Life is a series of moments that come together to create who you are. For this very reason it is difficult to find just one that really affects life more than the others. Sure, some stand out for us more than others-first kiss, high school graduation, the death of a parent. But there are many of these more important moments as well. Do you pick the one you are fondest of? The one you remember most? The one you remember from when you were youngest? Who knows? My family moving is one event that fits all of these things.
My parents moved our family for the first time just before my 6th birthday. My parents were missionaries so I had been born in Puerto Rico and lived there up until this point. My father got offered a job at a ministry in Chicago and he decided to take the opportunity. I didn’t really know what else there was and since I wasn’t even 6 yet, I didn’t really think about it at all. At this point in my life I just went with whatever my parents told me.
I didn’t yet have the capabilities to thoroughly process what changes were about to occur in my life or how this move would shape my future. Looking back on the whole event, our youth turned out to be a crucial part of how smoothly the transition went for the family. It must have been hectic to move everything for two young parents and for the three kids who were between the ages of five and one, but because of our youth, we didn’t whine or complain about what moving would do in the long run.
I don’t remember the specific parts of moving, like the packing and the travel; I just remember having lived in Puerto Rico and then memories of our time in Chicagoland early on. My last memory of Puerto Rico was saying goodbye to a poor family who attended the church we planted and giving them our bikes as a gift. Next think I know I’m walking from the airplane through the tunnel and into Chicago O’Hare Airport. It really was a blessing that we moved when we did. With us children being so young, we didn’t have opportunity to seriously analyze the long-term effects that the move would have on the family and what kind of cultural changes we would go through.
Thankfully, even though Puerto Rico is a mainly Spanish-speaking country, while we were there we were able to learn both Spanish and English. Our parents were also obviously bilingual so that helped. I went to full time school for a year and half in Spanish before we came to the states, since we moved in January. The only real trouble I had with the transition came in school with reading and writing in English because of the difference in vowel sounds from Spanish, though I was able to overcome that bump in the road by first grade. I didn’t experience much culture shock really because I was so young and I was being introduced to new things all the time anyways. Oh, the introduction of snow into the lives of my siblings and me was exciting as well.
More recently, we decided to move from Crete, Illinois two and a half hours north to Holland, Michigan. Now, this is 15 years after our move from Puerto Rico. I was 20, my brother was 18, and our sisters were 16 and 11. For my brother and me the transition hasn’t been bad at all so far, mainly because we live at college now during the school year. The only thing that’s changed for us is where we go home on breaks now.
For my sisters, it’s a different story. The main reason for this move was so that the elder of my younger sisters could take a serious opportunity that was presented to her at becoming a professional ballerina and also that my youngest sister could continue her learning in the art as well and eventually to decide if that is the route she will go. Thankfully my mom could get a similar teaching job at my littlest sister’s new school and as for my dad; he can do his work wherever there is an internet connection and a phone.
This move presented more adjustment issues than the first one, even though it has gone extremely well. Just the fact that we are all older meant that we had more stuff that needed moving. It was most difficult for the littlest one who’s just 11 years old. She had been born in Chicagoland and lived in Crete for her whole life so the transition was toughest on her with having to leave her friends and everything she’s ever known. The problem here wasn’t so much a cultural shock but leaving what she was familiar with. It was stressful for her, especially during the first month; when things got stressful and tiring with school all day and with ballet for hours in the afternoon and then still having homework, sometimes she couldn’t help but to break down in tears and wish to go back to Crete where her old friends were. There wasn’t much you could do at this point but to just hold her until she fell asleep. Killed me every time, but thankfully it didn’t happen very many times.
We Wagenvelds are good at adjusting and we’ve been able to find a home church and my parents have connections from the many times we’ve visited Holland since our grandparents lived there. The main things that helped us to transition was that we stuck together as a family, we were willing to work things out together, and we kept our faith in God to hold us in His hands through these times of transition. It wasn’t easy, but we worked together as we left our comfort zone for something that was unknown to us.