Moving House. It sounds so easy.
It was easy when I packed up two suitcases and headed to Paris in 1989. It was simple when I shipped three green metal cases, and boarded a plane to Toronto six years later. My only companion was Bunny, my dwarf rabbit. Bunny used to stretch out the length of my husband’s legs as he watched TV sitting on the blue carpeted floor in our Parisian apartment. Bunny moved with me. The French husband didn’t.
Moving was simple when I sold almost everything I’d accumulated — which turned out to be not much after all — and left Toronto four years later. I had held Bunny in my arms and snuggled her as the vet put her to sleep. She would not recover from the stroke, the vet said. Bloomberg News transferred me to London because I wanted to go and because they didn’t have to get me a work visa.
Even moving from London to Sydney in 2002 to hang out with The Love Of My Life was simple. The only hiccup: he wasn’t there when I stepped through the huge sliding doors into the arrivals area. I scanned the crowd, beaming. Nope. My friend had said at St Pancras Station when he saw me off on my way to Heathrow: “Are you sure this guy is going to be there?” After five minutes of waiting at Sydney International The Love Of My Life did show up. With red roses. My plane was late, he’d been waiting for hours and had, at the very moment I walked onto Australian soil, ran to the lavatory. Everyone’s human. Even The Love Of My Life.
Moving House. Two words. Three syllables. A sharp intake of breath, a forging of determination, a straightening of the back in readiness for heavy lifting. Ganbatte kudesai, my Japanese-speaking friend says.
Moving House. Could two words carry more weight or substance? Maybe: She died. or Marry me? or You’re fired. (Is a contraction one word or two?).
What if moving house doesn’t mean just moving house, but flying to the other side of the world, immigrating and migrating, changing cultures, schools, points of reference, how things are done, setting up all over again?
That’s where I find myself once more. On the cusp of another great adventure. But the person who hadn’t accumulated much more than rock climbing and camping gear, one table, one antique chest, some champagne glasses and porcelain plates 15 years ago, now has:
- One English husband (The Love Of My Life)
- One geriatric English Springer Spaniel
- Two Australian-Canadian children
- One five-bedroom house full of furniture
And we’re all going to spend 13.5 hours flying to LA, then 5.5 hours from LA to Toronto. In just a few months. Well, the people will. Kibo, our dog, will be JetPetting his way to Toronto through Vancouver, where his customs agent will check him in and welcome him to Canada before sending him off for a play and a feed and a night in the most salubrious accommodation.
It’s exciting and it’s not. I’ve spent almost half my life ‘overseas’ and I feel like I’m immigrating to the place where I was born. I’ve changed, Canada’s changed. What if we don’t like each other any more?
Hey, I get it. I’m fortunate. I’m not fleeing war or persecution or starvation, like the families of some of the refugee kids I do creative writing with.
This is a choice. We are moving to Canada because I want to spend time with my parents before they die. I want my children to grow up knowing their family and I want to relish the support of family and a close friend or two. I want to enjoy as much time with my mother-in-law in England before it’s too late. She’s already forgotten what the numbers on the clock mean.
I have missed too many weddings and funerals and births and deaths. And I’ve just missed too many homemade pierogies and way too much kielbasa. I’m sure I’m really behind on my Ukrainian and Polish food quota and I promise, Mum, I’ll make up for it. I want to stand in a line with my cousins and aunts and Mum making pierogies. I want to hang out in the living room, drink wine with my Dad and talk about the meaning of life. I want to teach my children how to tap maple trees for sap in the spring and how to make apple juice, from Dad’s apple press, in the fall.
So we are moving house and changing countries and I want to write about it because that is what I do. I want to document my feelings and reactions and the process. Because it’s complicated and fascinating and because we don’t often get the chance to view our “own” country with the freshness and confusion of almost-immigrant eyes.