Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Trailing I Go!

OK, if you have read this far, you must have some interest in the Trailing Spouse phenomenon. Either that or you are my mother. Let’s go back to the beginning, back to the day when your spouse comes home with a job proposal or post-doc offer that involves a move to another country. I would imagine that your immediate reaction will depend entirely upon the “where” more than anything.

In my case, the “where” was Switzerland. Wow. Heidi, the Alps, the Sound of Music (which I have since learned was Austria, but you get my drift), yodelers, lederhosen, cow bells,

secret banks and rich people. My initial response was absolutely positive, no hesitation. I could imagine if the “where” had been Chad or something, I would not have been so quick to start packing. The very next thing you will probably do is go on the internet and research your “where”. I swear, I have a huge respect for those old-timer Trailing Spouses who only had the Encyclopedia Brittanica to turn to. Talk about adventurous! “Oh, yes, honey, let’s go. It says here that the major export is wheat, the government is an oligarchy and look at those fabulous traditional costumes. Woohoo!” And off they went. Those right there are some nerves of steel, buddy.

We, on the other hand, the Modern Trailing Spouses, have the opportunity of researching forums and blogs and ex-pat websites and getting the real skinny on our potential country straight from the mouths of people who are already there doing the relocation thing. In my case, there seemed to be an abundance of happy ex-pats and the griping seemed to be confined to just a few definite Swiss quirks (all later blog entries). However, there did seem to be an undercurrent of amazement amongst the “newbies” as to the prices of everything. Well, it’s just Europe, I remember thinking. Perhaps these are all Americans who have never been to Europe before and don’t realize how much things cost there. Our family had been to Europe many, many times before for both business and pleasure and I was well aware that gas costs like 7 dollars a gallon. I just assumed those Swiss newbies were having the regular old US/EU sticker shock. This was the first of my many wrong assumptions that would later come back to smack me upside the head. Let the record show that I was giddily positive about this move from day one, as any supportive TS should be, especially one who is in the running for TS of the Year.

My decision was made much easier by the fact that none of my children were still living at home and none of them expressed one iota of desire to come along with us. This is as good a place as any to make up some acronyms for the people I will be referring to throughout this blog. My husband is Mr. Big. This is his nickname back home in SC amongst all his drinking and golfing buddies and he absolutely abhors it so, of course, that is what I will call him here.

Next comes my oldest son who lives near Atlanta with his cute girlfriend, her two precious children, one giant dog, a good job, a nice house and a yard. We will call him Domestic Son. He was not always Domestic Son. In years past he has been Juvenile Delinquent Son and Can You Please Come Bail Me Out of Jail Son. He is still I Owe My Father A lot of Money for Past Indiscretions Son, but that is too long to write here on a daily basis. Then we have Charming Daughter
whom her brothers resent because she is practically perfect in every way, not unlike Mary Poppins. On the rare occasion that Charming Daughter strays outside the bounds of stellar behavior, her two brothers are very quick to point this out to the Parental Units in the hopes that one or both of them, (the brothers, I mean), might temporarily displace her as Favorite Child. I am not making this up. There is an ongoing competition that has been going since their middle school years between my kids for Favorite Child status. They text message and email each other if one of them screws up with messages like “Ah! So sorry to hear your friends were unable to awaken you from your drunken stupor whilst on your mini-vacation in Charleston. Too bad they panicked and called the ‘Rents and you are now WALKING everywhere because your car is temporarily residing back at the family homestead. HA! Favorite Child! Favorite Child!” My children call “Favorite Child” like other people’s children call “Shotgun!” to ride in the front seat of the car. Anyway, back to Charming Daughter. She is a senior at University and there was no way in hell she was packing up and moving to Switzerland.

Lastly, we have Small Son who is actually the tallest person in the family at 6 feet 2 inches, but he is the baby and we have always called him that. He actually has other more embarrassing baby-type nicknames but he would die if I posted them on here, so Small Son it is. I think Small Son might have considered the move for no other reason than the drinking age in CH (Switzerland) is 16.

He is only 19 and has two more years to go before he is legal to drink in the US. Alas, that bait was not enough to tempt him to transfer to a Swiss University, especially once it dawned on him that both of his parents were not just going away on vacation, they were going 8,000 miles away for a looong, looong time. Can you say “Party On, Dudes”?

Can you tell I miss my children? For the potential Trailing Spouse trying to make up his/her mind, the next issue after “where” is regarding the children. Every other question that future ex-pats have is regarding schools, formula, pediatricians, diapers, teenagers learning foreign languages, etc. I am sorry I won’t be of any help for those of you moving with children. I can only say that if you are leaving them behind, you will miss them. You will count the days until you are either going home for a visit or you are flying them to wherever you are residing. I have been in Switzerland for five months and I have been back to the US once waaaay back in May and Charming Daughter and Small Son have been here once for 9 days just recently. If you can swing frequent visits, it is manageable. Our Christmas gift to Domestic Son and his entire entourage, (sans Giant Dog), is plane tickets here for the holidays and a ski vacation.

If you are bringing children with you, I recommend those ex-pat forums where you can go online and actually ask questions of real people. The one here in Switzerland is Overcome any shyness you might have, sign up, log in and ask away. Ex-pats are very supportive of one another, people will answer you. They have helped me immensely. No question is too stupid apparently, all of mine were answered!

One final word about children for today. If you start a blog, you must never, ever post their pictures on it, say anything excruciatingly embarrassing about them on it or reveal their true identities on it. This has been drummed into me. I cannot break the rules, at least not on only the second entry. Plus, they are probably monitoring this even as we speak, so I cannot even get away with a sly wink or anything. Suspicious, ungrateful little things. I think today Giant Dog wins Favorite Child.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog! You make me laugh. Very good writing and sense of humor.