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I Moved to the Baltic Region

I purchased the least expensive round trip tickets available, leaving in November with a return flight in May. I wanted to allow us enough time to explore the local culture without committing to longer than six months.

We packed only the bare necessities but still managed to pack more suitcases than we could comfortably manage. Charlie, Angelina's teddy bear, was a necessity and he refused to be stowed. He spoke in a husky little voice that sounded amazingly like Angelina's, including a lisp, when requesting such things as extra peanuts from flight attendants or when announcing that he and Angelina were seasick.

I encouraged Angelina's relationship with Charlie because it was so much easier to personally understand and explain to others than her relationship with God and Jesus.

From Washington, D.C., we first flew to Reykjavík, Iceland. I looked through round windows in the modern airport and vowed to return one day for a visit. Snow swirled and danced just beyond the glass, as I stood safe and warm inside, awaiting our flight to Stockholm.

“Will it be snowing in Estonia?” Savi asked.

“I think so. We're a little further north here in Iceland than we will be in Estonia. But, I think there's probably snow everywhere up here,” I said.

Angelina Rose suddenly came running from the bathroom toward us, Charlie bouncing beneath her left arm with her right hand, extended off to her side, no doubt holding the hand of either God or Jesus; “Jutht wait till you guyth thee the cool way that you flush the toiletth here. It'th tho unbelievable!” she squealed.

“Gee whiz Angelina, don't act like such a bumpkin,” Savannah whispered, looking around to see if anyone had overheard Angelina's obvious lack of couth.

Excitement overwhelmed me as I wondered how long it would take to feel comfortable with new toilets, new faces, new ideas, expectations and beliefs-in fact, a new world.

We flew from Reykjavík to Stockholm, Sweden. From Stockholm we boarded a ship for our next destination-Tallinn, Estonia. Savi was absolutely certain that we were going to sink into the depths of the sea like the Titanic. As we lay in our bunks, the ship gently rocking us back and forth, she quizzed me most of the night with questions like: “Exactly why does a huge ship made of steel stay afloat, while a little piece of steel sinks immediately?” Angelina finally said, “Only God underthtandth and He thayth it'th a thecret,” before begging Savi to go to sleep; which she finally did-around 2:00 A.M.

Early the following morning, I grabbed my heavy coat and slipped from our cabin as the girls slept. With a hot cup of coffee in my hands, I went out onto the ship's deck. The Baltic Sea was as smooth as glass as I leaned against the rail looking alternately at the gray-green sea below and the flaming orange-red horizon in front of me. It was my first sunrise in this new land. My gaze fell to my feet and I laughed out loud as I realized that, half asleep, I had slipped into my Mickey Mouse slippers and not my shoes.

My homes were gone. A few precious belongings; the antique bed that Lucca and I had refinished and shared for twenty years, the table that he had made when Alison was a baby, photo albums and a few other items, were in storage. Everything else was sold at flea markets, in yard sales, and given as gifts. Bankruptcy in Virginia left me with few possessions of any material value. But I didn't care. This was a new page in my story. My life was small and manageable … for the first time in my life. My daughters were sleeping inside of this gigantic hunk of steel as it slowly moved across the Baltic Sea toward our new home; our new life in Estonia. We were free. We were starting fresh. And it felt good.

With the cold sea air whipping and tearing around me, I stood alone on the massive wooden deck of the ship in only a flannel nightgown beneath my big winter coat, drinking a cup of hot coffee, leaning against a brass rail, in my slippers with Mickey's ears flapping in the wind. Savi would have died of embarrassment had she seen me. But I felt a peace in my soul and a smile on my cold lips that refused to be embarrassed.

Within a few hours we arrived in Tallinn.

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