New York Notebook

Being so far away from family might in some ways be beneficial

Not being able to get home to the UK this past year has been hard but technology has meant that in some ways it has given me a chance to reset the relationships that mean the most, writes Holly Baxter

Tuesday 23 February 2021 21:30
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<p>There’s nothing like an all-pervading sense of doom to encourage us to look again at our relationships</p>

There’s nothing like an all-pervading sense of doom to encourage us to look again at our relationships

B

eing thousands of miles across the ocean can do wonders for your family relationships. I know that makes me sound like an ageing misanthrope with three divorces under my belt, but hear me out. While I’ve been living in a 300 sq ft box in Brooklyn and the rest of my family has been scattered around England, I’ve found out a surprising amount about my siblings and parents. There’s nothing like an all-pervading sense of impending doom to press the reset button on relationships you might otherwise have let drift apart.

When lockdown first began and it became obvious that we wouldn’t have the wedding we’d planned or be able to get back to the UK for an extended period of time, my biggest worry – beyond the nightmare-inducing thoughts of mass family death that come in the night and everyone pushes to the back of their consciousness each morning – was that my niece and nephew might forget me. My niece was five when we left the UK and is on her way to seven now; my nephew had only just been born. We’d expected that at our wedding, Niece would be a stumbling little flower girl and Nephew would be a beaming little babe-in-arms. Needless to say, Niece is now an energetic, homeschooled sofa-destroyer and Nephew is a Buddha-like bruiser who stumbles drunkenly around in the background of Zoom calls, screaming “BA BA BA BA BA” into a hand-me-down Barbie hairdryer.

At other times, I’d go for a wander round deserted shopping areas and emptied-out skyscrapers while having long conversations with my dad about philosophy

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