On the Moon
Well, I'll dance on a moonbeam and then
I will make a wish on a star
And I'll wish I was home once again
Though I'd like to look down at the earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I may go I'll be coming home soon
'Cause I don't want to live on the moon
No, I don't want to live on the moon
- Ernie, Sesame Street
July 28th, 2007
I woke up feeling like butterflies were having a race around my stomach.
One more day.
I looked around the room, remembering the night I moved in: Crying again. It was amazing that every move since getting off the plane was accompanied with tears. That night though, I felt more alone than I ever have. I felt cut-off from the world. Or at least the one I knew.
Somewhere on the other side of the ocean, the people I loved were at work, having dinner with family, shopping, playing with their children, watching TV, and doing all of the things they do every day. Somewhere on the other side of the ocean was Jeremy, who I would not see for 4 months. I couldn't even think about it then.
Whenever I talked to people in Canada, it felt like they were on the other side of a tunnel - I could imagine their faces and homes and picture places they would talk about, but it was all with the sense of being very far away.
My landlady was friendly and kind, but we weren't really friends and she and her son liked spending time "just the two of them". After a life full of people to talk to, I found myself in a bubble. People all around me, on buses and trains, in the shops and even at work - all inter-twined with their relationships and connections. For the first time, I had no connections other than the very new friendships with co-workers and a girl who lived in the same building in Bayswater.
I looked around the room full of piles of clothes and the rest of my possessions, sniffing as I realized it would be home for the next few months.
Well, not "home" really.
It was time to finish packing. Lots to do before the day ended. I looked at the piles of clothes and souvenirs and sighed at the thought of how much extra money this was going to cost. Flying back home after being away for a year meant much heavier bags than normal. Which of course, meant more money spent.
While I was packing a mug I'd gotten at the Les Miserables performance, it suddenly hit me that I was going HOME.
No more countdowns or phone calls saying "I miss you". No more hearing babies laughing or crying in the background and wondering how big they'd gotten or if they'd remember me at all. No more holidays filled with "un-traditional traditions" designed to make the distance from family matter less.
The last day flew by. My clothes for the flight were laid out, suitcases packed, taxi arrangements made, alarms were set. Next on my list was saying good-bye to Kelly and her family. She lived near the school we'd both worked at and had become my closest friend in England. Since she didn't have access to the Internet, I had a feeling we wouldn't keep in touch easily. We had a last glass of Pinot Grigio out in her garden, talking about what things would be like at the school next year, and our recent trip to Newquay, in Cornwall. I wanted to ask her why she was so afraid of the dark, but I didn't want to spoil our last afternoon. While we sat in the sun and talked, she chain-smoked and mused about what to make for dinner. (I remember thinking that I'd never again have a glass of Pino Grigio without thinking of her. And I haven't. Her story is for another day though.)
Walking away from her house in Walthamstow, I wiped the tears out of my eyes and stared at the homes around me. Wanting to remember every detail of the world I had temporarily become a part of. A world that respected me just because I was a Teacher, full of people who had barely finished high school and honestly believed I was brilliant just because of my profession. A world of graffiti on crumbling brick walls, fenced in schools, vandalized bus stops, and teenagers playing loud tinny-sounding music from their mobile phones. It was so different here. Houses close together, with tiny lawns if they had any at all. Everything was very close together. Even the fence of our school was right up against the teeny back gardens of the houses on the next road.
When I close my eyes I can remember it perfectly.
I rode the bus for the last time into Hackney, committing to memory the roundabout and pond, the bridge over the river I'd never learned the name of and the little old pub that sat on its banks. One thing I knew I'd miss about London was riding at the top of the buses. The views were always better from higher up. I walked past the off-license where I'd picked up a large bottle of rum on my first night in Hackney, past the fabulous kabob house (hands down the best shish kabobs and shwarmas EVER) and onto the street where I'd lived for 3 months.
Roses were blooming in the gardens again. Spring and summer were beautiful in London - even in poor areas like this. Every yard in our neighbourhood, no matter the size, had flowers and trees. Usually roses. My landlady had white roses in her back garden, along with lavender and several other flowers I couldn't name.
