We finally made it to New Jersey! What an odyssey it’s been, and I somehow can’t quite believe it’s only been two weeks since we arrived here. It took us three days to drive up from Austin, and by we I mean my husband, my dog and myself, with overnight stops in Little Rock, Arkansas, and somewhere in deepest darkest Virginia. We didn’t stop much along the way, except for hot chicken at Hattie B’s in Nashville, Tennessee – that had to be done; we were absolutely exhausted by the last few weeks of packing and saying goodbye. The moving truck with our belongings arrived the very next morning, so we didn’t get a break at all, but instead got stuck into unpacking, and that night I hopped on a plane back to Austin to pick up the teenager and the cats, promptly spending another two days cleaning and sorting stuff out at my old home. After a pretty hands-on flight back north with one cat totally at ease, and the other breaking free of his carrier within five minutes on the plane and subsequently digging his claws into our laps for the whole three-and-a-half hours, we finally arrived at our new home in the early morning hours. The moment when my scaredy cat spotted the dog and leapt out of my arms into his made all the stress worthwhile. I swear I heard him whoop with joy.
I’m still stuck in this strange in-between world, where my head can’t quite keep up with my physical body. Or maybe it’s the other way round. I try to squeeze in some yoga practice every day in order to build that connection back up. Emotions such as an overwhelming sense of loneliness, longing for the familiar, a floodgate of memories, but also physical sensations such as hunger or tiredness feel surreal and not recognisable. I know this state of being so well, having experienced it multiple times now, so while it’s not a great state to be in, I know it’s only temporary, and the only way out of it is heading straight through it. Sit with the grief, allow it to vent, keep myself busy but not too busy, allow time to just let my thoughts meander, open myself up to new impressions. Do yoga. I have to remind myself to eat, since my stomach is still in knots, and I’m ready for bed by eight pm (which might have something to do with the fact that it’s winter and the sun sets really early, reminiscent of Europe).
Strangely, the fact that we’re another hour closer to Europe creates a huge sense of proximity even though it really is just an hour. It means that finally, I can communicate with friends and family over there in the afternoon, and they’re not asleep! It’s such a treat, as making time for people during our usually pretty busy mornings has never been easy. But it’s also our surroundings. Vegetation, street names, architecture – everything is much more European and completely different to both Texas and California. In fact, the other day, when driving through some back roads, I felt like I was driving around my old village lanes in England and for a very short moment, I had a sense that I should be driving on the left side of the road. It really jolted me, but luckily I didn’t give into this impulse! Walking my dog the other morning I smiled at the snowdrops and crocuses popping out from the still wintery-brown grass, perfectly in sync with what’s happening in England and Germany at this time of year. Of course that means they’ll probably get covered in snow again before spring actually arrives.
So far, people have been extremely friendly. A few neighbours have introduced themselves, and we might be causing a bit of a stir, with a car bearing a Texan licence plate, a purple haired teenager, a German clad in cowboy boots and speaking with a British accent. The question “where are you from” is getting ever more complicated. I’m so grateful for the friendliness though, having given up our Southern surroundings. In fact, when I got some prescriptions sent through from our doctor in Austin, since we haven’t registered with a new one here yet, the pharmacist asked what made us move up here and then said he hoped New Jersey had welcomed us nicely, even though he knew it could never keep up with Texan hospitality. Aw shucks!!!
Things I’ve accomplished so far:
* unpacked about 80% of our boxes
* made the house look really cozy already
* sourced my local supermarkets and the nearest Target etc.
* connected with two local women and met for coffee
* had a dinner party with friends we hadn’t seen for quite a while (and who are now within a 40 minute drive)
* spent an afternoon in New York and signed up as a MOMA member
* found a lovely dog/cat sitter who lives just around the corner (the pets are fans already)
* had my hair done (what is it with hair reacting so dramatically to new surroundings? Is it the water? Apparently it’s really really hard water here, and my shampoo does not work. Anyway, it was such a mess that I had to sort it out asap, and actually, chatting with a hairdresser is the best way to find out local info and gossip.)
Anyway, I feel quite accomplished, even if those are all very small things. Baby steps.
As I type, my mum and my niece are heading our way from Germany, a first trip to the US in three years for my mum, and even longer for my niece, who is almost 14 now – the last time she came to see us was California, and she was probably only about 5 or 6. Of course she is desperate to see all things US of A. Target, Walmart, Statue of Liberty, here we come! We are beyond excited that so many people have expressed an interest in coming to see us in our new home, which I have to say didn’t happen when we lived in Austin, and it’s something I really missed in our years there. Sharing a new environment with people who’ve known you in other places at other times is such a special experience, and it truly breaks my heart that so many important people in our lives never managed to see us in our Austin home. I would have loved to share that city, and maybe shed some light on people’s perception of Texas, shatter some preconceptions. Somehow it feels like a big puzzle piece that’s missing in my nomadic life puzzle that I know I will never find. But: I’m learning to accept that and I hope that exploring New Jersey and New York with friends will make up for it, in some way!