I could have chosen a worse place to exit. The off ramp led us to a isolated country road with no town in sight. We literally pulled off the road and into what looked like the remains of a gas station or something. This small "parking" area was also used as a local dump for old car parts, large appliances and other trash. Ah, rural livin'! We tried to make the best of the situation and fed the boys some lunch, then let them walk around a little while.
The rest of the day was not much better in terms of sleeping or the boys' moods. Many meltdowns, multiple stops, a late arrival to the hotel and a grand finale temper tantrum (by Nathaniel) right before bed that will likely go down in the books as his "best one yet." To top it off, the "suite" we reserved was not what we expected, so we were all crammed into one room. This makes it really hard to put the boys to bed because they won't relax if they can see us in the room. "Hey, Dad's here! It's time to party!" I eventually just left the room with Sydney and sat outside to check my e-mail. They finally fell asleep, so I went to Steak-n-Shake to get some dinner ... at 10:30 p.m. Not exactly the time to be downing a double steak burger and fries with a strawberry shake. By the time I got to bed, it was well past midnight and I knew there would not be much sleep that night. I fell asleep dreading the 300+ miles we had to cover the next day.
After a huge breakfast at the hotel, we got back on the road by about 9:30. The second day of travel turned out to be much better. The boys had no meltdowns, took decent naps and basically looked at books the whole way. We arrived at the hotel in Springfield, went swimming and made it to bed at the regular time. This suite also had two rooms so we could put the boys to bed and do our own thing (specifically, check e-mail and watch TV) in the other room.
On Wednesday, we finally got the keys to our house and started moving in. I moved most of the boxes and other stuff from the truck, and we left some of the heavier items for the movers coming the next day. Thursday, the movers put all of our belongings in the house or garage, and then came the huge task of unpacking everything, putting items in their appropriate place and trying to figure out where to hide things we don't think we'll use right away. Fortunately, this house has a huge unfinished basement where we can store just about everything we own. As of this writing (a little more than a week after we got the key to the house), our house actually looks like a home. We still have a few things to put up on the walls, but that's it. Gina has done a great job of organizing and decorating. The neighborhood is very peaceful, and the neighbors we've met seem very friendly and welcoming. They even brought us an angel food cake! Go neighbors!
One thing we have noticed about Springfield is that we (the boys, specifically) get a lot more attention wherever we go. And I'm not talking about the negative, "Waiter, could we please get a table as far from this family as possible," kind of attention. Whether it's the mall, the grocery store, church or anywhere else, people stop to make comments about the twins. Maybe Charlottesville was not that enamored with babies, or maybe doting on toddlers wasn't considered "academic," but people in Springfield don't seem to hold back. "Are they twins? Who's older? How old are they?" We had been told twins attract a lot of attention from people, but until now we really hadn't experienced it. I don't know if this will persist for much longer, but it was something both Gina and I noticed independently.
I guess that's it for our 4-year adventure in Virginia. Time always seems compressed when looking back on an event or experience. Was it really 4 years ago we moved to Charlottesville? So much happened in that short period of time. We bought a clunker house that we turned into a comfortable and welcoming home. We learned more about Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Madison and the Civil War than I thought we ever would. We got to see my sister and her family on a semi-regular basis, which was both fun and comforting. We welcomed twin boys into the world and experienced the wonder and joy of watching them grow, learn and add blessing to everything around them. Sydney learned how to be a vicious watchdog, even though the college students in the neighboring apartment complex walking by our fence were in no way a threat to our security. We got to meet Mrs. Brown and witness the outcome of years of faith, prayer and steadfast service to the Lord. We got to know our twin brother neighbors and watch them transform a beat up old house into a lovely and charming home (and a pretty good investment, to boot). We met and embraced friends from all over the world, and learned that amidst all the differences we may have we are inherently similar. We completed what we came there to do when we Walked the Lawn together on a drizzly, humid Sunday morning to be conferred as Doctor and Doctor Alexander. We left Charlottesville tired, a little confused about the next step in our lives and excited for what the future might hold. We left as parents, better friends and professors. More than that, we had the opportunity to jump into the deep end of the pool and fully experience faith, hope, grief, struggle and perseverance, while all the time being totally immersed in God's love and provision.
In the last line of Return of the King, Sam tells his wife, "Well, I'm back." I think that is an appropriate conclusion to this book as well. We are back at a new beginning. Shaped by the past, committed to the present and eager for the future. If you are interested in following our adventures in Springfield, you can do so at our new blog.
Much love, and God's blessings on you ... Curby, Gina, Sam, Nate and Sydney
P.S. I think it's fitting that Springfield's most famous residents lead us out in style.