“I want to go home”
“You are home. This is our apartment. We live here now.”
“No. I want to go home. Home to New York City!”
This conversation happens at least twice a day in our house, and has been going on for 13 weeks now. It is usually followed by tears and then some bargaining, such as “we can stay here for just three more minutes, ok guys?” And the occasional “is it Christmas?”
Who knew a 2.5 year old could have any real idea of being “from” somewhere, and actually missing it? I find the whole thing wild–in Sydney we live across the street from a wonderful oceanside playground (while on the swings last week, we saw dolphins jumping out of the water), and up the hill from a world class beach. While it’s cold and dark in New York, it is 75 degrees here and stays light until 7:30 p.m. My daughter’s days are spent exploring this amazing city by bus or ferry, having fun with new friends at school, building sandcastles on the beach, riding her scooter along cliff side paths, and swimming in rock pools filled with the turquoise water of the Tasman Sea. She spends more time with us than ever before. We’ve slowed down a bit and aren’t rushed like we are in NY; we stop for ice cream on the way home from school, we watch the waves, we know the tide schedule, we go on Sunday drives, and so on. She has a much bigger bedroom here with plenty of toys, and we don’t have to climb a million stairs to get to our apartment. We even have a tiny outdoor space…a lovely patio with flowers and veggies, where she loves to sweep and water the plants. What’s not to like?
It’s true she has spent a lot of time in an airplane and on the road, but has proven herself to be a wonderful and adventurous traveler, as displayed last week when we dragged her through an Indonesian airport at 10pm in her pajamas. As we raced through several security check points to catch our redeye, she looked up at me, grinned, and said “this is fun!” But the minute that we slow down, we always return to the homesick pleas to return to New York. Her countdown to Christmas began long before anyone else even created a list for Santa; she’d probably put us on the naughty list for bringing her to Australia. I’m often reminded of one of my favorite books, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, when Alexander pines to move to Australia. Callie would advise him otherwise.
Her favorite toys here are imported from NYC–her yellow taxi cab and #1 subway train. Apparently she misses the urban gridlock and chaos, the neighbors who think we are too loud, the playground that is too crowded, the bagel shop around the corner, our babysitters, our brownstone’s stoop, and The Museum of Natural History. She misses places and familiar things; but most of all, she misses her cousins. She tells us every morning that she spent the night dreaming about them. The feeling is mutual; rumor has it that they want to create an Advent-like calendar to countdown the return of their missing 1/6th.
We had our doubts about uprooting and coming here for four months–it’s a huge effort for such a small amount of time. We were a little bit crazy to give up a coveted preschool spot in our neighborhood, leave our jobs, and schlep a toddler miles and miles away from what she knows. But the allure of adventure and my husband’s expedited MBA degree convinced us to move. Plus, we thought our daughter would love it, that she’d adjust eventually; after all, isn’t home where your family is? We never imagined she would be so attached to New York, and for the first month, we questioned our decision with each new set of tears. My husband even googled “toddler depression”! We have no doubt that it has been an amazing family experience, and soon the only one of us who can’t wait to get back to New York will get her wish. When we return to the frozen tundra in four weeks, will she ask for the playground with dolphins, her new Sydney friends, the ferry boat to the zoo, and sandcastle afternoons in warm spring sunshine? We’ll see! Until then, I’m soaking it up and she’s watching the calendar.