Monday, October 06, 2008

Geographic vertigo

I'm sitting at the window of my stepmother's 23rd floor apartment in downtown Seattle with a very American view at my feet. There are skyscrapers, the hum of Interstate 5, and cranes rising above half-finished concrete buildings. It feels like home and always will, but the familiarity is that of a comfy, well-worn sweater found lost in the back of the closet that when you put it on doesn't quite fit like it used to.

I find myself staring at the small, detailed license plates on cars or noticing the toilet is in the same room as the shower. Some sentences come more naturally to me in French than in English, and I am having a terrible time typing on an American keyboard. Small reminders that I am a little less at home here each time I return.

Or maybe it's the jet lag catching up with me already.

The flight with a toddler was as long and as painful as I'd been warned, but we had quite a bit of luck, too: our immediate neighbor was a very kind and understanding woman who assured us that she appreciated the distraction we provided, since she hated to fly. The row in front of us was occupied by a family with a two-year-old, so they understood when I wasn't always able to keep le Petit from kicking the back of the seat. And no one made any comments when we brought out the musical toys in desperation.

Two hours into the ten-hour flight, when the main course of my lunch ended up on my lap, I started to loudly wonder just what had possessed us to sign up for such a mad pilgrimage. But when le Petit finally fell asleep in the Ergo after I paced and danced around the aisle, and I eased back into my seat to enjoy his warm, sleeping weight on my chest, I started to come around. The hours counted down oh-so-slowly, but at the end of the flight, my anxiety had mostly lifted.

As we circled in for a landing, I chatted with the woman across the aisle as my husband entertained le Petit. All of sudden, le Petit burst into laughter and none of us were entirely sure why. It probably was a nearby passenger who started making funny faces, or perhaps just le Petit sensing our suddenly jovial mood. It certainly couldn't have been his imminent landing on terra firma in his mother's country of birth. But it made me so happy that his first moments back home were of unrestrained joy.


Isabelle said...

23d floor apartment! Living in the U.S. is really another dimension isn't it?

Ruth said...

Welcome 'home' to Seattle from a reader who lives here. I'm looking forward to more observations on the differences! The comment about the license plates made me remember how BIG they look to me when in Europe. Hope le Petit enjoys his time here. Check around for parks; some nice updates in various corners of Seattle, I hear from my younger friends. I'm just an old grammie who can't give you specifics on the addresses, but I know they're out there.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@Isabelle: I know, I was saying to my husband this morning that highrise apartments like this don't even exist in Europe. I suppose there are a few in La Defense or Paris Front de Seine, but they are extraordinarily rare and I don't think any new ones have been built since the 1970s.

@Ruth: we took le Petit to Discovery Park this morning and he loved it. He wanted to wade right into the cold water of Puget Sound, shoes and clothes and all, and we had to explain to him that it wasn't exactly the same thing as the Mediterranean in August!

caramama said...

Sounds like the plane ride was bareable overall! I hope you have a good stay and that Le Petit enjoys himself!