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Hopping the Pond (Part 2)

So – the last 24 hours in Portland.

Mom’s partner Celia kindly drove her up to Portland so she could stay the night with us. The *intention* was for her to get a ride home from D the next morning as, clearly, she’d be too bereft at the loss of me (such a Leo!) to drive safely. Thing is, tho, stubbornness is genetic and I had to get it from somewhere. Guess who? Just as well, though, as I gave Mom my car when I left and she had to get it home somehow. Off topic: I love the fact that Mom now owns two VW Beetles – one green, one yellow. The only thing better than owning a car that makes people punch each other randomly (SLUGBUG!) is having *two* cars that make people punch each other randomly.

I don’t remember much about the last night, to be honest. I think largely it consisted of glazed expressions, mild nausea and an overwhelming feeling that I was forgetting something so important that the entire fabric of the space-time continuum would begin to unravel the moment the plane lifted off the tarmac. Somewhere in there was dinner, some friends popping by to pick up clothes that didn’t make the “is this worth $70 in luggage overages?” cut, a bit of crying, and far-too-many cigarettes.

The next morning, after sorting out my final details and donning my predetermined airplane outfit (all grieving-widow black, natch), I stumbled out into the living room to the smell of bacon. D&L had, very sweetly, gotten up early to cook a spectacular breakfast. The lovely JK (she was an integral part of planning my going away party as well as simply being an outstanding human being in general) had just arrived as well to help us caravan to the airport. Everyone was buzzing around, Mom was chopping things to keep herself busy, Girl was packing up her last minute items, D&L were cooking and, after being advised that I was pale, sweating and shaking, I was banished to the front porch with JK where I took deep breaths until I got a hold on myself.

I nibbled a bagel halfheartedly, cursing the nausea for ruining my chances at enjoying such a delicious and well-intentioned spread, and held hands with Mom as the reality of leaving sunk in. I won’t lie, there was some ugly-crying going on. Kindly, everyone else was suddenly HIGHLY FASCINATED by their breakfast plates and made room for Mom and I to have our moment with minimal awkwardness. And then, it was time to go.

We piled ourselves and our luggage into two cars and hit the road. Again, I couldn’t tell you what we talked about in the car. All I remember is being worried about my Mom and still convinced that I was forgetting something globally catastrophic. The goodbyes at the airport were fast and fraught and sweet and hard. But the well-wishes were just as palpable. And as folks pulled away, the Girl and I lugged our baggage inside and started the business of actually leaving.

One thing – the Girl and I booked our flights separately since she had a round-trip and I didn’t. We’d called the airline to try to get seats together and they’d told us that the only seats available were two middle seats, one directly behind the other. Now let me tell you, the prospect of a middle seat is no fun for anyone but, for a fatty, it’s the stuff of nightmares. We took our plight to the woman at the counter and, as sympathetic as she was, it sounded like she wasn’t going to be able to do anything for us. She did, however, suggest that I grab an airsick bag and make gagging motions to entice the person next to me to swap seats with Simone- which was funny. “Works every time!” she said. But somehow, over the next 15 minutes of luggage wrangling and joking conversation, she pulled a fast one on us and, as we arrived at the gate we found ourselves with sneakily upgraded tickets. Economy Plus at no extra charge *and* two seats together! Whoever you are, United Check-In Lady, we love you!

Also, props to United Economy Plus — not only did the seatbelt fit me but, with the extra leg room, the tray table even came all the way down. It bumped my belly a bit but it was doable. The armrest wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world but it came down and felt tolerable. Luckily, however, I was with the Girl and I could put it up and relax – the relief of that was immense. As the plane rattled down the runway and the tears began to come again, I wondered how on Earth I’d have managed to wrangle the immensity of leaving without her beside me. I watched Portland get smaller and smaller in the distance and felt a strange mix of grief and the tingles of excitement creeping in around the edges.

This was really happening. After two long years of preparation, of skype dates and months between kisses, of paperwork and uncertainty, of hard emotional work and profound epiphanies — I was really moving to London. I was really going to be with the Girl. I was really going to try on not only a new city, but a new continent, a new culture and a new direction.

After 13 hours in the air and an uneventful layover in Chicago, our plane touched ground in London. I filled out my landing card and the Girl and I parted ways – her to the quick-moving line for UK residents and me to the heaving mass of over-excited tourists and hopeful emigrants. After being in the shuffling for 20 minutes, I got to the sign that said “Expect a 30 minute wait from this sign.” I txt’d the Girl who was already waiting on the other side and she wandered off to pick up the luggage. I’d been advised to keep a copy with me of everything I used to prove legitimacy for my Visa and, with nearly an hour in line to freak myself out, I was completely convinced that something was going to go horribly awry by the time I finally got to the customs official. Instead, she asked me a few easy questions, slapped a few stamps on my passport and all but clapped me on the ass as I walked through.

That was it! I was in! The other side of that customs gate felt like some weird kind of rebirth. As I made my way to baggage claim, I smiled to myself. No more goodbyes. I live here now. In LONDON!

