My Last Three Weeks in California
The day that I had highly anticipated for over a month finally came – I could pack my bags and leave New York for good. Even though it had been a time filled with lots of frustration and discomfort, it had also taught me to not give up and that what “doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Safe to say, I was more than ready to leave and fly back to my happy place California. I was excited for the sunshine, my friends, and, of course, my host family. But before I actually made it on the plane back to “freedom”, I had one more sleepless night in Brooklyn, followed by a 5 am pickup that drove me to the airport, where I then had to repack my luggage since two of my bags were too heavy. Agh! Back in those days one could check two bags for free and also bring two carry-ons. I looked like one of those poor donkeys that have to carry people’s luggage up on mountains and along trails in countries like India or Latin America. After I finally went through security and boarded the plane, I felt a long-lost relief. I escaped my personal hell and was looking forward to my last three weeks in the United States.
I can’t really put into words what I felt when the plane finally touched down in San Francisco. It was like a firework of happy feelings, mixed with a little bit of anxiety since I would be living under one roof with the new nanny of my host family. I briefly had met Nell before my move to New York. She was a really nice girl, a little younger than myself, but definitely capable of filling in my spot and taking care of the kids. She herself decided to leave her previous host family because they had resided in a really bad neighborhood with lots of crime and drugs. She made a really good trade coming to Walnut Creek. And we actually became good friends during my three-week stay in California. She took me along when she was done working to meet up with her friends, and she also was so nice to drop me off at the Tattoo parlor to get my very first tattoo! I always wanted to have one, and after all I had been through those last couple months I thought it was the perfect timing to get a tattoo that has a deep, personal meaning to me.
But before all this, I was anxious to see her taking care of “my” kids. I am not going to lie, there were moments when I locked myself up in one of the bedrooms just to cry that this wasn’t my home anymore. But even though I would have been able to stay with this family instead of going to NY, the day of leaving them would have come eventually anyways. I just regretted not ending my au pair stay with them rather than moving to New York. It was what it was, and it sometimes hit me hard, but I tried to stay positive.
I don’t quite remember if someone picked me up at the airport or if I took the train down from SF airport all the way to Walnut Creek, but since I had so much luggage I believe that either my former host mom or dad came to get me. It is hard for me to remember what exactly I experienced on my first day back in California, but what I can recall is that I was so happy to see the kids again. To me, the month-and-a-half apart felt like an eternity, especially seeing baby Carol now fully capable of walking by herself when she used to scoot over the floor on her bottom before. I planned on making the most out of the last three weeks that I stayed in California, including lots of activities with the kids and meeting friends, as well as getting my long anticipated tattoo.
Just three days before I was about to leave the United States to move back to Europe, I had my tattoo appointment. Nell drove me to the parlor, leaving me there while she had to go back to work. Nervously I was waiting for my turn. I had actually been to the parlor a couple of days before my appointment to talk about the design which I had drafted on a sheet of paper: an alignment of stars and lines intertwining. To me that design meant that if someone is going through a bad time, there is always light behind the clouds. I decided to get the tattoo on my right wrist, but I was really afraid of the pain. In the end it wasn’t actually as bad as expected, and I was super happy with it once it was done.
Later that afternoon, Nell picked me up again, and we drove home together to have dinner with our host family. I was trying to hide my tattoo from them at first since they are a little conservative, but eventually my sleeve rolled up and Anne saw it. I never forget how she stared at it incredulously and said: ”Your mother is going to kill me!” I roared with laughter when she said this, but also felt so relieved that from that moment on I didn’t have to hide it anymore.
It was a good last time together with the family before I had to leave. I was dreading the day that I had to go back to the airport, I really didn’t want to go back home. On the other hand though I must say I was also excited to see my friends and family in Germany again. It was confusing… With lots of mixed feelings, I said goodbye to my host family. This time for a longer while I knew and stepped on the plane going back to Europe. I didn’t really consider Germany my home anymore, I was so happy here in California that I already started thinking about ways to come back. But that is different story I will tell another time…
To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s life back in Germany after her au pair experience)
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy
Anne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.
If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.