When I was a little girl I had lots of diaries with colorful covers and, most importantly, locks. I never filled any of these diaries; I’d usually lose interest after about a week. I got to college and my entries got longer, but no more consistent. Finally, a few years ago, I bought yet another diary and managed to fill about half of it.
This blog, of course, is the 21st-century equivalent of all those scribblings. Although my track record isn’t great, I’m hoping that there will be some advantages to writing a diary in the digital age. The main one seems to be that I won’t get a cramp in my fingers after 15 minutes of furious writing. And I get to go back and change the entries I don’t like. I know that’s cheating.
First, some ground rules. I wanted this blog to be up to the minute. As it turns out, I come to most things late (except marriage and children – more on that in subsequent posts) but my posts are hardly going to be breaking news. I’ll write about things when they strike me.
Second, I’m crap with pictures. I’ve tried to embrace the digital age and get into all the gadgets that people use, like digital cameras. But I just can’t seem to get excited about small, shiny, metallic objects. Maybe this explains why I sent my first text at the age of 33 and didn’t buy a mobile phone until I had my first child in 2006. When the child came along, so, too, did the realization that I would have to be a Responsible Adult who is contactable in an emergency. In short, I’m going to do my best to make sure this blog has as many images as I can be bothered to cram into it, but don’t expect works of art. Miracles won’t be happening overnight.
Thirdly, when I refer to ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’, I am talking about my immediate family. This includes one English husband, who I met working in a cafe in Charing Cross, London, in 1996; two children, five and two years old, who will subsequently be referred to as Chatterbox and Raging Bull respectively; and a neurotic cat, Robbie, who smells and sheds hair on every single surface he comes into contact with. There is also a mother, a father (currently in Maryland because he weirdly wants to keep working until he decomposes), and a brother, who is more directionless than I am and still living in the family home at the age of 36.
Some of you might ask yourself, why ‘The Coffee Table Years?’ I thought I should get that question out of the way as soon as possible and leave everyone else who dips into this blog months from now totally in the dark. I feel like most of the progress in my life, or lack of it, has been defined by the coffee table. Having lived for 15 years in one of the most expensive cities in the world (London) I’ve not had the privilege of a dining room and a full-sized closet. Plumbing has been largely hit and miss. In fact, at the age of 38, I can safely say that most of our dinners/dinner parties/drinks/game nights/Christmases/etc have happened around our very modest coffee table in the front room of our modest flat.
I’ve recently graduated to a full-size table but it’s located in my parents’ house in San Diego, California, my hometown, and the place I fled to when I hastily left London in July. As much as I like this dining table – around which I’ve had thousands of family dinners as a child, teenager and adult – it doesn’t actually count, because it’s not mine and I didn’t pay for it.
Why return to San Diego, a place I’ve not lived in since 1994? This is all you need to know: Three months ago I was languishing in a job I’d lost interest in and we’d also lost our home in London, which we’d been renting for two years. It felt like a sign to try something new, in a new city, with new possibilities. The main obstacle, of course, was finding jobs to enable this great new life in a country I haven’t lived in since I was 22.
For now, I’m living in my brother’s old room, surrounded by his teenage stuff and sharing a bed with my firstborn, while Raging Bull spends her third consecutive month caged in a Pack and Play in my childhood room, now converted into my dad’s dream study. I truly hope she doesn’t remember this phase because she probably wouldn’t be very impressed. This ain’t the stuff of Pottery Barn catalogs. To say the transition is a bit of a shock is something of an understatement.
This journey back ‘home’, in all its infinite possibilities and frustrations, is what I intend to document here.