APRIL 2008 – NO. 23
We are leaving New York and moving to London
My wife is English and I am American. We were married almost four years ago, and the ongoing joke in our marriage is that we have not opened a single wedding gift. We were married in her parent's house in England, and all of our gifts sit in the attic of that house. We visit them from time to time — looking at the unopened boxes with wonder — but Sophie argued why bring them to the U.S. when we'd be moving to the UK at some point. Don't get me wrong, Sophie loves New York — in fact she left London for us — but we always agreed at one point we'd move to England. Moving is simply part of the contract when foreigners marry each other. And now, we are finally reuniting with our gifts; we are leaving New York and moving to London.
We came close to moving a few years ago, but I simply didn't look hard enough for a job. I could come up with a million excuses to stay in New York, but what it boils down to is we're actually, finally, leaving our home; and this is never easy.
We have a two-year-old daughter. Though I'm not sure what she'll understand, an important part of our move, in my mind, is to lessen the blow for someone so young. Her whole world exists within four blocks of our apartment — her friends Betsy and Theo and Grace whom she sees daily, and the mothers of those friends she's come to love, and the playgrounds she frequents, and the class she takes every Monday with her favorite teacher Ms. Eve — and wondering how cruel it must be for her to be ripped away from the only life she knows draws up the ultimate parental guilt.
I know how cruel it can be. Growing up, I moved often. Each time, my mother said it would take me six months to adjust to a new locale. Six months to make new friends, feel comfortable with the bus route to school, and to feel at home. But it often took longer. When I was 12, we moved from Florida to England and all of our belongings, our entire life, were stuck on a boat in the Atlantic. Instead of taking four weeks to arrive, our furniture floated around in circles for months. We lived our first three months in a hotel, where I foolishly fell down a set of stairs and knocked myself out for days. Having just arrived in a new country and not knowing a soul, my parents grew grayer instantly.
Living in England in the 1980s brought a huge culture change. I remember my dad coming home from work on Mondays with the NFL scores from the Sunday before. Every Monday it was vital that my dad call a colleague or friend back in the States as this was the only way of knowing American sports scores. Of course, this was before internet and personal computers and real time all-world access. There was one McDonald's in all of London. We would make special visits for a taste of "home." We would call family in the U.S. occasionally, but not often as the costs were simply too much. Today T-Mobile offers a rate to call anywhere in the world for $.99. Then, we'd write letters to friends back home and wait for that slow return reply. Today, of course, we can email or skype or text to our heart's content.
My daughter's generation will be even more connected than we are now. I read recently there will be a small passenger airline that will travel through space from London to Sydney in four hours. At such convenient speeds, the idea of home — of anywhere — being far away seems as quaint as a horse and buggy. My daughter will look back on my conveniences and gadgets and will mock the size of our iPhones, laugh at our clunky broadband internet, and even sneer at the slow speed of our air travel.
As it grows up in this shrinking world, my daughter's generation will be more globally savvy, and as technology evolves, perhaps our sense of home will become less myopic. As the time draws closer to us leaving, though, the sluggish feeling of upending our family tick looms large upon us. We're leaving what has been my home for 12 years, and the place where my daughter was born. But my wife is finally going home; I'm going back to a place where I grew up; and my daughter will probably grow up calling England home, herself. Our excitement blends into nervousness and then into curiosity. Can home can be as simple as where you hang your hat at the end of the day, or simply where you are, right now? Will the feelings I had about moving during my own childhood be foreign to my daughter, artifacts of what will seem, to her, like a hopelessly disconnected age? When she's in high school, will my daughter jet to New York for a day trip, bearing a hologram of her parents instead of her favorite toy Elmo, to see what her mom and I have been missing?
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