I’ve been sat here with my fingers hovering over the keyboard for the last five minutes, not knowing what to type. The first post of our new life in the US… I feel it should be deeply significant — monumental, even — but I can’t seem to bring forward anything much to say at all. I have had internet access for a full 24 hours and I have been putting off contacting anyone because I don’t want to disappoint anyone with the great gaping nothingness where my brain used to be. All I can think to say is: we are here. Beyond that, I am almost too shattered to be of any use to anyone.
But I know many of you have been thinking of me (us), so I am happy to try to sum up the crazy, whirlwind, foggy, unsettling, exciting last seven days. Why, I believe I just did! It has been a crazy whirlwind, deeply unsettling, strangely exciting, and — as I try to look back to recall it for you here — all gone a bit foggy. Here are the few things that stand out:
The week of packing was harrowing. Although we had my mother and the girls safely ensconced in a holiday cottage so we could get to work unfettered, the scale of the job was just more than we had ever realised. I had rather hoped that we could just tip the house up and let everything fall out onto the front garden, but apparently you can’t do that with terraced houses, so we had to sort through everything and carry it out by hand. It took forever. It’s hard enough to move house when you’re just packing it all up, but trying to pare everything down and get rid of stuff is a whole different kettle of fish. We were there early every morning and stayed late every night, with me dashing back and forth several times a day to feed the baby (holding her strategically so she didn’t come away covered in dust and cobwebs, as I was). We simply never would have finished on time if it hadn’t been for our dear and wonderful friends who came round to help us after work for all of the last three nights. Their physical help was invaluable, and their moral support was just about the only thing that kept us going. The empty house — freezing cold with all the furnishings gone — and the scattered remnants of our lives strewn in chaotic piles on the floor made us both want to crumple, but our friends chivied us up and organised us, and kept us going. Wonderful friends.
Leaving home was hard. Looking back and seeing the Vale for the last time was so strange — I kept forgetting that we wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon and had to keep reminding myself — and it should have been a significant moment… except that we had the chattiest taxi driver on the face of the planet, and he steamrolled all over my private sentimentality with his constant nattering. I wanted to retreat into my thoughts, to say my mental goodbyes to each familiar place, to gaze reverently at Stonehenge as we went by, to fasten these memories firmly in my mind, but I never got the chance. He chatted and chatted, I listened and answered — and before I knew it, it was all gone and we were into unfamiliar territory which had no pull on my heart. Perhaps… it was a blessing.
The girls were amazingly good on the journey. Incredibly, amazingly good. In 16 hours of travel — two flights, endless queues, security searches, crowded waiting areas, grouchy adults — they cried only twice each! I fully expected wails of discomfort as we took off and landed, but the baby fed happily and E1 did exactly as I told her and yawned every time her ears hurt. I expected tiredness and tantrums, but they gave us quiet cooperation. I am still amazed, a week later.
The first night was awful. I cried myself to sleep, convinced I had made the mistake of my lifetime. We came straight from the airport to the house we are staying in — big and unfurnished. And that first night, after such an emotionally draining day, it just felt empty, dark, and cold. No television to bring us out of ourselves, no radio for background noise, no internet, no phone, no car, no furniture… it was not the best of welcomes. But the world looks different in the warm light of morning: the next day brought bright sunshine, a cup of tea, a cheerful winter snowfall, and three deer meandering through the back garden. Things began to look up.
We have a bit of furniture now — not much, but enough — and, more importantly, our bearings. It’s a nice house where we can be comfortable for a few months while we find something more permanent. It is, literally, 3 or 4 times as big as where we lived before. E1 spends most of her days running from one end of it to the other, screaming with joy at the top of her lungs (“Running!!! Ruuuuuunning!!!! Mummy, running!“) and E2 tries desperately to follow her. We have a borrowed stereo and a television, a phone, and (as you can see) internet access. It’s all beginning to feel civilised again.
E2 came down with a bug a few days after we got here. She ran a fever of 103F for about 24 hours. I had to ask a pharmacist for something equivalent to Calpol (she told me she’d never heard of paracetamol!) to bring the fever down. She has come out in spots a couple of times since (they appear and then go again), but is much better now. Back to herself, I think, which is a massive relief. There’s no panic quite the one you get when you’re in unfamiliar territory and your child is ill.
The deer have been back once. The snow has returned daily. The temperatures have not risen above freezing all week and it’s been entertaining to watch my soft Southern Englishman as he realises that what he used to think was “cold” was never really cold at all! We’ve had cardinals and blue jays and a red-tailed hawk in the garden.
The washer takes just 30 minutes. The dryer can dry an entire load including towels in the same amount of time. I am in domestic heaven. Coming from the rural backwaters to the inner suburbs is a bit of a shock — there are so many buildings and people and cars. The unfamiliarity of everything is a bit overwhelming — it takes forever to do anything because I don’t know what shops sell what I want, where they are located, what they are called. And when we do get to the right shop and the right aisle, we still can’t find anything because the boxes are all different shapes and colours to what our minds are programmed to look for: milk comes in cardboard cartons, pasta comes in boxes, labels are blue when I’m looking for red, cotton pleat can’t be found for love nor money… It all got too much for me at one point and I had to leave the store, just take a breather from all the thinking required to get even the simplest thing done.
M spectacularly failed his driving learner’s permit test today (I’d forgotten to tell him there was a test — he thought it was just an application form… oops), but he succeeded at getting himself a bank account opened — and free checking at that! Progress in small steps. Good moments and bad.
Tonight, we had pumpkin pie after dinner — bought from a shop, normal as anything. That alone makes everything look positive.