We’ve just arrived back in the US, after spending Thanksgiving in the UK. And it’s very very strange. For one thing, the word ‘home’ is forever used in inverted commas, because it’s never really clear where home is. The old adage “Home is where the heart is” is absolutely no help whatsoever, because there are people I love and memories I treasure everywhere we have lived, with the small exception of a two bedroom apartment in Playa Del Ray.
This one was a tough visit. It seems we will be transferred to the US on a more permanent basis, and so our home in Wales is now on the market and our whistlestop visit there was eaten up with the practicalities of what to take and what to leave, and trying to capture all the happy memories on camera before we leave for good. The Less Wiggy One pointed out that everywhere we go, we just “get rid of everything”, which in material terms, is startlingly accurate. And while I don’t miss many of the ‘things’, we are in danger of losing the memories that come with them.
Yet again, our family and friends saved the day. A chance Facebook message from a cousin who my children don’t even remember meeting morphed in to a mammoth tea and tale telling afternoon, full of laughter and stories from three generations of people who are an integral, if no longer immediate, part of our lives, but who between them can paint hilarious pictures of our family foibles for seventy years. My sister pulled out all the old, out-of-focus photos from our childhood, inciting two days worth of retelling of adventures in early parenting, while my mother had the black and white proof that yes, indeed, being un-photogenic was a family trait. And an evening with my brother and his family, where we picked up our stories exactly where we left off a year ago, without so much as a pause for thought, was a timely reminder to the children that it’s the people that are the custodians of our memories, not the bricks and mortar. Unless you count Julian and Gill, who have the children’s handprints immortalized in cement on the floor or their greenhouse, another discovery that the rest of us had forgotten.
Relocating is a double edged sword. You experience new places, and meet people that you now can’t imagine not being part of your life, but you also leave behind those very people with every move. We are really lucky that we have friends and family who are incredibly tolerant of our nomadic ways, who regardless of how long or how many visits it has been since we have seen them, still stay in touch. We didn’t get to see most of people that we wanted to see this time, but there is something incredibly humbling about having messages left on a phone that is used for one week a year, or Facebook messages or emails, that offer a welcome, a bed, a meal, or most importantly, security of knowing that we may be gone, but not forgotten.