I moved from London to New York sixteen years ago in the middle of the winter. After our sparse furniture was shipped to the US, I had to leave our flat beside Greenwich Park and go to an apart hotel close to St. Paul’s Cathedral for the next three weeks. We were bunked in a small apartment with miserable weather, constant rain and grey skies. I read a brick size book about the Medicis of Florence, entertained my super bored 4 year-old daughter, and made sure the cat didn’t create problems in the provisory premises. Once I learned that our furniture arrived at the house in New York I grew restless. I decided to go to the US ahead of my husband and start the adjusting process as early as possible. It was my farewell to the city where I had lived for the previous four years, where my daughter started to talk (with a proper English accent) and walk (wearing rain boots). Detail: I was six months pregnant with the second child. I had all the ingredients for a bumpy journey.
Under my husband’s protests I packed, gathered all the documents for kid and pet and booked a flight from Heathrow to JFK on January 30th. Everyone said I was crazy to move house in the middle of the winter dragging that gigantic belly.
“What’s the problem with winter? The house will be there anyway.” I said, forgetting that, differently from England, in New York we have (or used to have) snowstorms that slow down life for a day or two.
We were smart enough to order a massive cleaning and disinfecting of the house before my arrival. A dear Irish friend, the only person I knew in my new neighborhood, promised me to find a person to shovel the snow in front of the house in case there was a storm. Of course a massive one descended over my new home at the exact same time I was doing my check in at Heathrow.
Reaching the airport was quite an odyssey though. St. Paul’s is on the opposite side from Heathrow airport, a long drive in a spread out city like London. We booked a cab for 5am on the day of the trip. We had two oversized suitcases, a handbag, a stroller and the travel cage with Cezinha, the cat, plus my pregnancy bump and all my extra weight on double digits. The driver was a small man with precise gestures and meticulous trimmed moustache and beard. When he saw our circus he was surprised:
“I didn’t know there was a cat.”
“I assure you he’s very quiet and there will be no mess,” I lied using my best talents, hiding disinfecting wipes and paper towels in my handbag. Cezinha hated car rides and often vomited in the backseat. But we couldn’t miss that flight.
It was dark, cold and raining. After ten minutes on the M25, the London ring road, the cat started to cry with long and painful meows. I knew what was coming, but instead of vomiting, he pooped. The car smelled like sewage, I opened all the windows as my daughter couldn’t stop crying, and the man had to stop the car in a gas station, so I could throw the cat blankets away and clean the cage the best way I could. I thought for a second that he would just go away and leave us there, so furious he was, but he said no word and kept rubbing his well-trimmed beard. We proceeded to Heathrow, still half an hour to get there, the man giving me angry looks by the rearview mirror for the rest of the ride.
I apologized, offered a good tip, tried to explain, but he wouldn’t pay attention. Once he stopped at the departures area, he picked up the bags and left them on the sidewalk, not a word, nor any pity on my belly or on the sleepy four year-old in the stroller.
I manage to drag our belongings to the plane and a eight-hour trip is enough for anyone to recover. We slept, we ate and we made it to our new house. The streets here had at least five inches of fresh snow, but at that point we were all mesmerized by the white landscape, the greyness and the early morning disaster behind us. We arrived to a warm and clean house with a working fireplace. The cat found a spot to lie down close to it and fell into a deep feline sleep, as our cab ride in London had never existed. Arriving at the empty house in the snow was, in the end of the day, the easiest part of the trip.