I have no regrets about leaving the UK and moving to California in 1998 to work. I have had an incredibly rewarding professional and personal life here, and I love living in a warm part of the world in a dynamic city where it’s possible to own a decent-sized home with a garden. However, I do miss my family and close friends who I grew up with and had expected to spent my adulthood with too. Most of my close friends from sixth form college (high school) and university had children around the same time as I did and I often feel sad that our children aren’t able to grow up together and be friends the way we were. Fiona, my closest friend from sixth form, with whom I share a birthday and a love of languages, also traveled a lot but ultimately found work in London. When we travel back to the UK it is a rare treat to restart our decades-long conversation and watch as our young children play together. Theo and her daughter Benedicta, only a year apart, have a lovely, chatty friendship that has grown over the years and will hopefully survive the awkwardness of puberty and adolescence. Her younger brother, Sidney, who just turned 5, was a little young to attract Theo’s interest on our last visit, but if we lived closer and could see each other more often, I am sure that Theo would take great pleasure in showing Sid the ropes in many a game, and Sidney is mellow enough not to find Theo too bossy.
A couple of weeks ago, the day I went into the ER with my cough, was Sidney’s 5th birthday. I hadn’t been paying attention to my calendar so forgot to send him a gift. Fortunately, having spent so much time the last couple of weeks puttering around at home with Theo, I was able to identify some toys that Theo has definitely outgrown, including a small collection of Playmobil figures, which he just loved a few years ago, especially because they have so many accessories that can be mixed and matched. If Fiona lived just down the road (as she used when we both lived in Cambridge), we could stop by and hand them to Sidney in person, and Theo could explain who all the figures were and how to fit the various weapons in the pirates’ hands so they can shoot and stab each other. Since a lot of land and sea in between us makes that impossible, I packed up the figures Theo selected to give to Sidney and mailed them off to London instead as a late birthday present. Perhaps some of Theo’s enjoyment of these toys will be transmitted to his young English buddy, and their friendship will be strengthened by the gift. As I said, I don’t regret moving here from the UK, but there are moments when I feel every single one of the 6,000 miles or so that separates me from the dear people I left behind.