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So, I moved to London. NBD. (Part 1)

I’ve had a block about writing this post. For the most part it’s because I’ve been too busy doing stuff to stop and write about it. That, and the sheer magnitude of experience encompassed in the last month seems too daunting to write about, even in summary. But, thanks to the (sweetly) insistent pestering on the part of the Girl, I am giving it the ol’ college try.

It’s been almost 7 weeks since my last confession. During that time I said goodbye to everyone I know and love, packed up what remains of my belongings, tied up all my loose ends and hopped across the pond to jolly old England where I am now sitting next to the aforementioned Girl who just finished washing up after cooking me sausages. Let this be an inspiration to you — at the end of any huge leap of faith, there is hope of sausages.

My last month in Portland was exactly what I hoped it would be. My days and nights were filled with sweetness, connection and hugging. It’s all a bit of a blur, really. I left home in the early mornings, came home late at night and in between were hilarious brunches, river trips, bluff sunsets, park picnics, waterfront walks, BBQ’s, dinner parties, patio chats and so much more. Some friends threw me an incredibly sweet going away party with living party favors (lily starts to take home and plant) and a banana cake you wanted to put your entire face in. I had a small gathering as well the night before last where the intimate circle came for drinks. One friend brought a little Polaroid camera and took shots that I could take away tangibly, which was such a lovely and perfect idea. Another gifted me with a package that she insisted I not open until I was on the plane. Inside it was a series of additional envelopes to be opened as-needed. I opened the one that said “Sometimes flying while fat sucks.” and inside of it was a gorgeous picture of a rad fatty and the words “You are beautiful!” So sweet. The rest of the envelopes I have saved for emotional emergencies – as I’m sure some will arise over the next year – and knowing they’re here is a huge comfort. Another dear friend gifted me with a pendant of hers, something that she wore frequently and that I’d always commented on as beautiful. It’s something I always have associated with her and having it here with me is such a sweet and strong connection. Another friend gave me a tiny dish with an old map of London on it. She’d saved it from the first Estate Sale she’d organized, saying that I’d helped her somehow to make her dream a reality. These gifts, each one of them in different ways, as well as other more personal gifts I’ve not mentioned, and the equally-as-valuable gifts of time and connection, touched me in ways I really can’t explain. The collective tenderness, connection, hilarity, sweetness and love that I experienced in that last month is an experience I will never forget and never take for granted.

Two weeks before my departure, the Girl arrived in PDX. We’d arranged for her to come for a final visit and so that we could go home together. (I know, I know. *squish*) We spent a couple of nights in Portland at a local hotel just to have some sweetness and respite together and then packed up and went down to Silverton to stay with my Mom for a week. The time in Silverton went so quickly. My Mom, the Girl and I were all working so we had only evenings together, save for my birthday which was mid-week. I kept feeling this (self-imposed) pressure to figure out ways to make each moment we had feel momentous somehow. It had to be SPECIAL!!!!! Truth is, though, that we were all so exhausted that largely we spent each night curled up on the couches together watching movies. That was good, though. The sweetness and comfort of being in the same room was all we really needed – that, and to stock up on normalcy since there was so little to be had in the near-future. Leaving Mom’s house was the hardest part of this entire process. But really, save the cost of the plane ticket, being an hour away and being 24 hours away isn’t all that different. My Mom and I are as close as any Mom and Daughter can healthfully be and no amount of mileage between us will change that.

Aside from the week at my Mom’s, my last month in Portland was spent in the home of my sweet friends D&L. They were infinitely patient with the sorting process which left suitcases in their living room for days and days as well as just being genuine joy and light to be around. D sat with me while I packed things, tried on silly hats, laughed with me and read me her stories. We spent a bit of time in the pool together. L introduced me to the Glee Project and cried with me at the same silly moments as well as constantly chasing the cats out of the house so as not to set off the Girl’s allergies. And together they were just the most welcoming and easy place to be for both myself and my Mom. D actually offered to drive my Mom home to Silverton after she dropped me at the airport — this on only 3 hours of sleep after an on-call shift. Their kindness and ease in sharing their space during such a chaotic transition just affirmed all the wonderful things I already knew of them, and will never be forgotten.

Also, I have to say that the Girl deserves some kind of medal or perhaps an actual trophy for putting up with my harrowing mood swings during those last two weeks. Between stress hormones and general overwhelm, I was a handful to say the least. She was grace under pressure and a constantly safe space to rest my over-full head. She maintained her excitement even when I was terrified (or possibly terrifying) and helped me feel grounded in the midst of all that change. I’m a lucky girl.

So – more to come. For now, it’s 8 hours ahead and bedtime. I leave you with some pics of my last weeks in PDX.

[slickr-flickr tag=”lastdaysinpdx” items=”41″ type=”gallery”]

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Hopping the Pond (Part 2)

So – the last 24 hours in Portland. Mom’s partner Celia kindly drove her up...
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So, I moved to London. NBD. (Part 1)

I’ve had a block about writing this post. For the most part it’s because...
article post
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