Yesterday, I emptied out a handbag for my daughter to use, and I came across things like baby hair bows, lipstick with the indent from my lips, and a spare contact lens—all of these things, relics of a life. But I didn’t tear up until I started looking at the papers…the Sainsbury’s vouchers, ASDA receipts, even a handwritten note from my old neighbor. It hit me like a fist between my ribs: you will never live there again, in that place, in that house, surrounded by those people. England. I could hardly bear it, those reminders of complete and utter loss, the end of something meaningful and real and beautiful.
When I first moved to England, I was so scared. I refused to drive until I finally hated myself too much for being such a chickenshit—two months! I didn’t know where to go to buy wrapping paper or thread or yarn. I didn’t know what anything was—what the hell is a queue? And the endless roundabouts—are you kidding me? Plus I didn’t always understand the accents and all the words they used—my movers had been from Birmingham, and I just sat there bobbing my head pretending like I had a clue what they were saying. But they didn’t understand me either—why I didn’t have a tea kettle, to start with. Then along comes the neighbor (who would become my dear friend) to the rescue, letting me borrow a spare kettle. Meanwhile I’m fuming because I HAD TO HAVE AN EFFING TEA KETTLE! Like it’s some sort of law.
I was miserable. I missed my family. My friends. My neighbors. I missed knowing how to
ring call people, how to find what I needed, how to say what I wanted to say and have it understood. I missed Monterey jack cheese and ranch dressing and Mrs. Butterworth and freaking Velveeta. I wanted to go home.
But before I knew it, England was home. I learned to love our new tea kettle, new friends, the travels, the pubs, Bounty bars, Yorkshire tea, digestives, and custard slices. Our first visit back to the U.S., a year after we’d left, was nice but…strange. Though our family and friends missed us (and likewise), we weren’t missed. Because life moves on without you when you’re not there. So when the time came, we were ready to go home. To England.
But eventually, it was time to move back to the U.S. I’ll tell you, it took me a good six months to come out of depression after that move. Because something happened to me while I was in Britain. I was Changed. And in that change, I began to understand who I was, and in some sense, where I belonged. I was HOME. But our families weren’t there, so we knew we couldn’t stay forever. But, damn it, it was home. Until Britain, I’d been a half-Ecuadorian too-young mom who struggled to find her place in suburban America. I never realized how hard that identity was for me until I’d left it behind.
But in all things, we eventually adjust. Right? Right?
This is what I wrote when we first began preparations to move back to the U.S:
I'm scared now. I'm rather frightened to go home. I feel the kind of melancholy that only permanence can cause. And this, this return, is oh so permanent. So final. And we have friends here. We have created a place for ourselves here. In some ways, I am more American here than I ever was in the US. Here, I have felt free. Our only obligations, for the first time ever, have been to ourselves. Selfish? Ignoble? I prefer to think of it rather as a generosity to our own souls. And it feels good. Inside, I am screaming: Finders Keepers!!! Once again, I see change before me, only this time, a return to status quo. I love and miss my family and friends, my church. But I am afraid.
"I have accepted fear as a part of life—especially the fear of change...I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back..." --Erica Jong
There is a pounding in my heart.
ba-bump. ba-bump. ba-bump.
I fear for what I will leave behind.
I wouldn’t give up my experiences elsewhere—not in Ecuador or Britain or any of the states I’ve lived in, but sometimes, I wish I’d lived in the same town my whole life, never knowing what I was missing. Sometimes, I feel fractured, like I’ve left parts of me in different places. I love our home now—it’s home. But I don’t belong only here. And some parts of me don’t belong here at all. Sometimes it feels like I’ll never fully belong anywhere. Maybe the only real home I have is my family and my writing—the only things I can take with me wherever I go, my personal little turtle shells.
You know, now that I think about it, turtles are pretty cute with those little shells.
I wish I could somehow relate this to writing, but it’s not really analogous. Sorry.