My children have never lived in England although they are British passport holders, so this is one whole new experience for them. My husband has never lived in the South. A whole new experience for him. But myself, I am returning to my ‘hometown’. The town where I spent most of my youth (when not living overseas myself). I guess I am a local, but also an Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK). I went to secondary school and college here. I even have friends who are still in the town that never moved away. Homecoming, I guess, it is for me. One out of four being a ‘local’ is a new mix for our family.
It makes me think. Hard. What am I doing? There are very surreal moments when you sit and watch life which seems to have not changed in those twenty years I have been away. And then I start to notice the differences. Things have changed is small yet significant ways. I haven’t been here long enough to comment if they are good or bad, just different.
For this initial period we are even based at my childhood home, with my parents. More weird. My youngest daughter is sleeping in my old bedroom as I did from years ago. She gains comfort in this thought and that is nice to know. Having a comfortable supportive home for us to reside in while we try and buy back into the rocketing English housing market is like gold dust. Never happened before.
Arriving in England, especially the south, in June is a great time. The weather is usually at its best with the sun shining an pleasant mid twenties heat. Luckily for us it was this way for arrival from France and the start of our English adventure as a family.
Stood at the school gates, I see my children run off into their classes and new found friends and then I feel all at sea. Who can I say hello to? I approach some other mothers and receive friendly smiles. Introductions are made and small talk starts. But I can feel this is different. It is not the same as the international expat crowd. It will take a lot longer to form friendships here. I must hold back, take things far slower than I am used to when we moved into new places abroad. My English accent now mixes in with everyone else rather than making me stand out. People are so busy, busy lives, most whizzing off to work.
Strangely I miss the morning “Bises” (kisses of hello) in French life that welcome the day. Here culture dictates I stand a metre distant and just say ‘hello’. There is no easy coffee house nearby to ask someone if they have some time to chat. But there are plenty of 10 minute chats at the school gates. So slowly, slowly I am linking parents with children. And maybe in between all of this a new friend or two will emerge.
It helps that my extrovert child has already managed several playdates with class friends. Today my eldest will be going ‘into town’ with some girls in her class after school. A first. But I am happy to see this progression and integration. We are moving to a small town where walking will be the new mode of transport to school, into town and seeing friends.
In a very strange twist of fate it turns out after having viewed over twenty houses for sale over the last 3 months, the one that looks like we will get is right next door to my oldest friend. We have known each other since we were 1. I have moved many times around the world and she has stayed here all this time. And now the circle is completing itself. Surreal.
A Homecoming. Yet still transient. As until I have my own home with all my belongings in it will not feel real. But overall our thoughts are positive. It still feels like the right step to take. The children are happy. They like the town, they love their school. Now I need to focus back on me. Always the hardest part of any move.
“Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.”