The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, from my retirement ceremony and farewell party to the movers packing us out to Carson and Bridger’s last day of school to boarding our planes early Friday morning bound for the west coast. Ayrril and the boys flew KLM to Portland, Oregon through Amsterdam, while I took Sam on Lufthansa through Frankfurt to Seattle, Washington (Lufthansa was the only airline that could accommodate Sam on the flight). Through it all, we’ve tried with varying degrees of success to keep our sanity and maintain a little bit of style.
For meals on Thursday, our last day in Germany, I had a Pop-Tart for breakfast, a packet of Snack Well sandwich cookies and two Fig Newton bars for lunch, and for dinner at about 11:00 p.m. in the hotel had a beer, a few handfuls of cashews and almonds, and a delicious Pfefferbeißer from Steffen, our local hunter and entrepreneur. Starvation diet and the perpetually sweaty clothes I’ve been wearing while running all over in the last week, Hobo Style.
We’ve discovered that actually moving, especially when planning to hit the road for yearlong road trip in a 40 foot bus, is far more complicated than just going on vacation. Adjusting our packing has been a challenge, to say the least. With a generous baggage allowance for our flights, we tended to err on the side of “bring it with us and we’ll sort it out there” rather than crating everything up for storage and then having to buy replacement items just for the bus. Great idea in theory, but in practice it looked like a garage sale bomb went off in our hotel room. Clothes, books, tools, toys, and luggage for a family of four plus a big hound dog in one hotel room, Gypsy Style.
The last week has really been the craziest. After selling my car on Monday and shipping our VW on Wednesday, we were down to one rental car for our last two days. Thursday we got new SOFA cards for family passports at 0800, picked up Bridger from a sleepover in Weil at 0900, dropped Carson to get a new retainer in Böblingen at 1000, cleared the library and picked up medical records on Patch at 1030, made it to my final out appointment with the Army transition center on Panzer at 1100, checked out of Hotel Gärtner in Holzgerlingen at noon, checked in at the airport hotel at 1300, got a final signature and printed a receipt at work on Kelley Barracks, made it back through a Stau to my final Army finance appointment back on Panzer at 1530, and turned in my completed checklist to the Garrison Central Processing Facility before they closed at 1630, then went back to the office for one last late night of closing up shop. Back to the hotel to finish packing bags, drinks with Ayrril in the Biergarten, a couple hours of sleep, then up at 0300 to cart everything across the street and check in for our separate flights. Ayrril and the boys brought Sam to me just before I reached the check-in counter, then had to go hit security to make their 0605 flight. I checked in Sam and my short stack of footlockers, then dashed to the gate where my 0620 flight was almost done boarding. Out by the hair of my chinny chin chin, Three Little Pigs Style.
As we slowly but surely turned off or closed out wide range of logistical ties in Germany, Ayrril and I both used our nearly antique prepaid T-Mobile cell phones right up to the last minute. We reluctantly added 15 Euros worth of credit to each on Monday, assuming that we’d have unused minutes at the end but needing the connectivity. Ayrril ran out of minutes on Thursday night, reducing her to incoming calls and texts. I called Ayrril in Amsterdam while waiting in Frankfurt, both of us preparing to board our long haul flights to the states. Before putting the call through, the recorded voice told me that I had 27 cents credit left on the phone. Last phone call: “Hey, I made it, Sam made it, and I’m getting ready to board my flight to Seattle. I’m about out of minutes so we’ll probably get cut off. Bye, I love you. See you in -” Silence. Phone in the trash, Ghost Protocol Style.
Thank you to all of our wonderful friends who made those last few days and weeks in Germany so very special. From the beautiful home cooked meals and shared evenings to so many heartfelt gifts, from visiting us in the hotel to helping us pack and move piles of luggage, we felt a tremendous amount of love and support when we really needed it. We appreciate the warm wishes, the hugs, the tears, the incredibly thoughtful gifts, everything that all of you have done to make our family feel so welcomed over the last nine years and so loved on our way out. We will miss you all. Thank you for being there for us, true friend style.