Coming to America

Moving countries is not an easy thing to do. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. It never entered my head that I would live anywhere else in the world than Australia. I didn’t even know I would move to another town from where I spent my whole life!

Not that I was against the idea, it just didn’t really occur to me. No one from my family had ever really moved around too much, just the one big move my parents started when they left Sydney to move to Albury. Everyone followed. We were a close family and we spent lots of time together in a large group as I was growing up and I just expected that’s what I would continue to do when I grew up. My brother moved away when he was young but returned later on with his family and lives very close to where we lived as children.

All my cousins live in a 30 mile radius and they all still spend plenty of time together. All major holidays,  Christmas, Easter etc. I think it’s quite uncommon these days but that is how I grew up.

We were an immigrant family with my grandparents and their 6 children emigrating from England to Australia in 1956 after the war. We are a very diverse family with the 6 children marrying Russian, Dutch, German and Australian spouses.

I wish my grandmother had still been alive when The king decided to move us across the world. I know I could have used some of her valuable advice.We lost her the year before.

We were living on the Gold Coast in Australia. We’d been there since 1997 and had established ourselves well in the area with business and friends and a church community.

Both children were born and we were pretty comfortable with life. Well I thought so. The king had other ideas. He was travelling back and forth to America on a very regular basis, every 3 months. So much so, that he was away for 22 weeks of Miss Gremlin’s first year!

Business had been doing very well but had reached a point where we could no longer  expand. At the same time, The King won a competition for the World’s Best Jingle in Hollywood and he was getting more speaking engagements in the USA.

Unbeknownst to me The King was plotting our escape stateside. After one highly successful trip he came home to announce that we should move there. He had mentioned it previously but I ignored it hoping it would go away. 🙂 Although I was horrified by the idea, I remember agreeing to do it in the following January and that a trip in October would be a “practice run”. I was just off the medication for postpartum depression and in denial that any of this was going to happen.

The August trip came and went and I was mortified to discover that our “practice trip” was going to be the move! The king, it seems, figured it a waste of money to go and come back, pack everything up and go again. Of course this is how I would do it. I like time to plan. I need time to process. Not my husband! He’s a do it first, plan later type of guy.

I was devastated. I did NOT want to do this. There was a lot of discussion and trying to change his mind but in the end there was no other option. I needed my husband and the kids needed their dad. Being together was more important than where we were together. I’m so glad I was able to realise that because it really could have gone either way.

So the die was cast. The next six weeks were a frenzy of selling things, crying, packing things, crying……It’s difficult to recall the exact sequence of events as I was in such an emotional state but I do remember the night we packed everything we thought we needed to take. This consisted of just personal effects, art work and clothing  really. We were walking out on our whole lives. All furniture was to be sold, all kitchen appliances, bedding, linens were to be picked over by friends and employees to take what they wanted. It just had to go. The sum total of our lives were packed into 40 moving cartons.

The plan was that we would just go over and get settled and send for the boxes later. The King had put a deposit on a house in Indianapolis where we’d started  business with some partners and that would be our base. He wanted to be in New York. I couldn’t think of anything worse! I was a country girl and the thought of living in a high rise apartment with 2 kids and no back yard was something I just couldn’t fathom. He bought the house to appease me really, it was just a stepping stone to New York. Much easier to commute from Indianapolis than the Gold Coast of Australia.

It’s funny how things have a way of working out. Upon our arrival in Indianapolis (India no place) the mood had changed and the business partners were in the process of stealing our company out from under us. In fact we have just won the court case against them recently. It was not the smooth transition we had hoped for.

With this action came a reaction that would change the entire course of our lives, or as the King said put it on the right track. We learned the hard way that America is full of shysters. We lost the deposit on the house because we were lied to about the loan amount we could get and the day before closing the deal fell through. We were to find out later that the vendor would have allowed us to rent from him until we were ready but the real estate broker just wanted his commission and never even suggested it to the vendor.

So, here we were in Indianapolis with 2 kids aged 5 and 17 months, no home, no car and no business. Everything we owned in 9  suitcases. So it was decided we would go to New York. We got a car from a friend, took over his lease payments, packed it to the roof with our 9 cases and headed south, first to Washington DC where our immigration lawyer was. Yeah we only had 3 months to get legal. We had just come in on our visitors visas. Part of the” let’s just go and sort it out there” planning by The King 🙂

It was a long drive. 18 hours from Indianapolis across to Chicago then down to DC. We were used to driving long distances but the kids, not so much. We did it in 2 days, stopping the first night at 1am after the kids woke up still in the car unable to handle it anymore. I think we spent 3 days in DC sorting out our status, then we headed north to New York City. We took up residence in the Sheraton in Weehawken which is on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, right on the water, very pretty views of the city. We took a suite, which was really only a stretched room about 16′ square with a kitchenette. Two adults, a 5 year old and a 17 month old toddler, a king size bed, a roll away bed, 9 suitcases and a portacrib, all packed into 16′ sq .

The King took off each morning on the ferry over the river to the City to do meetings and get the business going, I stayed put trying to survive with the kids in a hotel room for nap time and lugging the laundry on top of the stroller to find a place to wash it. We were not set up for city life at all!

