Saturday, November 29, 2014

The crib

I teared up as I carried the pieces of the white Stokke crib into my apartment from the elevator. The paint had chipped off some places on the top, evidence of a baby biting into the edge while calling for her mom. The wooden bars had screw marks by each hole on each level. The crib had been used at each level from top to bottom. Each piece I carried in reminded me of the days in California when we lived in the two story condo and the crib had been upstairs. It had moved from our bedroom into it's own bedroom, back into our bedroom and back to the baby room again. It was on wheels and I knew how to quickly screw off the side so it could go through the just too narrow doors. It had been dismantled by the moving people and moved to Stockholm where I had put it together again. But the last adjustment I hadn't done. The last adjustment of taking off the side panel so the little girl could get out herself was done by her dad. Because by then I had moved out and the crib had stayed. I couldn't bear taking anything because I wanted Zoe to feel that at least there was something that was the same. But girls grow and recently her dad bought her a 'big girl bed' even though the crib could have been extended with a new mattress. I don't think he knew.

It was less difficult to pick it up than I had feared. I entered the apartment that we had bought together, where Zoe's dad still lives, and went straight to her room. Yet, I couldn't help peaking around on my way out. It is such a nice apartment, I mean, I chose it too. It was weird seeing the furniture we had bought together, some that I had even bought on my own like the red arm chair and the puff. I had never asked for it since none of it would fit in my apartment now. But I missed it, like I missed him and our life together. I considered for a moment if his friendliness earlier when he gave me the key had meant anything. Anything more than 'we can figure out how to be friendly co-parents'. I certainly know I am not over our marriage yet and concluded the other day that it was very likely that I never would get over our split. Just like you don't get over losing someone close. You move on eventually but you don't get over it. I'm doubtful I have even moved on. We still have a ghetto divorce*, so something keeps telling me he thinks the same, but then again, he is not the one to bother about paperwork so it might just be me.

I put the crib pieces in Zoe's small room because they would be picked up even before Zoe would get back in a couple of days. I took a deep breath and thought about how much that crib meant to me. I wouldn't know where to start. The arguments we had over me wanting this lovely crib that cost 900 $ and Zoe's dad not wanting to pay that, only for me to buy it anyway? The millions of times I sat next to it singing songs for a little baby who couldn't fall asleep? The way I would come into a the room with a baby girl standing on her toes to reach up and bite the edges, having paint around her mouth? In any case that part was over. I was handing it down to a dear pregnant colleague of mine who I felt was the only one in this world who should have this crib. I wouldn't sell it for money, I wouldn't give it away. Instead I told her she could borrow it as long as she would help me pray that I would need it back. Because that was probably the greatest sorrow right now, the fact that I didn't need it back myself

Instead my colleague will pick it up on Saturday and it will once again be used for a little baby now that my baby is not a baby any longer. 

*a ghetto divorce is a separation without actual paperwork; technically we are still married. One of the consequences is that if one of us dies the other still gets the money and insurance. I have no problem with that.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

New York dreaming come true

"Look mommy, I'm drawing myself", Zoe said as she drew a picture of herself as well as her house on the whiteboard in my office. I had taken her into my office on this afternoon because I had to work late and had hoped she would enjoy the theater piece that was going on, as part of the opening ceremony for our new building. The play was a bit too adult and she was very hungry, so when it was finally over (and she had eaten all my colleague's crackers) she was excited to run around the offices and get to know my PhD students. But she was very specific when one of them came to ask her if she wanted to be shown around. "I'm drawing this for my mommy, but I'll come afterwards". I praised her artistic skills and we hung up one of her drawings she had brought from daycare. "I'm drawing this for you so you can think of me when I move to New York", she continued. Oh, was all I said first. I knew I actually hadn't told her anything because I wanted to make sure things were settled. "So when are you moving to New York", I then quizzed her. "When I'm this old" she said confidently and held up both her hands. 10 years. "Are you moving on your own?", I asked and she nodded, ah ha. "But if you are moving there then I'm moving with you", I continued, already imagining this lovely scenario. "But mommy, then you have to take another airplane, I'm moving there by myself", she then replied. She was certainly not letting her mom tagging along just like that.

A few days later I was able to tell her that her dream is coming true, except she will have her mom tagging along. We are moving to New York! For 6 months. I am going to New York on a mini-sabbatical from January 2015 to work with some awesome researchers at a great university there. Zoe is going with me for part of the time. Getting my apartment rented out, finding a temporary place there and getting a visa has all been smooth sailing compared to the negotiations with her dad in terms of taking her with me, though. Of course if you ask Zoe if she wants to go with me to New York for 6 months she does not hesitate to answer excitedly yes. She has a good friend there and I have already signed her up for acting and dancing camp, something she is very excited about because it will be in English. But we share custody and her dad needs to see her too. So instead we are cutting her in half, sending her over to me a month and a half after I arrive and sending her back early too. The joy I feel over going there is most often overshadowed with the pain of being without her for several periods of 3 weeks. But I try to be strong and look forward to getting away from Stockholm for a bit. In any case, New York, here we come!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The glamour of flying

