Our three month anniversary as London residents is rapidly approaching – Christmas Eve, in fact. On one hand, I can’t believe that three months have gone by so quickly. On the other hand, thinking back on our last week in New York feels like a lifetime ago.
One memory from which I feel blissfully far removed is when Basil was picked up at our hotel in New York to begin his journey. My plan had been to be far, far away and let Drew handle saying good-bye. Then, Basil’s driver came early and I had to be there for the whole event, watching him get put in his (much maligned) crate. I was there as long as I could handle it, but feeling myself close to tears, I asked Drew if I could go back to our room without witnessing the van pulling away. I let myself cry for a few minutes but was able to handle the separation much better than expected for the rest of the journey. When we picked Basil up from the Animal Reception Center at Heathrow, I was desperate for our reunion, though Basil merely wagged hello and went off to sniff the parameter of the waiting room. The lifetime trauma I was expecting has not come to pass and every morning as Basil and I are walking around our peaceful neighbourhood, I am so happy that we brought him here. The beagle with the British name is now safely in his motherland. It’s like it was meant to be.
The painful parts of our transition to the UK are fading fast. It took us weeks to figure out how best to do our banking here, but once it was decided, the frustration and anxiety just floated away. Now I can barely remember NOT knowing how to handle it. The small drama around our dining room table disappeared the moment it was securely in its place. Learning about council tax and how to pay it took some serious online research (not to mention getting the direct payments set up, which took two tries because the first time I accidentally used a US stamp!), but now that it’s taken care of, we barely think about it.
In so many ways, this transition has been like any other. One step forward (got a new credit card!), one step back (British Gas is the devil!). Another step forward (our UK-compatible TV is delivered!), two steps back (and the screen is shattered, and we have to wait for another new one!). Isn’t it always true that once through it, the tough and trying moments blur around the edges and we become ‘normalized’? I remember back on other transitions like buying and selling a house, applying for and attending grad school, and moving from state to state that all seemed insurmountable at the outset but those little victories add up and soon you’re looking back and reminiscing on how funny it was when we didn’t know how to set up an account with an oil company, claim tax deductions as a student, book a wedding photographer from afar.
In some ways, this transition seems bigger than the others. I can’t decide if that’s because I’m still in the transition phase or because it really IS bigger. London doesn’t feel THAT foreign, like THAT big of a deal. But is it? I default to the similarities of New York: Subway = Underground, Oxford Street = Times Square, Client There = Client Here, Wilton = Oxford. I minimize the differences: I barely know my way around and rely heavily on my phone to get me place to place, if I’m not paying attention heavy accents sound like a foreign language, sometimes I forget and look the wrong way when I cross the street, we barely know a soul. Slowly but surely, the differences are minimizing. I know where to stand on the tube platform to get off near the exit, I know which coin has which value, I correctly use the British versions of words in the proper situations, our local butcher recognizes us and remembers what we order.
I think that experiencing my family here, as they descend upon us in just a few short days, will be a good barometer for how well (or not) we’ve adjusted. I look forward to how they see us in this environment. Do we seem at home? Well-adjusted? At ease? European in our sensibilities? (kidding on that last one – the accents give us away every time)
As I think of ‘home’ during this holiday season, I miss a few things of course – NPR, brunch, good peanut butter, easy access to friends and family. But I love the adventure of the adventure. We’re in London, baby!