After about 2 weeks of this the cracks were beginning to show. Grand master D and I spent 3 hours a day whispering on the king-sized bed while Miss Gremlin napped. There was nothing close by, I walked miles to find the basics so we could live in the hotel. We had to get out. We looked into subletting but that was an insane process and so costly. Eventually speaking to a friend at home, he had a friend who lived here and was going to see if they could help us. They were in Sweden at the time but sent an email with instructions how to drive to their house and get inside. Marc and Deb really saved our lives that day. We packed up the Weehawken Sheraton and headed to Connecticut. By this time we’d been in the USA for a month. I was over it, done, wanted to go back home. However we found the place, broke into Marc and Deb’s lakeside home and spread ourselves out. It was nice to have space and to cook something! When they arrived back from Sweden they came up to the lake, we met them one Friday night in November when they knocked on their own front door. It was a wonderful place, within the first week we had snow but the kids were not quite sure about that stuff.

We were pretty happy there getting things sorted out with what we were going to do. After 3 week though Marc and Deb said they would be needing their house over Christmas but they had a little 100 year old stone cottage across the way that we could stay in as long as we liked. So we packed up everything we owned into our Jeep Grand Cherokee and moved 500 yards up the road. The king went to the local goodwill and spent $300 ($200 of it on a bed) and furnished the entire place including crockery and cookware:)

We had 1 foot think stone walls and a fireplace. We were home. We adjusted to life there, The King working everyday trying to get our investment apartment in Harlem closed, getting drivers licenses, continuing with the immigration process. Christmas came and went, Walmart was my best friend and after seeing a leg of lamb in the supermarket for $95 we had Christmas dinner of hot dogs, pizza and all American junk food fair. The kids loved it.

Three days after Christmas we packed our car to drive to Canada for our appointment at the American Embassy to get our visas. Not knowing if we would get them, we had no idea if we could even get back to the cottage where our expanding possessions were. Santa, in his wisdom, brought the children a dual screen portable dvd player for the car and a selection of movies. We were ready to get in the car again for 10 hours to Ottawa. We arrived, got our visas and headed back as legal aliens. (there’s a whole story to these 2 days but I’ll save that.)

We spent 5 months in that little stone cottage, trying to get our lives on track, working through American red tape, enduring our first northern winter.The temperatures got down to 7 degrees f (-17c). Our subtropical Queensland butts were not used to THAT!  It snowed a lot that year. That was the year New York got 26 inches in Feb 2006 and Park Ave had a 10 ‘ wall of snow down the middle. At our lakeside cottage it snowed every 2 weeks and every time it snowed there was 14 inches on the ground.  We had to learn to drive in it, shovel it and treat it so it wouldn’t turn to deadly ice. We had to dig the car out, and adjust to a totally different lifestyle. Buy warm coats, teach the kids to keep their gloves and hats on. It was a real coming together time for us as a family. It was us against the big bad world.

Finally after many problems and being lied to a lot, we were able to get what we needed to close on the apartment in Harlem. We hired a u haul truck and loaded up our possessions. We had expanded a little in those 5 months with the help of Costco and Walmart 🙂 We cleaned the cottage and made our way into the city. We parked the car and truck outside the building and went to the closing. It took hours, all those signatures, trying to keep the kids amused. Finally it was done and we went back to start moving in.

It wasn’t as easy as we’d hoped though. They gave us the wrong keys, so we sat in the hallway with our frozen groceries for an hour while the courier brought us the right key. Eventually we started to move stuff in. As if it isn’t hard enough to move house, try doing it with little kids in an apartment. We managed, got everything out of the vehicles and started to unpack. That part didn’t take very long, we really had very little in the way of furniture but we were in our new home. March 8 2006, 6 months after leaving everything and everyone we’d ever known.

This last March just gone we’ve been in our apartment 6 years. Many things have happened and we have many stories to tell. We’ve adjusted pretty well to living in America but sometimes it gets too much for me and I just have to get on a plane home for a month and ground myself so I can come back and face the American crazy again. It took a lot of courage on The Kings part to pack us up and move us here. It was a very uncertain time but now we have a good life and we are all happy. The next move is mine. I know it will be easier next time because we’ve done it and learned from it and every time you do something it gets easier. We can live anywhere in the world but for now we’ll take the Harlem crazy.



Comments 15

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  1. Wow, a wild adventure. We will be moving to Canada soon (from India) and I’m trying to imagine how different it will all be. We are just waiting on the visas for hubby and the kids, which are delayed right now by a strike at all Canadian Embassies worldwide. Literally everything is on hold until the strike is over and we get the visas.

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  2. Wow! I’m glad you linked this post up today – I wondered how you ended up in NYC from Australia! I’m exhausted just reading about it.

  3. Holy shit. That was crazy. I think I would have killed my husband long before we ever made it to NYC. I can’t. Love the pictures. But one question. Does your husband always wear crazy pants?

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  4. Pingback: A Mother Life Bad Behavior in Harlem

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