Sitting in Tampere airport waiting an hour and a half for my 1/2 hour hop back to Stockholm. The giant factory lights in the ceiling are blinding me, the security is not open yet and the woman at the check-in counter is surfing the internet. There are five strings of holiday lights in the window to push the Christmas spirit and illustrate that someone in the airport cares. The airport has four luggage carts that are probably used once per day. The machine that produces coffee from powder charges 2 euro coins, but I only have cards. Not that I want any coffee anyway at this time of night. I wear my big coat and woolen scarf indoor but my feet are still freezing. The last flight to Stockholm on a propeller Embrayer leaves at 9:35pm and arrives half an hour earlier due to the time difference. Flying is indeed glamorous.

Meanwhile I wonder why guys are such jerks. I mean really. I wish I could do all the things to them that they have done to me. I wish I could break all their hearts, expose their weaknesses, make them cry and feel undermined and worthless. I wish I could get revenge and just laugh at it all. The day I left for Finland I talked to a colleague of mine who I'm trying to be friendly with and told him I don't have the best perception of people like him at the moment. He surprised me by saying it was okay. I was entitled to feel that way right now. I wondered how he of all people had the sensitivity to think that and say it too. I decided that I hated all guys except him. Then he blew me off the next day and we are back to square one.

The airport gets more crowded with business people speaking Swedish, typing away on their phones, talking into thin air with white cords running out of their ears and people using the single check-in machine. It reminds me that back at the lounge in Stockholm they have taken the consequence of most travelers being men: the three bathrooms are distributed accordingly with one for women and two for men. Out of the 14 passengers now, four of us are women. I realize I can't buy the Mumin book I promised Zoe the morning I left because there are no shops here. Luckily I bought an advents calendar earlier today. We are working on numbers at the moment so that's at least relevant. At 9:05pm they announce that the plane is 2 hours delayed. I hate guys and I hate airports. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Frequent flyer

Last time I checked into the lounge they cut my gold card in two. Not because I am not gold anymore but because it had expired. Since I now have a combined credit/frequent flyer card I'm supposed to use that. Except I don't like running around with a credit card in my hand when I rush to a plane and I often let Zoe hold the 'tickets' too, which in my case is the card, in her case mostly a paper boarding pass (why they can't also put her boarding pass on her card is beyond me but it's probably because she flies on a child ticket). I grumpily went to the website and ordered new cards for both Zoe and me. When I got them it turned out she has been downgraded from silver to basic, mainly because I tend to buy her tickets on my miles so she doesn't earn nearly as many as me. But it did get me thinking of her amazing skills as a frequent flyer. Here is a list of her coolness when it comes to flying:

1. Zoe has security down. She walks up to the conveyer belt as a pro, takes off her jacket without being asked and guides the process of what goes in which box. She always insists on taking off her shoes and in the US I have to explain this to the officers who always point out that she doesn't have to because she is a child. These days she goes through the metal detector first but when she was little I would go through first before turning around and call her to come through. When she is through she asks me if I can ask the officer to 'touch' her. In Europe they always do it, very smilingly because she is so serious about it. In Stockholm where they have the shoe tester, she asks to use that too. So much for not letting strangers touch your child, but Zoe thinks this is an integrated part of security control. Oh and last time, I walked away and she was the one reminding me that we forgot our carryon suitcase.

2. Zoe enters the plane with a nice 'hello' to the flight attendants and asks how far down we are going. Then she counts the rows to the number I tell her, for example row 12, and hops in by the window. She buckles up herself and her doll and tells the doll not to be scared even though it is going to say 'boom' when we take off. She picks out the menu and tells me what we should get (most of the time she orders a small bag of chips). Recently she has realized that we fly through the clouds and is very fascinated by it. She wonders how soft they are and why the sun is always above them.

3. She still likes to take naps during the flight and fall asleep immediately with her head on my lap. But mostly she watches a video or play a game on her iPad.

4. Upon exit she says goodbye to the flight attendants again.

5. Zoe is now able to exit the airport by herself! A couple of weeks ago I had to drop her off with my mom in Copenhagen and continue to another city myself, but I only had 40 minutes between planes and didn't have time to go out and back through security again. We have been in this situation before: once I bought my mom a cheap ticket so she could go through and pick Zoe up airside, another time a friend of a friend who worked in the airport helped her out. This time I asked her if she thought she was big enough to go through herself and she proudly agreed. Luckily I was changing to domestic and it turned out that the exit at that part of the airport is much shorter than the international main exit. I had told her that if she didn't want to, of course I would exit with her and simply just risk missing my plane (Zoe's sense of safety is after all more important to me than any business meeting or lecture I might be doing) but when we got to the doors, she could see her grandmother on the other side through many layers of glass. She lightened up and ran off, forgetting to hug me goodbye.

All in all, she behaves like the frequent flyer she is. 4 years old and everything.