Moving to Barcelona: Our Trial Separation from New York
When we landed in Barcelona on September 16th, 2014, we came to live here. I hadn’t been to Barcelona since 1999, while my husband had never been. My son was only one year old, wearing Spider-Man pajamas. He had learned to walk a couple months before and was getting better on his feet, though I had strapped him to my back as we waited for our luggage.
Afterwards, we would take a taxi to the temporary apartment we’d rented for two weeks in a neighborhood we chose based on things we read in guidebooks and on the internet. This was it. We were here. The crazy idea of moving abroad was now a reality. As soon as our luggage arrived, a new life would begin.
Actually living in Barcelona had been the most difficult part for me to imagine while we prepared for our move. There were so many things to do first—acquire a visa, pack up our apartment, figure out what to bring, what to toss, what to store. I worried about childcare. I obsessed over the journey.
Together, we did one thing after the other until there was nothing left to do but go. We left at night and arrived in Stockholm early in the morning. I taught my son how to bark like a dog while we waited at our gate. “Arf, arf,” he said.
Our stuff is still there, in New Jersey. We retained a mailing address on Park Avenue and we would continue to pay New York taxes. We were going away, but we weren’t leaving.
“We’re taking a trial separation from New York,” I told people at social events. “A trial separation is not a divorce,” I told them and myself. Our stuff is still there, in New Jersey. We retained a mailing address on Park Avenue and we would continue to pay New York taxes. We were going away, but we weren’t leaving.
“I’m so jealous,” people said. And I loved to hear them say that. “Is it okay that we aren’t going on a big adventure, sweetie?” my friend asked his husband. They thought we were brave, and we must have been. They thought we would have the time of our lives.
My father said, “Adults don’t make decisions based on the weather.” “But,” I argued, “didn’t you raise me to have a sense of adventure?” “That was your mother,” he said. My father lived in Chicago his whole life.
I had always considered myself an adventurous person. I took a semester off in college and traveled in Europe by myself. After graduation, I lived in Santiago, Chile, for a year. Even New York had been a leap of faith for me that I took without hesitation, without looking back.
They thought we were brave, and we must have been. They thought we would have the time of our lives.
But this time, moving abroad scared me. It was the kid, of course. The kid’s requirements wouldn’t be different in Barcelona than they were in Brooklyn, only now I would be in a place speaking a language that I spoke but not my language. We would be away from everyone I knew. “Everyone here is a stranger,” I thought. I looked around at the people waiting. Everything except our stroller arrived. We filled out a lost luggage form and piled into a taxi.
By the time we arrived at the apartment and dropped off our bags, it was way past bedtime. But we were hungry, and we wanted to see things. In New York, it was still the afternoon. So I strapped the kid onto my back, and we went out to find dinner. “We live here now,” I thought. “This is our home.”
My husband led us to a restaurant called Bilbao. It had white tablecloths and no high chairs. I let the kid sit in my lap. The waiter doted on him. The owner doted on him. The food was delicious—flaky white turbot and pan tomaquet (bread with tomatoes), anchovies, olives, salad. When dessert came, they swept the kid up into their arms and showed him the kitchen while we ate.
I looked around and thought, “Soon, this will look familiar to me.” I will know the street names and the landmarks.
“Sebastián!” they cried, with the happy, blonde baby in their arms, “El fenómeno!” One waiter after another came by with lollipops for the kid. We went home with pocketfuls of sweets that we would never give him.
Walking back through our new neighborhood in our new city in our new country, I looked around and thought, “Soon, this will look familiar to me.” I will know the street names and the landmarks. I will walk by Bilbao and remember this meal.
Moving to Barcelona: The Beginning of Our Trial Separation from New York
“That will always be the first place we ate in Barcelona,” my husband said, reading my mind.
“Arf, arf,” said Sebastian. It was we three, me and my guys.
This was the beginning.
Moving to Barcelona: Our Trial Separation from New York photo credits: Ilana Manaster
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