Monday, December 13, 2010


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.

And yet

"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. 


  1. I've lived in Chicago (or immediately around it) for 90% of the time I've been on earth. I love it here, I'm comfortable here, I'm very settled. Chicago is a part of me and it always will be. When you said you wished you'd always lived in the same place so you'd never know what you were missing it made me think of all the times I've wondered what I was missing despite having never really lived anywhere else.

    I feel like a little kid sometimes that just wants to stay up late so he doesn't miss anything that happens, I want to know what goes on everywhere. I've traveled a little but not nearly enough. I feel tethered here but thankful its at least a nice place to be tethered to.

    I'm sure at some point in my life a time will come where I'll need to go somewhere else for a while, but I'll come back here, eventually. Then go back to wondering about the rest of the world with different rules and different people. No matter where I am I'll always want to go somewhere else. If I'm here in Chicago I'll wonder about what it'd be like in Paris. If I was in Paris I'd be longing to return to Chicago.

  2. How strange, how rootless so many Americans seem to be, Carolina. Are you coming back here? My new friend Bev told me she didn't fully realised that she was definitely English - not British - until she visited her parents home country of Jamaica for the first time.

  3. Awwww don't be sorry for writing this!! This is lovely!! It's great to know you are a citizen of the world and that you have lived and moved in so many places!! How lovely - and your fears and hopes and emotions resonate with such honesty!!!

    I'm glad you got to have a tea kettle!! LOL!!!! You must never leave home without one!! Thank you so much for sharing here!!

    p.s. I work with a Brummie and he's lovely! LOL!

    Take care

  4. Oh your post is so touching... I live in the same place since I was born, so I can't say I really understand what you are feeling, but I can imagine... I don't know how I would react if I had to move, but I'm pretty sure it would be awful...

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, it is a beautiful post :)

  5. I hate looking at a house I used to own. I'm the only one who knows or cares were old pets are buried.


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