In December of 2003, I was at a crossroads, literally and figuratively. I had been married almost four years. We had been through some good times and some hard things, but we were going through about the hardest thing we’d been through so far.
Earlier that year, my husband had been picked up by border patrol. No, he was not (is not) a Mexican, an “illegal”, a “wetback” any of those things. He’s the man I chose to marry, and a German. We filed our paperwork, and never heard anything from the government again. We mistakenly assumed we were ok, and things would work itself out. To make a long story short, immigration held him for almost a month before I was able to get him out on bond. You can read the whole story on his website. After his release, he was supposed to go to hearings in Memphis, a 3-hour drive from where we lived, but nothing was ever done at these hearings. Immigration misplaced his files, and there were all kinds of delays. He was told that the end result would be deportation, something neither of us wanted. Totally discouraged and disillusioned, he had finally left by himself in December, headed to Belize, of all places, a tiny developing country in Central America.
He understood that this was a wild and slightly crazy thing to do. I had every right to divorce him, keep our son, keep the trailer and land we lived on. He wouldn’t contest anything. He was done with America. My parents and friends said Belize would be just nuts. Disease, dirt, and death by mosquito awaited us in the tropics. I would be putting my son (then 2) in danger. Crime rates were high. Guards with machine guns were stationed outside some buildings to protect from robberies and vandalism. There’s no way I could consider this crazy thing.
But how could I not consider? When I saw that maroon pick-up truck drive out of our driveway for the last time, I bawled my eyes out. In out three years together, we had rarely spent a night apart. We worked together, we raised our son together. He taught me how to cook, he was my best friend. We had already been crazier than most people: we eloped when I was 18, still in high school over Christmas break, and spent a shaky 6 months on the few wedding present checks we received before I could get a job, and later started our own business. He was a wonderful father. He was good at all the things I sucked at. He was truly my other half.
I was so lost, and confused. I’d done a lot of growing up in the last 3 years, but I wasn’t ready to make this life-changing decision. Either way, living in a Belizean-style house in the tropics, or raising a 2 year old by myself (or with my parents help) would be an incredible step to take.
I was thinking about all this, missing him so much, and sitting at a red light in traffic. It would soon be our anniversary. And then this song came on. “All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan” by Kenny Chesney. All about spending the holidays on the beach in the Caribbean. I don’t know if it came out that year, but it was the first time I’d heard it. The tears just rolled down my cheeks, and I knew right then what I would choose. I could do this. Other women lived with their young children in Belize. I could too. Of course it would be hard, it would be different. We would struggle, and I may loose my parents over it. But it was what I wanted.
Now, six years later, I see moving to Belize as one of the best decisions I ever made. I have followed my husband all over through five countries and counting. We have chosen each other in the good times and the bad times, better or worse, richer or poorer (mostly poorer). We’ve both lost friends and family who thought we should choose them over each other. And we’ve made new friends and chosen new “family” that outshine them all. We’ve left things in storage all over the world that we may never be able to retrieve, and we’ve had funny expat moments when we were totally clueless. This year will be number ten, and I’m so glad I took the crazy leap over the edge of the world. Happy Anniversary, honey.