What, not the update you were looking for from me after 9 weeks of silence? Because really, I think that one sentence tells you everything you need to know about my new life in the States. I am once again a suburban mom, hopping in and out of my SUV more times a day than I can count as I race from soccer practice to Target, from school drop off to coffee with a friend. Perhaps the fact that I'm still giving my daily routine this level of contemplation gives me away as not entirely comfortable here just yet. But I'm starting to get a little more settled, finding my groove simply by virtue of the fact of my presence here. The fit is coming -- in my life as well as in my car.
"How was London?" people ask me when they see me for the first time and I smile wistfully. "It was wonderful," I reply wholeheartedly. And then I sort of stop. Not just because I suspect that most people don't really want or need to hear anything more than that, but also because I'm not even sure quite what so say. It was wonderful, this I know. But I've lost the words (and perhaps even some of the memories already) to articulate how or why. When I think of London right now, the mental image is hazy, abstract, far away. It almost feels as if I had a wonderfully rich and detailed 2 year dream about living there. And now I've woken up, with that entire dream world just tantalizingly out of reach.
I'm apparently not the only one who feels that distance. Evan's English accent is very nearly gone. After a rough few weeks of transition, he tells me that school here is more fun than it was in England and he loves his new teachers the best of all. Yesterday, while building a block tower with him, I mentioned that our creation looked a lot like a castle that we'd seen in Spain. He paused. Squinted. Then shook his head. That memory has apparently evaporated already. My anglophile has fallen prey to the siren song of neighborhood bike riding and a dedicated play room in the basement. I have an American son again.
I have an American daughter, too. Julia speaks longingly about London with a frquency that surprises me a bit, reminiscing about her friends and the things they enjoyed doing together. But she seems willing enough to leave those happy memories in the past and is forging forward in her new life with gusto. I may be struggling with the educational gap that she's encountering here, but she's not struggling at all, in any way shape or form. Happy and confident and social and mature, she's as much at home in here as if we had never left.
For the 23 months that we lived in London, I felt like we were in the midst of a life altering experience. Yet here we are back in my New Jersey hometown, and our lives don't look all that different than they did before we left. That's both scary and soothing -- scary to have the most meaningful experience of our lives slip away so quickly and yet soothing to find that our transition back to American life has been easier than I'd envisioned. Some days I am filled with longing for all that I have left behind. But most days, it's frankly easier to leave it in the past. London bubbles up, to be sure. But as often as not these days, it's below the surface for all of us.
Will there be a lasting legacy of our London years, then, or will they just evaporate as our old life swallows us up again? I'm not really sure. I want to say that we're all enriched by the things that we saw and did and experienced, that the lessons of our time abroad will continue to impact the way we think and conduct ourselves for years to come. But it's kind of hard to believe that when I see how easily we've let ourselves get sucked back into our old world. I'm hoping that as time goes on and the day to day of our life here requires less immediate energy, we'll notice more and more of the subtle ways that London has influenced and changed us all. How and when that may happen remains to be seen.
Once upon a time, my family set out on an adventure. And then we came home. We were forever changed by our adventures and yet we were not changed at all. If we found ourselves while in London, it was only as the new improved people who we always were to begin with. And so life goes on seamlessly here on the other side of the pond. We giggle together and we argue at mealtimes and we run late to school and we snuggle close to read when the day is through, just as we did in England. We love London and we love our New Jersey hometown but more than anything, we love each other. Paul and I spent the past two years telling my children that wherever we are together as a family, that's home. At times I doubted this pat reassurance even as I spouted it. But now I know with absolute certainty that we were right all along. Perhaps that lesson is enough to have made the journey worthwhile in and of itself.
This will be my last blog post on Somewhere Over The Pond. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who have shared in my family's adventures here over the past 2 years -- your comments and emails and support got me through many lonely days and made the happy days far more fun. I've been doing some writing as a contributing editor at Travel Savvy Mom and would welcome you to follow me there, both for my own posts and for those of the hysterical team of Mom travelers I'm lucky enough to work with there. I'm also hoping to pursue additional writing opportunities in the coming months, and will update with links here if and when I've got more to share (leads welcome!). In addition, my firstname.lastname@example.org email address continues to work and I'm always happy to receive correspondence there. Please keep in touch!