I dropped my son off at school this morning. He was greeted by his headmistress with an enormous hug. This happens every morning and I can’t think of a better gift to give this particular son than that kind of care. It took a while to adjust to all of my boys calling their teachers by their first names, and although I still wouldn’t choose it, I can see the connection it enables, rather than the distance they’ve always felt, towards their teachers.
We all went to the Christmas Carol service at one of our schools last night. I had to laugh when I read the program. I had been to so many Christmas services in London where the Nativity play was performed followed by a few Hallelujahs. In LA it’s quite different. Every grade had their two songs to shine about Santa, Rudolph and the real heroes of Xmas, and half is done in Spanish.
I sat with three of my boys – practically on top of me – watching my other son on stage sing Jingle Bell Rock, and I experienced one of those mother’s moment of pure love. All is right in the world in those moments. Everything in my life works, everything is fulfilled. I wrapped each of them around me, we were all smiling. It’s a simple beat in a complex story where nothing remarkable happens and yet there’s magic.
We got home and started packing. True to form, they all were stuffing their backpacks with their worldly possessions until I reminded them we were only going for three weeks and they have loads of toys in London. We haven’t done it this way round in five years – living here and visiting London – and it’s very odd. Usually we when we visit LA my life is totally immersed in seeing my family that I rarely interface with my ‘life’ there. This way round, an entire world awaits.
There is a part of me that wonders how stepping into that life is going to feel; I know I’ll love it, but how much will feel changed and strange and equally, will we all want to come back? There is an enormous ocean that divides my two lives and the ‘shuttle bus’ we take between the two has often left me dissolved into it, somewhere over Greenland. It hasn’t happened in a while, but the possibility is always there – the disconnect of my two lives not working simultaneously in reality, the way I think they are in my mind.
I pack boots for the cold weather. Or course I had to buy them as LA’s footwear consists of slip-on Vans and flip flops. My eldest son has grown. His foot has grown two sizes alone since we’ve been here. I look at him tonight and see the drooling toddler he once was. Like a distant memory I desperately want to hold onto, I distract myself from packing to find old photos of him at that age. I go into his room and stare into his eyes. He looks up at me and asks if I need a hug. I insist on cuddling him with my arms on top of his just as long as I’m a fraction taller. It’s our joke. He is still, in so many ways, my little boy.
As with most nights before flights, I cannot sleep. I awake tired, but calm as I have all day to finish packing. But alas, no. Zen Jen was replaced by a crazed woman when I realized that our flight was three hours earlier than I had thought! It’s all there, I keep reminding myself. Toothbrushes, jumpers, wellies, hats, gloves, scarves, and even Husband! I really just need the passports and my wallet. Breathe.
So four enormous suitcases later, I managed to leave some socks behind, I was ready. No matter how you slice it, there are creature comforts in our wardrobes that we simple have to schlep. I found myself alone on the porch waiting for the storm of my boys to arrive back from school. I have sat on my porch many times in these last few months wondering which way its going to fall. Are we going to settle in? Certain images come to mind: family sunset walks on the beach, outside living, American football, fishing in Malibu, family dinners for 22, moments with my mom, jokes with my siblings, eucalyptus filled hikes with Heather and life drifting from one day to the next with the sun on my back.
It’s easier to live here, for sure. There are so many people who don’t like LA and to them I say, you’re probably wanting it to be something it’s not. There’s no great pace here; you have to create it. It’s true, you literally drive around the block four times to try and park directly outside your destination – god forbid you walk too far. And yet, everyone exercises! Dinner parties are few and far between and a lot of socializing happens over the phone. There’s no city center. But, it’s beautiful from the beaches to the mountains beyond. And for the most part, the energy this place does have is effervescent and embracing.
Off to the airport. Early. It’s better that way. You never know how long security is going to take as we undress all the layers, shoes and computers and put it all back together again. I once left my computer. That only has to happen once to know I’ll never ever do that again. People stare at that poor woman with all those children. It makes me laugh every time. We take over an entire row at the gate where five year old dumps out army guys all over the floor – passengers literally have to step over him to get by. We eat copious amounts of deli sandwiches, chips, cereal bars, whatever. I get to read trashy magazines and write and there’s still two hours to go! Up Up and Away…