Note: While staying with my grandparents in Seattle, I do not have ready internet access. This was written offline and posted, hurriedly, while sitting in the car outside a discount furniture shop whose wireless signal extends to the parking lot. How we discovered this, is another story.
I took this blogsite down, temporarily, three and a half weeks ago, and just restored it the other day. Here’s what happened while it was hidden.
About an hour after I wrote “Busses and Bathwater,” I received a call from a polite, well-spoken immigration officer at Gatwick airport. My mom was standing in front of him. Starting with my current address, he asked me about my mom’s job, her sources and amounts of income, her relationship with my father, her addresses, her purpose in England, her destination, length of stay. He then moved on to ask me what I was doing there, and after I’d explained that I was staying with a friend to write a novel, he said, “I have an email from you to your mother, mentioning you babysitting.”
I scrambled to explain as best I could. He asked me about my boyfriend, but didn’t press it when I declined to discuss him. He said that he had further inquiries to make regarding my mom’s intended purpose in the UK, and that he might call me back later. During the next five or six hours, I discussed the situation with my boss, flinched at every knock on the door, blinked at every question from the kids’ playmate’s mom, froze at the sound of every phone call.
Finally the man at the airport called back. He said they had decided to deny my mother entry into the country because she did not have a job or a permanent address in the US. When I asked him why the home she owned didn’t count as a permanent address, he said that it just didn’t sound like she intended to ever go back. He then said that they knew I had been babysitting, and that even if I wasn’t paid for it, it counted as employment and was not allowed under my tourist visa. He then wished me a good day, said goodbye, and ended the call.
My boss thought it would be best if I went home, and I agreed.
My mom was searched, held in a room with several other international detainees in a locked room, watched outside by guards who only responded occasionally to their taps on the window. She was allowed a few brief, outgoing calls, no incoming. The contents of her luggage was fully examined four separate times, but she wasn’t not allowed to even access her purse the entire time. She was repeatedly interrogated. She was put in a van with four others and driven in the dark to a building fronted by two separate locked electric gates. She was handed a stack of worn towels and sheets and led to a room where six other women slept. The bathroom was covered in mold, but the plumbing worked. Not long after, she was awoken and returned to the airport, four hours early, to be put on the first flight back to Toronto. During the twenty hours they held her, they gave her one meal.
My boyfriend said he would come to the US somehow.
My mom and I began debating where in the US she should go, and where, two weeks later, I should follow.
I made a few hasty attempts to find nanny work in New York, from Devon.
My mom insisted I join her on a visit to family in Seattle, so I postponed plans to find work in NYC and bought tickets from Heathrow to Newark, Newark to SeaTac.
I explained to the twins that I had to go back to the US to see my mommy, because she hadn’t been able to come to England after all. “But I don’t want you to go, I like you!” one said. “I want you to stay forever and ever.”
“I know,” I said. “I do too.”
I had parting visits with my girlfriends, passing on books and yarn I couldn’t bring back to the US, promising I’d be back soon, stifling my worries long enough to enjoy one last chat.
I told American friends and family I was coming home. Some of those friends, in Manhattan, still think I’m going to be in New York any day now. That’s looking less and less likely, but I haven’t let them know that yet.
I’ll write about the last weekend, with Marcus, in another entry.
My aunt picked my mom and I up at the airport and drove us to my grandparents’, where we’ve stayed for the past week and a half.
We have new tickets, for a week from today, to fly to Buffalo, so we can spend the holidays with my brother.
A month ago, I thought I was babysitting in England until February. My mom thought she was a happily married housewife living in Toronto. Now we’re in Seattle, unemployed and without homes, wondering where we’ll be next week.
I think there’s a phrase about cookies crumbling…