Friday, October 8, 2010

Our First Week in York

Ever see the movie, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy? That's a little how our trip to get to York, England went.

We took off on a Virgin Atlantic Flight leaving from Logan Airport at 7:45 pm. I don't know what type of plane it was, although admittedly, this would be a really great spot to write, "on a 769 jumbo jet" or something like that.

Instead, this description will have to suffice: the plane was really, really big. It was big enough to fit probably six goats head-to-tail width-wise, and maybe 42 crocodiles head to tail length-wise. If that seems hard to picture, I guess another way to describe it would be to say that we sat in the middle of the plane, and it felt like a long walk to get there.

After dumping two huge, overweight bags at the check-in luggage location (they were about 70 pounds each), we managed through security with Tyler, taking off his shoes, our shoes, belts, hair ties, any metal chips unknowingly inserted in bags, liquids, gels, gel-liquids, liquid-gels, mousses, and pretty much anything that could shake.

Tyler stayed awake for the first three hours of the seven-hour ride, and then slipped into good sleep for the final four. When we landed, it was raining.

Then it rained after we left London Heathrow Airport and caught a taxi ride from a dyslexic cab driver who confessed that he only got his license because his wife helped him with the test and materials. (Direct Quote: "I can't read much, but I know what most of these road signs say and all that.")

Our dyslexic driver dropped us off at Kings Cross Station, where we bought two one-way train tickets to York, a two-hour ride away. Tyler slept through the entire train trip, and Jen and I dozed while listening to two American businessmen say things on their cell phones like, "I'll fight the good fight for you on this one, Jimmy, but there's just no clause in the contract" and "Here's what we're gonna do--we'll rework the overview so that it reads like it does now, but we'll slide out those clauses and they won't even notice..."

When we arrived at the main train station in York, it was raining.

It rained as we ordered a much-needed cup of coffee. When I asked for cream with the coffee, the server, a young guy named Paul who had obviously exceeded his quota for caffeine, all too kindly asked me "whipped cream?"

To which I replied, "Do you have any regular cream?"

To which Paul replied, "Yeah, mate, it's regular cream but it's whipped-like. Would you like that in your coffee?"

I eventually declined the whipped cream, went for milk, and then Paul helped me see how my order could be cheaper by going with a combo meal (we had also gotten a chicken salad sandwich and chips).

I went for the combo meal, said goodbye to Paul, and then Jennifer, a sleeping-Tyler, and I proceeded to ride the elevator at the train station up and down, up and down, up and down. Someone had told us the exit could be reached by riding that elevator, though we could see no exit.

Finally, we saw it.

Outside the station, it was still raining.

We loaded our bags, our sleeping son, coffee with milk (no cream) and ourselves into a taxi and rode to the York Priory--the hotel where we'd be staying for two nights until the lease on the little home we rented would begin, on October 1st.

The first day and night, it never stopped raining.

We ate pizza from a place called ISTANBUL GRILL near the hotel, and we got library cards at the main library that first day.

That night, Tyler struggled to fall asleep, as did I.

That's not being completely accurate; the truth is: I wept. Not because I was sad to have left America, or that it rained so much in York (which it did, and would), but because I felt struck by fear in the deepest possible way.

Fears plagued my mind: What have we done? Are we crazy? Is Tyler going to be okay here? Can I even do this thing called stay-at-home parenting? I taught 7th graders and high school students; and I can play goofy games with my toddler...but parenting all day, every day? Can I set good boundaries, change massive amounts of poopie diapers, create good patterns and routines, stay structured for naps and meals, and still manage to let the words of the Muse flow through me? I can't! I'll be terrible at it!

At this point, my weeping became more intense, I woke up Jennifer, and told her all of my fears.

She proceeded to calm me down, tell me that I would do fine, and help me find some hope to hold onto.

I stopped crying, thanked her for her help, and then she fell back to sleep.

At which point, my fears attacked me again, and I woke up Jennifer.

Hopes, fine, relax.

Jen fell asleep.


Woke up Jen.


I fell asleep.

In the Promised Land of morning that following day, the sun winked at me through the clouds, and I knew things were going to be okay.

I knew that Jennifer was doing important work to by pursuing this degree as she researched how to stop sex trafficking. I knew that I would be a decent stay-at-home dad, and I knew that we'd both hit our lows, but that we would stand back up, dust ourselves off, and remember to reach for hope once more.

And then it started raining.

In the days to come, we moved into our little home at 1 Lesley Avenue, walked everywhere and exclaimed to ourselves how different life was without a car and a dryer, bought the essentials, and got soaked.

Then, in a reprieve like no other, for the past three days the rain has ceased. Completely. The sun delves into our little home each morning to bid us wake up, and Tyler scampers up the nearby playground, then runs across a huge field minutes away from us, holding hands with a four-year old girl named Holly who is his hero because she, too, knows the theme song for Bob the Builder.

Jennifer begins her research program on Monday, and Tyler and I have a playgroup that we've joined, which has 13 mothers and their children, and one other stay-at-home father.

The other Dad's name is Chris, and when I first met him, he wore a shirt that read: "Stay Calm and Carry On." When I asked him about it, he said it was what Churchill told the Brits during the war.

Good words, I thought.

Good words, I believe.