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.