Cheerio, Baltimore

This move is trying to kill me. Tuesday morning we were up past 1 a.m. and up again at 5 to get ready for Day 1 (of 3) of the movers packing up all our stuff, and then my solid-wood dresser full of clothes fell over onto me. Fortunately, I walked away with only a bruised calf and a broken jewelry dish, so maybe it wasn’t mortal peril, but in that moment I knew it was me vs. the move, and the move was winning.

People make international moves all the time, so I realize I am probably being overdramatic about how hard this all is, but it IS hard, in many ways. For months, I’ve had about a dozen different move-related To Do lists that seemed to just keep getting longer and longer. Now that we’re in our final week, they are finally looking shorter. (Except for the one titled “To Do Once We Arrive in London.” That’s still growing.)

But apart from managing the myriad logistics of moving two adults, a 3-year-old, a dog, and all our stuff from Baltimore, Maryland, to London, England, there’s also the emotional component of saying goodbye to our life here. Even if it’s just for two years and then we return to the same house, which is the plan, saying goodbye is difficult. And when you’re 24 weeks pregnant and hormonal on top of everything else…

I have lived in Baltimore for 11 years now, way longer than I ever expected when I moved here from the Pacific Northwest at the age of 23. We have made so many truly fantastic friendships here, and Baltimore is small enough that we run into people we know everywhere we go (locals call it Smalltimore), and thinking about starting over in a new place where we don’t know anyone is daunting, to say the least.

There are many things I don’t love about Baltimore, but despite its faults, it does have many charms I do love. And it’s the only home our daughter, I’ll refer to her on here as E, has ever known. She’s only 3, but this move will affect her, too, in ways we can’t yet know. A friend of mine once said that Baltimore is like a little brother. You love him no matter what, but then he goes and does something stupid again, and you’re like, GET IT TOGETHER. I very much have a love-hate relationship with this city.

Some people (strangers, mostly) have made comments to me along the lines of, “London, I wouldn’t want to go there right now,” implying that there’s too much terrorist activity happening across the Atlantic. I keep my response purposely neutral, but what I’m thinking is, Have you seen the local and national news here lately? Mass shootings of innocent people happening all over the place, and the country is thisclose to electing Donald Trump as president. It actually seems like a good time to get out. Look, the world is a scary place, and anything can happen to you anywhere at any time. If you live in fear, you’ll never go anywhere or experience anything, and that’s not how I want to live my life.

We were in London just a few weeks ago, and on the plane back to the States, the song “Story of an Immigrant” by Civil Twilight came on my playlist, and I started thinking about what it means to be a true immigrant. We don’t even think of ourselves as that, do we? Americans living in London call themselves “expats,” not “immigrants.” There are so many people who move to a new country not by personal choice, and they don’t speak the language, and their culture is extremely different, and they don’t have any help, or much money, or a job or a place to live. In fact, my own grandfather came to America from Germany with his family in 1923, when he was 12, and their moving experience couldn’t be more different than this one.

We are some of the very lucky few who have the choice of where we live, and I need to remember to be grateful for that. And when I get overwhelmed about how “hard” this move is for me, I need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. My husband’s company is doing so much for us, and making the move as easy on us as it could possibly be. Moving to a new country could be so, so much harder.

My grandparents and their parents worked incredibly hard their whole lives in order to give their children a better life, an easier life, and they succeeded. I hope it would make my grandfather proud, that I am taking this opportunity that was handed to me, and expanding my horizons to experience more of the world.

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As I sit here in my kitchen, surrounded by boxes and empty cabinets and rolled-up rugs, I’m feeling nostalgic, and a little sad, and am wondering what’s ahead of us. It’s not the first time I’ve up and moved far away to a new city where I don’t know anyone. I did it when I moved across the country to go to college; and again when I studied abroad for a year in Bath, England; and then I did a summer grad program in Denver and then moved to Seattle… and finally moved to Baltimore to be with M, my now-husband. Each time felt a little daunting, but exciting, too.

For better or worse, we made the decision to move to London for two years, and it’s going to be a Great Adventure for our whole family, which deep down in my gut I feel good about. I’ll do my best to chronicle our experiences here, to share with our family and friends. In the end, two years is really not that much time, and it will go fast. Before we know it, we’ll be looking back and saying, “Remember that time we up and moved the whole family, with another family member on the way, across an ocean? That was so crazy!” I can’t know what the future will bring, but I’m pretty certain I haven’t had my last crab cake from Koco’s Pub or ice cream cone from The Charmery.

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So let’s not say goodbye, let’s just say Cheerio.

(And please, come visit!)

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