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The Funny Thing I Realized When I Moved Abroad

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girl looking at the plane

When my husband and I decided to leave camp for seven months in Los Angeles for England with our 4th graders, I thought: heavy rain. Biscuits (not sure exactly but wanted to know). fish and chips. dark beer? A slight British accent that my child developed. A woolen turtleneck and thick socks. Time spent in bookstores. Enjoy the weather again. cycling? An old friend is missing. make new friends.

Here’s what I didn’t draw: spats. Lots of the same ridiculous spats! Screen time, weekend activities, division of labor, piano practice, homework, bedtime, reading, non-reading, TV time.

Here’s what I (secretly) thought: Our family life would be easier in Cambridge, where our usual stresses would be removed. I guess. Alignment.

Well, well, well.

When I told my friends in LA that we were taking off for half a year (a privilege of being married to an academic), I heard us refrain over and over again. I wish I could do that! And I didn’t blame them. Who wouldn’t want to pick it up and start over, especially after an era of never-ending pandemics? To finally see the world again? Better yet, live World again, another world, long term? How to immerse yourself in everything fresh and unfamiliar?

Hooray.So we set off, flew across the country on Christmas Eve, then across the Atlantic, pulled the kids out of school and put them in English schools, bought uniforms, and kissed our fortune at the school gates on the first day. (Or, actually, I didn’t kiss her at the gate, but how embarrassed) and start a whole new routine.

She settled in like a champ, found her crew, fell in love with her gray skirt and school “jumper,” and adapted to calling her underwear “pants” and her bathroom “toilet.”

Of course, many things are different for us parents as well. We live in a small apartment now. We eat lunch and dinner in the dining room with fellow scholars and their families. We walk and walk everywhere. My schedule was freed from going back and forth between dance classes, Hebrew school, and tutoring. On weekends, I don’t go to synagogues, friends’ houses, or the beach. I don’t teach much, but my husband doesn’t teach at all. I have more time to write, rest and think. That is the gift of all gifts. On one level everything is quieter and easier. A peaceful existence.

Still, nothing has changed between us. Her husband still orders hundreds of cans of chickpeas from Amazon. Even if I’m reading a book and I’m interrupted, I still snap. The kid still grabs my phone. If one of us says the wrong thing, she still storms out.

It reminds me of an old saying. Wherever you go, you will be there. When the whole family moves, wherever you go, we that is. Los Angeles, Montreal, Cambridge: Doesn’t matter.Our family dynamics – our personalities, our hopes, our dreams, our oddities, our frustrations, our fears – are unmoved. expanded Are you that far from home? All the family dynamics are on display, if not for the background of other people: a girlfriend who listens to my secrets, a trusty sleepover buddy for the kids, and the usual dinner party crew for a night of laughter. It has been.

We all have the illusion that our problems will be magically resolved: new jobs, new partners, new homes, new cities, new countries. May I admit that I imagined I would be more patient in Cambridge? What if we had a small English flat without all the family troubles we’ve ever faced?

But you go home at the end of the day, right? We return to the people we love, the lives we created together. I could have had fish and chips for lunch instead of a quinoa bowl. I might have walked to school in the snow rather than driven in the hot sun. We may have worn uniforms to learn Latin instead of jeans for American history, but we are essentially who we are, both as individuals and as families. It’s actually reassuring.

Moving may seem like a life change, but family life tasks, family life frictions are not resolved this way. A family is a separate island in itself. A place of beauty, frustration, pain and, if you’re lucky, unparalleled pleasure.


Abigail Rasminsky Writer, editor and teacher based in Los Angeles but currently living in Cambridge, England. She teaches creative writing at her Keck School of Medicine at USC and writes the weekly newsletter. person + bodyShe also writes for Cup of Jo on beauty, marriage, teenage years, loss and an only child.

PS Where do we call home and where is the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen?

(Photo by Stocksy/Alison Winterroth.)

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