This is my baby girl just a couple of weeks ago: peaceful, at home in London, oblivious to the changes about to take place. Although we made a book to explain that we were going to be moving, that we were leaving London for New York, I was well aware that it really was more for us grownups than for the sixteen-month old toddler who pointed out the big red busses and the airplanes in the photographs much in the same was she did in the street.
But the Grand Bus Rouge was replaced by the Grand Bus Jaune and I don’t know whether she expected everything to be so different. I am familiar with New York, I knew what was coming, and the changes are still intense. DW has been commenting about how different I am in the city. Calmed somehow, he says, more at ease. And bizarrely, I feel just as much at home here now, at age thirty-five, than I did the very first time I landed at JFK, over twenty years ago.
We said goodbye to London in the best way we knew how: we walked through Hampstead Heath and to the Marylebone Farmer’s market. We smelled the cheese at The Fromagerie one last time, we stopped by our favourite neighborhood café to swap general complaints. There were people to take leave of and traditions to enjoy.
But really, it’s the little things that make a place feel like home. And wandering the streets of New York City, it becomes clearer with every step that London doesn’t feel mine – never has. I loved it like a tourist on an extended stay, but I have missed the crazy fucking place that is New York.
When we were drowning in boxes, I couldn’t quite get past the questions of what we should keep, what we should sell, what should come on the plane with us, what we should leave behind. It felt like an interminable list, constantly circling around in my head, piercing my brain like ice picks in the middle of the night. What about the high chair? What about the sofa bed? What about the …?
October fourth, the day of departure, came way too quickly. In about five seconds and after a hundred years. I wasn’t ready. I had never been more ready. The taxi arrived to take us to Heathrow at 10:15 sharp. We loaded our eight bags, the stroller, the car seat, the foldable cot – travelling light wasn’t an option this time.
The moment of realization had come earlier, as DW and I walked up the street to say goodbye to our friends at The Kitchen Table, where we spent gazillions of hours over the years. On our way up the road, we had held hands, feeling each step in silence, knowing that we would not be making this silly little walk, which we had so taken for granted, again. They had greeted us as they have every day for the past four years. And we had said goodbye much in the same way we had so many times before. DW and I laughed as we crossed the street and headed back home. It all felt so… normal.
An hour later, the tears flowed.
Saying goodbye is tough. Because even if you return to the same places and see the same people, nothing will ever be the same.
Someone else will be living in our house. Another family will inhabit the walls where my baby girl came into the world. They will cook on the incredible range, and take that same wander up the block to order sandwiches and fantastic coffee at The Kitchen Table. They will live fifteen minutes from Hampstead Heath while we …
We are heading into this new chapter in our lives. One in which nothing is clear or determined yet. In the past few weeks, we have been in turn excited and terrified, elated and suspicious, relieved and regretful, sad and joyful and everything in between.
As the taxi pulled out, a weight lifted off my shoulders. I could do nothing more, even if I had wanted to. What was packed would be packed, what was being shipped we would see again in a few weeks, what would be would be. And if I wanted to avoid motion sickness, I needed to keep looking forward.
I don’t know if I actually laughed out loud, but I felt like doing so. To go from being worried about what box contained my fermentation pot to not caring in the space of half a millisecond knocked me off balance enough that I was grateful to be sitting down. The only thing that mattered wasn’t whether we should or shouldn’t take the furniture, or how many tea bags I should take on the flight – it was the two people sitting on either side of me, my husband and my daughter.
And then, just like that, we find ourselves wandering the streets of New York slightly in awe, but also bizarrely at home already -- we know where we like to eat, where we like to shop for groceries, who we need to call, what we need to see, do, explore, experience. Only unlike in the past, there's a little person involved and at the same time everything is new.
Vida Lev is now toddling along, which means she has little time to be in her carrier or her stroller.
So we let her wander the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn to her heart’s desire. She waddles, holding her arms up on each side of her to keep her balance. And then every so often, she squats down in a kind of downward dog to recalibrate before taking off again. This child fits right in here: already she is in a hurry. People wave, people smile, people ask whether her boots come in adult sizes. If you think New Yorkers are rude or unfriendly, you should set a beaming toddler loose in the streets: never have I seen such love, enjoyment and pleasure in people’s faces as in the past few days with my little girl.
On a final note, I will say this: we have gone from a four-bedroom house in London to who knows what in New York (though I know for a fact that whatever we find will be smaller than what we were in). The stress, which was can I keep this?, has now become why in the world did I hold on to that?
Life. The jokes never stop coming.
Recipe: Breakfast for Globetrotting Parents
When you're moving continents and running after a very energetic little girl, breakfast needs to power you through until God knows when. This one might seem complicated and filled with scary, unknown ingredients, but people often ask me what I eat so I decided to share this latest favourite which has kept me sated, grounded and happy for many a challenging morning recently. I won't lie, this is one greeeeen smoothie but it's choc-full of good fats, minerals, protein and awesome quality slow-burning fuel. Plus, in my opinion, it's delicious though I am aware that my palate is greeeeener than most people's so consider yourself warned. The great news is that all you have to do is blend so it's super simple to make. And if you let the mixture sit for a few minutes, it will thicken up into a pudding. I like to top mine with juicy berries and crunchy cacao nibs for something to chew on, and eat it with a big old spoon.
1 T coconut butter
1 T hemp seeds
2 T chia seeds
1 t spirulina
1 t chlorella
1/8 t kelp powder
1 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla powder
1 dropper Oceans Alive
3/4 c raspberries
1 dried fig
4-5 kale leaves, stalks removed
1 cup water
For the topping (optional):
small handful fresh blueberries
a sprinkle of cacao nibs
Combine all the ingredients in the blender.
Blend well -- you might need to add a little more water, depending on the strength of your machine.
Allow to thicken for a few minutes.
Top with blueberries and cacao nibs (optional).
P.S. Happy Birthday to ME!