Thursday, March 01, 2007

A moving target

A friend asked me the other day what I miss most about the U.S. My answer was immediate: I miss going to Target.

It sounds so silly, really, and I swear, it's not about the funky or functional merchandise, or actually, anything specific I might buy on a Target run. A single trip to Target just simply encompasses almost everything I find myself missing here in the UK.

I miss being able to walk out a door to my garage, climb into my big ole' SUV and have it take me anywhere I want to go. I miss the wide roads and clear signage and driving rules that I understand and can instinctively follow along the way. I miss NPR and American radio stations to listen to as I drive. I miss cell phone calls from friends who need me to pick something up for them or who want to bring Julia home from school for a playdate or who just have a funny story to relay to me. I miss arriving, parking conveniently and walking in to a wealth of choice -- dozens of brands, hundreds of items and a
certainty about where to find what I need. I miss stopping to chat with friends, acquaintances or possibly even an outgoing cashier or two. I miss being able to buy whatever I want without worrying about how I'm going to schlep it all home. I miss paying in dollars without converting from pounds or cursing the costs.

More than anything else, I miss taking it all for granted. I probably went to Target upwards of once a week before I moved to London, and I never gave any of my actions a second thought. I know with certainty that while I'll do all of these things again some day, but I'll never do them without really thinking about how uniquely American the experience is.

When I return to the States, I'll miss the easy exercise of doing my errands on foot even as I relish the convenience of my car. I'll marvel at the size of the carts and wonder whether anyone really needs that much merchandise even as I pile in enough impulse purchases to fill one up. I'll be overwhelmed by the number of shampoo choices available to me even as I fall prey to the fancy packaging of a new overpriced brand. I'll be thrown for a loop by the friendly clerks who chat with my children after the hands-off customer care approach I've become accustomed to. I'm sure to notice how big and ugly the big department store, the strip mall in which it is housed and the busy roads that lead to the parking lot all are in comparison to the stately homes, cobblestone streets and charming shops of Northwest London.

In only 6 months, living in the UK has already changed me and my outlook in myriad subtle ways. I miss the conveniences of my old life, but I no longer see them as the only way. I have a foot in each world now, and I can't help but wonder if I'll ever be able to firmly plant them side by side again. The ability to pick up shaving cream, a swimsuit, stickers, slippers and shortbread all in one place? What I wouldn't give for that right now. But the ability to enjoy those things without also questioning them and, in some cases, perhaps even rejecting what they represent? I couldn't get that back even if I wanted to.


Blogger Lindyloo said...

I miss Target soooo much! It's the ability to purchase flip flops, makeup, a decorative mirror, some oil for my car and a new CD all in one store! But like you I love my walks to pick up veg and my weekly visit to the fishmongers. But still we're talking Target it's like an out of body experience!!

3:16 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Perspective is so good to have...and so hard to gain, isn't it? I am so envious of your adventures there -- and I would miss Target (and all it embodies) sooo much if we ever do something similar!

9:54 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

I guess you could call me a lurker, yet only a recent lurker. I found your blog only a few days ago and have since enjoyed reading about your families experience relocating to London. My husband has just been offered a transfer to London and we are debating leaving our comfy suburban lifestyle in California for unknown adventures "across the pond". Like you, I stay home with a toddler ( 2 year old son) and am trying to decide if a move to London could be worth giving up predictable days surrounded with family and friends not to mention those glorious Target runs in my big ole'SUV. The thought of moving makes me excited and nauseous all at the same time. I would love any ideas, comments, advise that you would be willing to share. Thanks!

1:11 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

Oops,sorry Rebbeca- We were just watching Peter Pan and somehow your name magically turned into Wendy. Did I mention I had a 2 year old?

1:16 AM  
Anonymous elena jane said...

it's nice to read that it wasn't just me who missed all those things when we lived in england nearly 9 yrs ago.
we're back in the usa, and i miss things about england all the time.
and i do appreciate the selection and the choice and oddly enough even the friendly ppl :-)

and target is a glorious place.

love your blog, found it by way of a link in the expat blog files (where, i have no clue).

6:44 PM  
Blogger Akelamalu said...

Target? It sounds like our Wilkinson Stores but not sure they have branches in London, possibly only here 'oop north'.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Two Crabs said...

Oh I SO miss "Tar-JAY" too. But, ya know, we do have Costco in London! And also Wal-Mart, but it's called "Asda" here.

12:34 AM  
Blogger pinksundrops said...

I loved this post. It paints the picture of the things we enjoy but despise at the same time so vividly.

5:33 PM  

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