And The Van Steenberg Family Resides…

Before we left for Arizona, I said to a few of my friends that I really didn’t think we’d be moving back to Arizona, that the trip back would probably just be a confirmation of my feeling at the time that we would stay in Bloomington. I was wrong. And I don’t know how, or if, to apologize for that. It’s been so hard to balance wanting and needing to talk to friends about the decision with realizing that the decision impacts people outside the four walls of my house. I tried, and I know I didn’t always hit the mark, depending on my mood at the moment. I don’t know if I can adequately express how much I HATE having to disappoint people and how it sits like a rock in my stomach, no matter what you say. When someone tells me I can’t please everyone, I want to scream, “But WHY?”

So what changed my mind — and ultimately our minds — about moving? Three things:

Dragonflies

Happy kids

Jobs

I was surprised and a little shaken, if I’m honest, to see live dragonflies in Arizona at times when I was really thinking about which was the right choice. The first one I saw was in my parents’ driveway, remarkable because they don’t live near the water. It was on Jasmine’s birthday and I was sitting out there thinking about whether or not we wanted to move. It was right after our arrival and the weather was actually quite nice for this time of year in Arizona. I looked out over the driveway and a sudden movement caught my eye — a dragonfly, completely unexpected and beautiful. Tears filled my eyes as I gazed at it. It hovered a moment or two and then took off. I felt like Jasmine had just walked onto the patio.

As an aside, I spent a lot of time outside while we were there, listening to whatever my body or my surroundings had to say about living there. There were two things I heard very clearly. The first is that I am not the same person I was when I left there and I have a different regard for the environment. The second is that while Illinois feeds my spirit in many ways, Arizona does too, though the ways are different. Both realizations felt more like revelations, which is funny because seeing them in print makes them feel kind of obvious and trite.

Anyway, the dragonfly also visited us when we were having a very nice Sunday up in the hills of Arizona, near Strawberry and Pine. We had stopped for a little dip in a creek and the surroundings were truly beautiful. I felt the Goddess there, strongly. I went back to the car to get something, ruminating over my peace and yes, familiarity, with my oasis-y slice of the desert and a dragonfly buzzed by and hovered just in front of me, making sure I noticed it before it moved on. It felt like an exclamation point, an emphasis to what I had been thinking.

The final dragonfly came right before we left, when we took the girls down to the river with my brother and his family. We were all standing around, talking and enjoying the very chilly water when I looked over and noticed a small, dusty blue dragonfly perched on a stalk of grass regarding us. I hunkered down in the water and very slowly approached the dragonfly, expecting it to take flight at any moment, but it only sat there, looking at me with huge alien eyes. We sat there for a moment or two, regarding each other, dragonfly to human, and then Gabrielle called my name and I turned around to give her attention. I know it will sound silly, but I felt Jasmine’s presence in that dragonfly. It sat there and watched us until we left. I don’t know if you know dragonflies, but it’s rare for them to stay in one place that long, especially when there are people and boats splashing all around. By the time I saw this dragonfly, Jeff and I had already made our decision, and it felt more like confirmation, comfort.

Happy kids. Both Nina and Gabrielle were so happy while we were there. I hate talking about this. In Bloomington, we simply have not gotten close to anyone who lives near enough to have regular get togethers with kids. Nina, especially, has not had much time with other kids. In Arizona, she was thrilled to have the attention of not just one sister, but three (so to speak) and the company of Cy, with whom Jeff witnessed much clandestine hand holding. She also loved hanging out with her cousins Hailey and Chloe and I know once Chloe starts walking we’ll all be in trouble. She was happy, she played by herself more and she learned by watching the older girls.

And Gabrielle, well, how many things did we sacrifice for Jasmine? So many. And I see Gab so happy with her friends, the prospect of a new school where she is not the sister of a dead girl… which is NOT to say that Oakland hasn’t been great, they have. But Gab has lived so much in Jasmine’s shadow, or more specifically, in the shadow of Jasmine’s illness, and I would love to give her the chance to shine on her own. She played more, did more… and was happy, I think, to spend more time with her friends because we were spending time with her friends’ parents OR because we were right across the street. She is also having a bit of a big sister experience with Hailey, who is staying at my mom’s with Gab right now.

Family is important to me and I’ve never pretended otherwise. I feel lucky to have a family who, no matter what happens, will always be there for me. I will never be homeless, never be truly alone. No, it’s not perfect — far from it — but it’s real and it’s part of my support. That all of them knew and loved Jasmine so much helped create such a strong sense of her presence. So many times I felt like she was there.

So… happy kids.

Finally, the job scene. Economic security may be possible in Illinois, but it sure feels like a person has to have a job before they get here, rather than trying to get one after arrival. There is just so much more in Arizona, if for no other reason that it is a larger population in the Phoenix metro area. Jeff still has some contacts and there are several more educational choices there as well. Jeff and I have also been discussing him opening a hobby shop that specializes in electric flight. This kind of a shop would have a much better chance of success in Arizona, due both to the population and to the weather.

Enough for now, I guess. I’m trying to be more open with my writing, less “safe,” which means not always weighing a word more on how I think it will make someone feel. Instead, I’d like to weigh it on how accurately it portrays my truth. Much scarier.

Until next time.

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