Monday, 7 March 2011

Sleepless in Seattle - part 5

Wednesday rolled in with a bright blue sky and bags under my eyes. We decided to spend the morning revisiting some of the places we'd already seen. We browsed the suburbs. Drooled over houses we could never afford. Stopped at small lakeside parks. Imagined playing there with our boys. Generally drove aimlessly about hoping that a large sign in the road up ahead would say: take this decision -and steer us to the right answer for our family.

We stopped at a supermarket so that I could remind myself of US food products. When we used to the live in the US, I remember being utterly amazed at how many different types of cereal you could get. Most of them with bucket loads of sugar. I also remember always buying sliced turkey from the deli counter yet I NEVER buy sliced turkey in the UK. Why is that?

Heading into the supermarket it struck me again how loud the packaging was in the US. Everything seemed to scream its message in neon or primary colours. Where were the understated whites & creams with simple Copperplate fonts on a box of biscuits? You know - sort of Dutchy Originals. I started thinking that I could move there if only to start up a range of products that came in simple, quiet packaging as they would stand out in a quiet little bubble on the shelf amid all the noisy colours.

I left the shop (store) feeling mixed. Not up. Not down. Just kinda blah. As though new products which ordinarily would leave me over excited, just felt meh. Being influenced by the novelty of silly things like foreign foods might have been fine when I was young, free and single. But this was a decision that would change the course of our children's lives completely. I needed more than pepperjack cheese to win me over.

We headed over to another school. A state elementary. It seemed nice, but beset by problems most state schools suffer from - funding. But apparently the PTSA was 'super involved' and 'super active' to ensure that the kids had a 'super nice time' at school. As we were leaving, the lady showing us around said: "Sorry about all the book bags lying on the floor. They belong to the kids at ski school." "Ski school?" we asked. "Yeah," she said.  "They finish school early on Wednesdays and some of the kids get taken to the mountains for skiing lessons. It's just a 40 minute drive away."

Skiing as an after school activity. Check. Not something readily available in Berkshire. That went onto the pros column.

We headed south of the I90 to check out a place called Newport Shores, a small suburb of very fancy houses right on the lakeside with little canals in between for more moorage space. This was Wisteria Lane, with kids running in the street, shooting hoops, zooming around on scooters. It was a kids' paradise. And it had it's own yacht club. Another plus.

We drove past another of the secondary schools - amazing sports facilities. Honestly, better than most local English sports clubs have. We stopped in at a mall for some lunch. We sat in a Red Robin, surrounded by high school kids. It was fascinating to watch them. The cool kids. The Asian kids. The nerds. The nerds checking out The Girls. It was exactly like in the movies. Only the kids actually seemed really nice and not too posey, but that was because we were South of the I90 and away from Uber Posh-ville.

So there we were, eating our buffalo chicken wings with bottomless fries and bottomless soda, and we asked each other: "So, what do you think? Should we move here?"

And there it was. The ninety million dollar question. How do weigh all the pros and cons up, when some pros weigh so much more and some cons could break your heart?

We made up a list on the ipad.

- a 15 minute commute for my husband vs 1.5 hours each way
- a husband/father who didn't travel abroad for work 80% of the year
- great schools (but scarily big)
- much bigger houses
- beautiful area
- better off financially
- the chance of a better quality of life
- the chance for me to find a new career or something completely different to do
- a grand adventure (those who know me know that I'm always looking for the Next Big Thing)

- the weather is no better than England
- it is very, very, very far away from just about everywhere
- leaving behind our friends, what little family we have here and the network I've only just built up. Ripping up those fledgling roots just as they were starting to get a good grip
- the plastic feel to the place - no heart or character
- would life really be different or would my husband still work all the time?
- raising children with a completely different culture to either of ours
- our quality of life right now is pretty good, bar the missing husband/father. There's the chance we could make it worse. Why walk away from a sure thing?
- what the heck would I do for a job?