At this time tomorrow, I'll be on the plane.
Shaking off the fear that is the constant companion of thoughts of flight, I turned back around to get dinner from the kabob house one last time.
The guys behind the counter knew me fairly well - I'd been a regular in their shop for 3 months now, often chatting with them while waiting for my order. When they found out I was going back to Canada, they started talking about Canadians and how great we are. They called us smart and kind and both said they would love to see our country because it must be beautiful.
"It is", I said with a smile.
In 24 hours I'll be on the other side of the ocean. It's amazing to think that. Imagine that right now I'm in England and tomorrow I'll be in Canada. Amazing when it's so far away.
Nothing felt completely real anymore. It was almost like I was just going through the motions, but was already gone.
One more goodbye to go.
Walking into the house with my takeaway in hand, I realized nobody was there. When I got to the room upstairs, I pulled upon my laptop, opened the window beside my desk, and chatted with Jeremy while eating and watching TV reruns on a website I'd discovered when we first got here. I loved that window. It had a huge frame that was exactly the same height as the desk chair, meaning a person could sit in the chair with the window open, and rest their feet or legs on the sill while typing on the computer (or watching TV). It was my favourite thing about the house in Hackney.
I tried to think about London as the Amazing Adventure we'd set out to have. But all I could think about was how much I missed home. After a year of being 'foreign', I wondered if people in Canada would see me differently. And how long it would be before I felt settled again.
Naomi arrived home a little while after I'd finished dinner. We'd made plans for tea in her back garden after dark. She had all sorts of cool little candles and a silver teapot that was meant to brew loose teas. That evening she had decided to make Moroccan tea. Using fresh mint right from her garden, she brewed a tea that was unlike anything I'd had before or since.
And while we sat there, talking and sipping tea from tiny little cups beside saucers of biscuits she'd picked up from a shop in the Market, I finally relaxed. The long day was over, as was the wait. Tomorrow morning I would wake up, shower, get dressed, and catch a minicab to Gatwick Airport.
I'd leave England very differently than how we'd arrived. When we landed, we had no clue what the hell we were doing. We caught trains and managed with the help of strangers to get our five giant bags on and off trains, up and down huge flights of stairs, all the while trying to absorb the fact that everybody was speaking with a British accent all of a sudden.
"You know what's interesting? When I was a kid, we used to have saunas on our lake in the summertime and I'd always look up at the stars to find the Big Dipper. Since then, no matter where I've been, I've always tried to find it. For some reason seeing it up there makes me feel connected with home. But I haven't seen it once since we moved here."
"Really?! Um. It's right there."
And there it was. Stars shining more brightly as the sky darkened, a shape I'd been seeing for years. Not once had I noticed it from the garden or anywhere else in England. "Oh wow - there it is. And now I'm going home".
Naomi was understanding enough to let me sit there in silence.
When we packed up the tea set and gathered the candles, I followed her back into the house. But not without turning to look one last time.
The next morning was a blur. I remember bits and pieces of the morning, riding in the minicab past fields of black & white cows, waiting in a long time at the airport, chatting with fellow passengers on the plane.
When the pilot announced we were flying over Newfoundland, I looked down through the clouds. There is was.
I feel like I've been living inside of a movie. Or on another planet. It's all been so far away and I've missed it so much. I got to see Paris. I got to live in an amazing city for almost a full year. Some amazing memories were made. It's funny that it's already starting to feel far away.
It was like flying from one life into another.
I might not have danced on moonbeams, but I swam in the English Channel, collected shells on the Atlantic coast and wandered over fields near King Arthur's castle. I'd seen the Crown Jewels, walked through the Tower Of London, and spent afternoons in the sun in Hyde Park. I'd watched vendors on Portobello Road shout out prices while old ladies peddled bundles of flowers. I'd wandered past dozens of flower shops along the Seine with the Eiffel Tower in the distance. I'd seen places so beautiful that the only thing I could do was stare. Circling towards Pearson Airport in Toronto, I didn't think of those things.
Only one thought kept repeating: I'm home.