Our new landlady asks us to be inconspicuous about moving in, as strictly speaking she’s not allowed to sublet her place. “No problem,” we reassure her. Then husband and I look at each other wondering how on earth to do that, whilst carting a digital piano, Boy’s folding bed, a porta-crib, six suitcases and enough dried goods to feed a small army?
Last time we packed I was a mess of mastitis holding a wriggling newborn. Only five months ago but it feels like an age. Sat amongst our debris I hint to Boy that daddy and I might consider taking a look at some apartments in the neighbourhood to call our own. It’s as if I just told him he’s to eat raw liver for breakfast,
“But that means we would stay here!”
“No! I’m going back to London.”
I picture of him clutching a little suitcase in the middle of Heathrow Terminal 5 like an abandoned Paddington Bear.
“I need the basketball hoop daddy made in the garden. And my Hess trucks on the shelf.”
And with that we finish breakfast (toast, not liver) and head off to school. He gives me two lingering hugs rather than his usual fleeting peck on-the-cheek-and-dash.
And so husband and I continue wrangling over where to root. New York is intoxicating. Its people are open, vital, welcoming and driven. The extra curricular activities on offer for Boy are limitless. We could make a beautiful nest in a pre war block and keep munching on the Apple. But at what financial and emotional cost? How would we fund life here at three times the cost of London life? How would we cope without being surrounded by lifelong friends and family? How would we function without a yard and veggie patch to stick our hands into dirt? And what, or whose, dream would we be chasing exactly, if we stayed?
In the midst of inconclusive discussions, husband receives a job offer. On the other side of the country. Its an opportunity for him to work on a brand new musical with a creative team from Broadway. On the other side of the country. Barely unpacked, we consider our options. I picture myself mothering our clan without the patience of husband and shudder. Boy has made his view perfectly clear that he intends to finish first grade where he is, then return to England for the rest of his schooling. Mum and dad feel lucky to have this dilemma to consider in the first place, but have little idea what to do.
In the local slither of a café I order a latte with a double shot – night waking wrangling these questions has spawned a vicious caffeine cycle. I spy a card advertising a yoga retreat in Portugal and tell the barrista my cousin and I have dreamt about organizing such retreats. “What’s stopping you from doing it?” she asks, without condescension. The question resonates in the fray of current, unanswered, life decisions. I babble an answer like it’s a free therapy session, then leave for the freezing gray outside. Children are playing on the street, bundled up against the chill. The village centre of this bit of upper Manhattan is humming with a laid back afternoon buzz. Art Deco blocks line the narrow street and in the gaps between them I catch the purple blue of the Hudson River.
What’s stopping us indeed?