It was a long discussion. One that seemed to drift around in circles without ever feeling as though we'd really found the perfect answer. We just kept coming back over and over and over again: if we don't move, how could we make it work in the UK? How could my children see more of their father and how could I be a single parent less of the time? And there just isn't an answer to that. Not one that works. And believe me, we have brainstormed them all.

So, four large soda pops and two large baskets of fries later, we decided that on balance the pros outweighed the cons. We should do it.

We pondered our decision as we walked through the Cougar Mountain National Park. The beauty of the place (very Twilight type woods) seemed to reinforce the rightness of moving there. But we slightly questionned it again once we studied the sign at the start of the trail which gave instructions on what to do if you come across a bear or a cougar (do look a cougar in the eyes, but don't look a bear in the eyes - you really don't want to muddle those up).

We then had dinner at another ex-work colleague's house which had the most amazing views over the whole of Seattle, the lakes and Bellevue. It was so jaw-droppingly beautiful that it seemed to reaffirm our thinking.

After another lovely evening with lovely people, we went back to the apartment and actually slept.

We still had a day to go but our decision was mostly made. I just wished that I could silence the niggling rumble of worry in my belly.


Emma said...

So amazing to read your blog and I almost feel like I'm making the decision with you. I can only imagine how hard it thing struck said you'd be raising kids in a very different culture than either of yours...I think about that with William, but what I come back to is that ultimately, David and I are raising him with the same VALUES as ours. Regardless of location, or culture if they have the same values as you...nothing else matters.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I have been waiting to see what you would decide. It has been interesting reading all about life in the US. It can't have been easy and I'm sure you'll be constantly asking yourself if you've made the right decision, but you'd be doing that regardless of whether you stay or go...
It doesn't matter where you are so long as you're with your family;-)

nappy valley girl said...

You know, you could always go home again if it doesn't work? I mean, I know it would probably prove be a right pain and disruptive for everyone, but it's not as if you are committing to this forever.....

Mind you, I still get the feeling there's more to be revealed here! Love the way you are keeping us all in suspense.

sim at Kookaburra Laugh said...

Have really loved reading your journey especially as we are in the same dilemna but between London and Australia. We are Australian and have been back here almost 2 years but last year my husband was in London about 40% of the time. At the end of the day I think it is important to be together as much as possible as a family wherever that is. And you can always change your minds later. Nothing in life is permanent. I say go the adventure. We don't live our fullest lives without pushing the boundaries. Be open for the possibilities. I am quite envious your decision is made.

katyboo1 said...

OMG. I don't believe it. I think you're still hanging back. Possibly doing the old switcheroo! Not that I mind. If I ever do get to Vancouver Island I will be popping over to visit and pester you, so we can reminisce about the old country! I am dying to read your next post now.x

Iota said...

You're keeping us on tenterhooks.

Metropolitan Mum said...

And? And? And? What does the tummy say now???

angelsandurchinsblog said...

Sounds as though you're truly sleepless in Seattle (sorry...) mulling over this decision. Best of luck, I look forward to hearing more. Promise you'll continue blogging, whatever happens?

pat watts said...

Just caught up on part 4 and 5 and I must say my estimation of the US has shot up a few notches by your experiences alone. A big decision, a very big decision, but remember that nothing is ever cast in stone, and the UK or anywhere else will always be there if you want to return one day, so.. grasp this by both hands, seize the moment and have an adventure not many of us can have! I admire you Melissa for whatever decision you make. xx

Anonymous said...

I've read your story waiting patiently for your decision. Having recently done it, made the move, jumped ship and shipwrecked onto new shores I know how daunting it is, how difficult it is and how uncertain any of the pros and cons seem. I can only say, whatever you do - don't look back. It's too hard to constantly think "What if...we did...What if...we didn't"

And if you do - know life wont be life for at least two years. The first year discovering,settling in, understanding...The second year spent on making it life, cementing those friendships, building that network, seeing how well you paid attention to the details of understanding the new culture the first year. :)

Oh and as for the culture being different, how similar are any of the cultures we grew up in to what they are today? I look back and think of my childhood and what I had - no kids have that anymore! I think THAT is the least of your worries!