Six months ago today, we arrived in England.
Time is a funny thing; depending on my perspective, I feel like the last six months have flown by OR I feel like that first day in London was practically a lifetime ago.
One thing remains true: I am so, so glad we took this chance.
We expected to be forced outside our comfort zone when we moved to a new place; we had all the normal moving-related fears about making friends, finding our way around, starting at a new school. I also worried about learning to drive on the other side of the car (on the other side of the road), about finding doctors and buying appliances and settling in to a new house and getting the kids ready for school.
Looking at the last six months, I can see now that some of my concerns turned out to be not that big a deal — the driving, while certainly terrifying at first, became second nature so much more quickly than I expected. We muddled through the first few weeks on absolute clueless determination, but we got it done. What other option did we have? We spent three days driving around in an enormous rental van from used car lot to used car lot with all four frustrated kids, not knowing where the hell we were, until we found two vehicles that worked for our family. Every day we’d have to go out to find and purchase the million things we needed that we couldn’t bring: a washing machine, dryer, fridge, freezer, microwave, coffee maker, toaster. We spent three weeks with no furniture, sleeping in sleeping bags on blow up mattresses and eating microwaveable food off of paper plates. At the time, it just seemed like what we had to do. Looking back now I feel pretty proud that we did it with no serious issues because it was a lot to handle.
And you guys, that first night when we got to sit down at a real table set with proper plates and silverware and eat a meal in this house that we were able to cook because we had pots and pans finally, that was a good night.
We did not anticipate other things that turned out to be some of our hardest challenges. Grocery shopping, something I never anticipated being an issue, turned out to be one of my biggest obstacles. I cried, literally cried, almost every time I had to go food shopping in a British store for the first three months. It took me twice as long to shop as it did at home, at a minimum. I’d wander the aisles for ages, confused and frustrated. There were so many items I couldn’t identify and so many items I wanted that I couldn’t find, either because they don’t carry them here or they call them something different. It took me weeks and weeks to figure out the proper check-out procedure. And I felt every trip, for the entire time I’d be in the store, that I may as well have had a neon sign blinking above me that I DID NOT BELONG. It was weirdly disconcerting.
Six months in, we have made new friends. We’ve traveled a lot and we’re getting pretty good at it. We’ve tried new foods and found new favorites. We’ve adapted to a school system that could pretty much not be more different than what we were used to. We’ve learned to speak British.
In those first two or three months, when we didn’t truly know anyone, we were forced to get closer and stronger as a family. The children relied on each other, completely and solely, for playmates. We had no distractions, no friends calling one or two kids away, no baby-sitters to take the children for a night while Matt and I went out. We had no one but each other and we all felt out of place, so we turned in and held it together, together. I am grateful for that unexpected blessing.
We have so much more to learn and look forward to while we’re here, but I know it’s also important to look back and realize how much we’ve already accomplished. We’ve done it, we’re doing it, we’ll keep on doing it.
Here’s to the grand adventure — long may it continue!