I’ve made it to the other side of the Atlantic ocean, but not without a few near-disasters. The first of these occurred at LAX, where I was worried I would be turned away when the airline saw how much luggage I had with me. I suspect I was Air New Zealand’s worst nightmare – a woman traveling on her own with two small children, one of them with a terrible cough, and hauling about 200 pounds worth of stuff.
I was tipped off that my largest suitcase (one of four) was horribly overweight when the porter picked it up and said in disbelief, ‘Wow, this must weigh about 90lbs.’ He was right, of course, because the woman at the check-in desk told me that they wouldn’t even put this suitcase on the plane unless I could lighten it.
You can imagine what comes next – I have to open all my suitcases in front of better-prepared, less frazzled travelers, to redistribute the weight. Since all the suitcases are ludicrously full, this is not quite as straightforward as it sounds. The Chatterbox had to sit on one of the suticases to get it back shut. I feel like I’ve won the lottery when I’m told it will only cost $140 to get all this crap to London.
So it’s with a small amount of relief that I board the plane, still nearly intact, but already feeling as exhausted as a marathon runner in the desert heat. When the cheerful flight attendant asked me if I was well, I couldn’t resist saying no. He shot me a sugar-sweet smile and said, ‘Oh, don’t worry, you’re here now and we’ll take care of you.’ Sure, I think, I’ve heard this before.
What the flight really needed was a full-time babysitter for the kids, who refused to go to sleep. I could hardly blame them, since sleeping required folding themselves in half and twisting their heads to the side. It’s not conducive to anything but a terrible neck ache. I somehow survive 10-plus hours, but leave the airplane looking like a wrinkled wreck.
My first view of London is on the tarmac, where I see that my fears have materialized – it’s winter in the middle of summer. The sky is gunmetal grey, and rain splatters the windows of the plane. At least it’s not hailing, but the captain did warn us that it was a chilly 16 degrees Celsius outside. In California, the temperature was nearly double that.
I drag the now sleep-deprived children through Heathrow and to the immigration desk. I forgot how huge this airport is. We pass an entire section of the airport dedicated solely to people coming to the city for the Olympics. They have what looks like an entire wing to themselves. A large wall is decorated with a glossy picture of a beefeater (in his traditional costume), saying ‘Welcome’.
I don’t feel much like I’m coming home. I feel weighed down and tired, both physically and pyschologically. If you think moving is exhausting when you are on your own, double it when you have kids, and triple it for moving countries. There is no end to my exhaustion right now and it’s not great for my state of mind.
But I am now firmly esconced in the flat, which feels a bit like a cozy cottage. We are living in the heart of Crouch End in north London. This is a middle-class inner suburb with more cafes than you’d find in the Latin quarter of Paris. In London speak, this means we are living in a place where the average house price is over £1m. You kind of need to be rich to own a house around here. Hence, we have the basement of a once-grand house. It was probably once used for the servants or for storage. I can also hear everything our neighbors upstairs do, and I suspect they can hear everything we do, too. I will probably never meet them.
When I stare at my things, many of which look too flimsy for this weather, I do wonder how I got here. What’s next? I’m not sure. I know it’s not a trip to the beach.