I'm a pagan vegan lesbian and I want to raise llamas in Canada

How come my wife doesn't want to join me?

Published December 6, 2004 8:00PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I am a 26-year-old lesbian, living in southern New England, working as an aerospace engineer at a large company, and taking classes for my master's degree part time. I am pagan, vegan, Democratic and quite liberal-minded despite being raised by Catholic-fundamentalist parents. My partner of five years and I were married last May in Massachusetts, though we have reaped few benefits, as we are not current residents of the state. My dream in life (I am still young enough to have big dreams, even though I'm starting to get jaded) is to run a wildlife sanctuary and llama farm, and raise two to four adopted children with my wife. She also had this dream before we met, and shares it fully.

Now, here's the problem: I fervently desire to start this sanctuary and child rearing in Canada. All of our friends assume, despite my explanations and protestations, that these feelings are fleeting responses to our recent loss in the election, and nothing more than temporary attempts to pacify my growing sense of injustice. It takes a while for them to realize I am, indeed, quite serious, and have had this desire to move since I was 11, when I participated in a Girl Scout/Girl Guide exchange trip with a family outside Toronto. To them, I am a bit of an embarrassment -- the one who took the joke too far.

To make things worse, my wife, who at first reacted like our friends, now fully understands that I am very serious about this dream, and it is basically giving her a nervous breakdown. She, while also wishing for a sanctuary, always hoped to stay in New England, particularly near where she grew up in southern Massachusetts. She comes from a large, close-knit Azorean Portuguese family, and the whole extended clan, on both her mother's and father's side, all live within 10 minutes of one another. Her parents and uncle even live up the street from her grandmother, who still lives in the house where her father and uncle grew up. Very few people, mostly distant cousins (no pun intended!), have moved anywhere outside this 10-minute circle.

When we moved to our current location, which is about two hours away from her hometown, she cried for days. Now, almost four years later, she is quite well adjusted, and actually glad that we moved. We plan on moving again in the next few years no matter what (we own a house in an urban area -- not suitable for a sanctuary), and she has even said that she would now consider moving anywhere within a two-hour radius of her parents. But -- never another country, not even Canada, and especially not eight hours away from her parents.

Is there some way I can draw my wife out of her fears and put all of my immigration research into action? I am used to being in the minority, but amongst even my friends I am now the minority of one. I can't help wondering, do you and they understand some reason for staying that I am completely missing?

Canadian at Heart

Dear Canadian at Heart,

There is a difference between fleeing a country and chasing a dream. You have a dream and want to chase it.

I understand the chasing-the-dream part. But I didn't get the whole llama thing at first. Then I started looking into it. Now I get the llama thing, big-time. I'm listening to the sounds they make -- what a gorgle the mating male emits! And the cry of the little cria! And what an amazing history!

But here I'm looking at the latest statistics on llama and alpaca farms in New England, though, and I'm thinking: Why Canada? Can't you do the llama thing in New England?

It's not that you shouldn't leave the country in pursuit of your dream. It's probably easier to do in Canada, and if it were just you, I would have no objection. It's about your wife. Your wife really doesn't want to leave.

I would think really carefully before taking your wife away from her family.

I left my family and now I know: You miss out on so much. I left because poets in Florida wore white polyester turtlenecks. Now my dad is over 80. My little cousins have grandchildren. My uncles have raised dozens while I've been riding the streetcar, sitting in the dark waiting for the doors to unjam. Sheesh, my nieces and nephews have lived whole lives and I don't know their faces. It's not a light price to pay: These lives to which we are joined by blood, their laughter was meant to be heard outside our windows. We are like phantom limbs of the family body now, still causing pain though we are not even there. It is no minor thing your wife cherishes, those uncles up the street, that grandmother still in the same old house. This stuff is part of us; without it we weep for no reason and wander without a purpose.

I know this, too: A wife isn't happy where she doesn't want to be. Everything she hates reminds her of whoever brought her there, and whoever brought her there pays the price. Drag your wife somewhere she doesn't want to go and you lose her. She goes off somewhere in her heart where you can't follow.

Don't do that to your wife. If she needs her family, she needs her family. Get some llamas in New England.

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