oh if you find the time
please come and stay a while
in my beautiful neighbourhood
It’s been almost exactly one year since we made the big move to the US, and 10 months since The Dream House became Pepper property.
I am the first to admit that there have been many times that I’ve asked myself “did we do the right thing?”. Giving up my job, going through an entire pregnancy, giving birth and dealing with the subsequent baby blues (and a jealous, clingy toddler) when you are 4,000 miles away from home, family and friends has been…challenging, to say the least. I miss the familiarity of Brighton, I miss feeling like I know where everything and everyone is. I miss not having to turn on the GPS in the car before I leave home every day! I find myself sitting at red traffic lights, tears welling up as I am struck by how very much I miss my good friends. What I wouldn’t give for the opportunity to leave the children with my husband, and wander down to the Park View to share a bottle (or two) of Pinot with my dear, amazing Kate. Or to run over to the home of lovely Lu, where we would drink beer and complain about our husbands, over a clandestine pack of Marlborough Lights. Or to hop in the car and drive along the coast road to hang out with sweet Aimee and her baby daughter, who is just a couple of weeks older than Henry. Henry and Harriet – two gorgeous new babies with equally crazy hair, it should have been the perfect forever-friendship!!
How nice would it be, now that Damyan is working late more often than not, to just get the train back to Bristol with the Pepperlings, and let them spend some time with their grandparents and cousins for a few days, while I got some company and a wee break?
These are the things that keep me awake at night, and cause me to question the biggest decision of our lives.
So, yes, it’s been a tough year. We’ve argued more than ever, we’ve slept less than ever, and we’ve struggled to accept that people here actually enjoy Hersheys chocolate.
But. BUT. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and look around. It’s been hard, but it’s also very easy to look back on our old life with rose-tinted glasses. The reality is that our beautiful Edwardian terrace would have started to feel pretty cramped by now. Spending half an hour driving round in circles, searching in vain for a parking spot that’s less than half a mile from our house, with a screaming, hungry newborn and impatient toddler in the back of the car, would have become very old, very quickly. And let’s not forget that the UK has just experienced one of the most miserable, wet and windy summers on record (as we speak, the village my parents live in, and where I grew up, is submerged under floodwaters), while Seattle bakes under seemingly endless sunny skies.
And then there is our Dream Home, in this sickeningly perfect neighbourhood. Sorry, neighborhood.
In the last 12 months:
Santa (cough….my neighbour’s father…cough, cough!) visited Evie on Christmas Eve
We’ve had neighborhood parties and events – the summer barbecue (which was actually a burger food truck, but close enough), the kids Easter egg hunt, and the Christmas light competitions, which made the entire estate resemble something Clark Griswold could only dream about! It is so very friendly, so incredibly well organized, and such a lovely way to meet your neighbors and feel welcomed into the community!
We’ve been invited into the home of Kristen and Andy, our neighbours to the left, for pizza and beer, or a bounce in their daughter’s birthday bounce-house (or “inflatable castle”, to you and me). We’ve shared mojitos on the lawn, and bottles of beer around the firepit with Kath and Tim, our neighbours to the right.
Evie is in her element, running around the cul-de-sac and gardens with the “big girls” on the street – she is fascinated by them, and they love playing with her! We had a few friends over for a barbecue a couple of weeks ago, and invited the neighbours along as well. It was so amazing watching Evie and all the kids running riot around the garden – swinging on the hammock, chasing the dog, playing “tag” with each other – it was everything I ever wanted for Evie. To live in a safe street with no through traffic, surrounded by other families and young children, with bikes, scooters and trikes constantly zipping around outside – that’s the dream childhood, isn’t it?
The ice cream van comes through the neighborhood periodically, and the school bus drops groups of happy kids almost to their front door. A couple of months ago, Hunters Glen experienced the first home burglary anyone can remember in the last 20 years. Since then, the Sheriff’s car has toured the streets and cul-de-sacs of this little community twice a day – that’s tax payer dollars at work, right there, our very own security detail!
Last, but not least, Redmond has just been voted into the Top 5 “small cities” in America. That’s right – we are number 5 in the entire United States. Amazing. And slightly bemusing, but who am I to argue with the might of CNN? Yay, go Redmond!
Yes, it’s been a difficult year. But it’s also been a wonderfully exciting year. We’ve made some great new friends, we’ve welcomed visitors from home, and we’ve explored a teeny, tiny bit of the vast and beautiful state of Washington. In this short time, we’ve also set up home in a house we could never even dream of owning in the UK, and we’ve welcomed a brand new, and perfectly fabulous little dude into the family.
I’m sure that we will continue to have difficult days, whilst I will continue to miss my friends and family, and occasionally wonder, “what if we’d stayed…?”. But, in the long run, this is going to be the most incredible part of the world for our children to grow up in. To the West is the ocean, to the North is Canada, to the East are the mountains and endless skiing, snowshoeing or hiking opportunities, and to the South is (eventually) California, for the days when the rain gets a little too much. I do believe that our little Pepper family is going to have a wonderful life here – and now that we have our very own little Yank in the family, I suppose it’s time we start calling this “home”.