The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

The training wheels of goodbye

I don’t remember the first big goodbye of my life.

This is what my dad looked like when he decided it was important for the five of us–my mom and dad, my older sister and baby sister and me–to move to Ethiopia and help with the rebuilding effort after World War II.   Maybe it was disconcerting and traumatic for me, at two-years-old, to leave Oregon.  Maybe I thought it was all a grand aventure (except for the shots).  I do know that airports still make my heart go pitter-pat.

I also know that life from then on turned into a series of goodbyes.

Five years after we landed in Addis Ababa, we packed our suitcases and plopped down in Boise, Idaho, for a year.  My dad took my little sister Cathy with him as he did his practice flights to get a license so he could fly a small plane.  Once he had it?  Back to Ethiopia for another five years.

When I was nine years old, I learned big, hard things about goodbye.

It was time for me to leave misty, mountainous Maji and go to boarding school in Addis Ababa.   Those tangled feelings of excitement and sadness sank in the morning I left my weepy parents and bounced down the mountain with my older sister.  Sometimes, over the years, they almost sank me.

I lived at home again when I was in eighth grade in Pasadena and then for two years when I was in high school.  That’s when my parents moved to Addis Ababa, and I spent two years re-learning family ways.  Then I left Ethiopia, my parents, and my younger siblings and tried to learn how to become an American.

Tangled feelings of excitement and sorrow.


 This weekend, we had a yard sale so we could trim down the number of things we have to lug with us to Oregon, the state that will become my home for the first time since I was two.  The yard sale had its thrills.

1)  Everything that someone carried away was one less thing we had to deal with in another way.

2)  There’s something satisfying about knowing someone else wants (or needs) something you once wanted (or needed).

I wish I could say goodbye has gotten easier with practice, but it’s just as hard as ever.

This morning, I walked up the hill to the university campus and slurped up the sights, some of the places that have become my favorites over the past four years.

Whimsical Jayhawks.

Solemn Jayhawks.

Feelings flying and flipping all over the place.  Tangles of excitement and mourning.

Getting ready for goodbye.

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