Immigration America, here we come!
The Reality, Packing the 40 ft Container
We lived a very comfortable life in England. The house was big by English standards and we enjoyed 10 acres of unspoiled land on the North Downs between London and Brighton in the county of Surrey. The fields were original downland used for grazing sheep for centuries. All year long the grassland was dotted with wild flowers and pungent herbs. In the dampness of Autumn morning we would collect baskets of pale pink tender mushrooms hiding in the lush green grass. Elderberries big as grapes and plump blackberries festooned the hedgerows waiting to be made into jams and wine. Ponies grazed peacefully in the meadow and poultry scratched at the ground looking for treats.
One day my husband said “You've lived 27 years in this village, do you want to die here?” I was very taken aback. I loved my life surrounded by happy animals and good friends and my youngest son, still at home was happy in the small local school. My husband had just learned to fly and the local air strip was grass which quickly became unusable in rainy weather and we are talking about England here! “Let's move to California.” he said casually as if asking whether we should have Spaghetti and meatballs for supper. “Come on, think about it !” Well, I did and 3 months later we had sold our lovely “Little House” . We rehomed the animals , packed up a forty foot container in readiness for our move to California.
We had visited Lake Tahoe several times and really couldn't fault it. The furniture would take at least a month to arrive so we had time to search for a new home. After filling in an incredible number of forms and visits to the US Embassy in London, the INS was satisfied and I was granted a green card. ( It is actually pink).
The first snag we hit was getting our 10 year old son into school in Incline Village Nevada as the condo was in Kings Beach California. Proof of residence was required and we were still house hunting. Assurances from Ed our friendly realtor helped. My Doctor in the UK was surprised with a request for proof of immunizations for our son but Faxed it through to us in time for him to start at the local primary school, he settled in quickly and still has many of these original friends, 18 years later.
My husband's parents had just retired and bought a condo at Lake Tahoe. They suggested we move there first and they would live on their boat in San Diego until we found a house. In the interim we persisted with our house hunting and found a large enough house that we could afford that would accommodate the 40 ft container load of furniture arriving any day. We completed the sale in time and he furniture duly arrived. The family still live in the house 18 years on although the trees have grown up and we no longer enjoy a view of the lake.
A car was an immediate necessity and we discovered a big snag, no credit history. not even a credit card. I discovered that Victoria's Secrets was happy to hand out a credit card and thus began my credit history in the USA. This leg up enabled us to buy a car and there we were, on a roll!
Driving on the wrong side of the road was a scary experience and the only practice I had before taking the exam was to drive down the mountain, I got the hang of it and gaily set off round Carson City with my examiner nervously hanging onto her seat. Sadly I went too fast through a school zone and failed my first test. By the time I took the second test I had the wrong side business wired and I passed with no problems.
We both found work in the village and that was a very grounding experience. Sadly, home sickness overcame us and we sorely missed the menagerie we had left behind. We adopted a smily Samoyed called Rosie who was now on her fourth set of parents and we soon discovered why. She was a typical Adios Hound, any crack in the front door was big enough for her to squeeze through and she was off! We set up an aquarium courtesy of the thrift shop and kept the fish for nearly fifteen years until raccoons broke in through the cat flap and polished them off. When Rosie went to the doggy heaven in the sky we acquired Otis by intercepting her basket on the way to Pet Network. She rules over us still. The same family who gave us Otis gave us a kitten, a polydactyl who we have just lost to cancer. The animals provided a cushion from reality as we settled down.
. I still live in the original house we bought on arrival. It is now shared with my older son and his wife, My son was able to receive the treasured Green Card because of our relationship. His wife, then girlfriend obtained her Green Card in the lottery, which was very fortunate. They have a six year old son, and a two year old daughter who are both Americans by birth. My younger son is an American because he has an American father, but holds dual citizenship as he was born in the UK.
Life in the USA has been rich and rewarding and very full. A fresh look at history and a whole new backdrop of wild life and countryside. We often talk about moving back to Europe, but I don't think we shall be leaving any time soon!