October 26, 2004

Year 1: An Emotional Rollercoaster

We finished dinner on Sunday evening, the 24th of October, and I turned on the telly (as they call it here in the UK). The kids were down (finally), and Rachel and I wanted a few minutes of mindlessness before I returned to coding. I checked out the four channels that we can get here – ITV1, BBC1, BBC2 and BBC4 – and as there was nothing more interesting on, sat down to watch the National Teaching Awards. For each winner they had a 4-5 minute video vignette, followed by a second video showing a surprise award presentation in front of the whole school. The teacher was then brought up on stage to receive the award and say a few words. A bit like the Oscar’s – nicely choreographed, funny MC, well known presenters, everyone in tuxes and suits. Lovely.

I was amazed by how emotional I felt watching it. During each of the vignettes I found my eyes watering a bit (ok, sometimes more than a bit), and when I would look over at Rachel we would both laugh at the fact that it was happening to the two of us at the same time.

I went upstairs afterwards and checked on the two boys before sitting down to do some more programming. Nathaniel was asleep with his arm around doggy, and I leaned over to kiss him and told him that Mommy and Daddy loved him very much. I then looked in on Sebastian. His crib has been in our bedroom for the past three weeks because he just can’t seem to shake a long-standing cough that he got some five weeks ago now. He was breathing more easily than usual, binky firmly in mouth, and he looked so vulnerable lying there face up. I stroked his hair gently, tucked his covers up a bit, and whispered that Mummy and Daddy loved him very much too.

I sat down to code, but couldn’t find a way to get started. To waste a couple of minutes I checked out some web sites and came across a piece on Discourse.net which pointed to Sarah McLachlan’s new video, World On Fire. I like Sarah McLachlan, so I watched the video, and quickly found my eyes watering again.

Not ten minutes later I received an email from an old friend, Karin S, who lives just up the hill from our old house in Sausalito. She wrote:

Well, a Year in Cornwall has turned into longer – are you there indefinitely? What are your plans? How are you supporting yourselves? Are you still considering France and retreat centers? Have you fallen in love with England?

We miss you here on the Ridge. Thinking of you and hoping you have a great bday.

I really enjoy your blog and your writing and photos–thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences so eloquently. And I love seeing the boys from afar. I wish I had the technical savvy to do the same, but can’t even get over my new techno-phobia these days to put up a website myself.

Love to you and Rachel and Nathaniel and Sebastian. Keep in touch.

What a nice coincidence. All evening, as we’d watched the teaching awards, I’d been staring at a picture on the mantelpiece of Rachel and me that was taken five years ago in Sausalito. It’s a lovely photo that was taken in our house there, and though you don’t see the house at all, it had been dredging up memories all evening. We completely rebuilt that house, in the process pouring our hearts and our sweat into making it a wonderful place to live, to have friends over for dinners and conversation, and in the end making it our home. But we sold our home in Sausalito, and a year ago we left everything to see if we could create a new life.

I started to reply to Karin, but I couldn’t find the words with my fingers, just like two months ago when Julie had written and I hadn’t been able to find the words to respond to her either. And so to distract myself some more, I picked up an old coffee cup and took it downstairs to put by the sink. I walked into the darkened living room, looked at the picture of Rachel and me, and once again found the tears running down my face.

What was going on I wondered? Why was I feeling so emotional this evening? Did I want to be a teacher? Did I want to go to Africa? Did I want to return to Sausalito? Did I miss our friends and family? Did I miss my father who passed away exactly five years ago, on my 43rd birthday?

At that point it seemed all a bit much, so I gave up trying to understand what was going on, went upstairs, crawled in to bed, snuggled up with Rachel, and fell asleep.

It’s the 26th today, two days later, and I’ve had some time to think about what was going on. The short answer is that in one evening I had gone on a mini-version of the larger emotional rollercoaster that we’ve been on for just over a year now.

Back in California there’s a roller coaster on the Santa Cruz boardwalk called the Big Dipper, and it has to be one of the world’s great roller coasters. It’s made of redwood (really), and while it doesn’t have any of the fancy high-tech loop-de-loops of the newest roller coasters, I love it, and I’ve never seen anyone who wasn’t grinning from ear to ear as they got off. Whenever I ride the Big Dipper I always buy three tickets, so that as soon as the first ride finishes I can get right back on again, and then one more time – because only after three rides do I feel replete.

This first year has had its shares of ups and downs and tight corners, just like the Big Dipper. But they’ve been good highs and lows and corners, because out of it I believe that Rachel and I have become closer, and our marriage stronger. And so while our friends and family would probably prefer we didn’t do it, I think that like with the Big Dipper we’re going to get back on this ride again. And see what comes of next year. And probably the year after.

And only then will we know if these changes we’re making have made our life replete as well.

p.s. Karin and Julie, I promise to write soon to tell you where we’re going next. As soon as I figure it out.

Posted by: Frank @ 5:20 pm — Filed under:


  1. Hi, I don’t think I’ve ever introduced myself before, but I’ve been an occasional visitor to your blog for a long time.

    It had been a while, though, and this evening when I noticed you in my bookmark menu, it crossed my mind that your “year in Cornwall” must have lasted longer than that by now, and I wondered whether you were still there.

    So I found it rather delightful that the very first post I came to addressed my exact question–and also, that you happened to mention the Giant Dipper in the process; it’s about a mile from where I’m sitting. A moment of synchronicity.

    Comment by Evan — October 29, 2004 @ 3:00 am

  2. Nice piece. Now come home; we miss you.

    Comment by Jeannie — November 1, 2004 @ 5:24 pm

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