No Place Like Home

I have lived on multiple continents, studied abroad and have traveled to dozens of countries.  Yet, this was a first.  It was the first time I have lived in a foreign country and returned home for a visit.  All the other times I have been away, I returned knowing that I was there to stay (at least for a while).  Brett had been back twice for work, but it had been 10 months since the girls and I had crossed the ocean to begin a new life in Denmark.  Suddenly, there we were…back in Seattle.

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I am familiar with reverse culture shock, so walking into Whole Foods and standing in front of the yogurt aisle, in complete awe of the sheer variety, was not a big surprise.  The world around me was loud, as I became acutely aware of the English language.  I withdrew money, ordered coffee and picked up medicine, all from the comfort of my car.  I made casual conversation with store clerks and returned things without a receipt.  I ordered a double, tall, split-shot, extra hot, caramel macchiato and the barista didn’t flinch.  Yep, we were back.

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We rode ferries across Puget Sound in search of a mini-adventure and yummy crepes.  We walked along drift wood and collected shells.  We admired newly budding cherry blossoms, snowy mountain ranges and lush evergreens.

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We reconnected, through hugs and birthdays celebrations, at Easter gatherings, over glasses of wine and around dinner tables with friends and family…

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The days in Seattle felt fun and familiar, like we had never left.  Yet, I wondered what the girls were thinking.  How did it feel for them to see our old house, eat familiar foods and see so many familiar faces?  When I was my daughter’s age, we moved from New Jersey to Peru and I wasn’t happy about it.  Looking back, I cherish that time in my life and have wonderful memories of being there.  But I suspect that at the time, it would have felt like a cruel joke to be offered the opportunity to go back to New Jersey for a “visit”.

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Before we left, other expat parents told us that the girls would likely go through the adjustment of moving, all over again, once we returned to Europe.  I don’t know if it is due to age or personality, but the 4-year-old’s transition seemed to go without-a-hitch, but in the case of a certain 6-year-old…they were right.  Her world is getting bigger and when you have to travel across an ocean for a play-date, you suddenly realize how big it really is!  Jet-lag, combined with confusion and homesickness did not make for the happiest days upon our return to Denmark.  Comforting my girl, I saw myself in her tear-filled eyes…skeptical of change and unconvinced of the value that adults keep saying this experience is worth.

Parents often talk about how well children adjust to new situations – sometimes with more ease than adults.  We often say they are tough, resilient and able to adapt. I find this to be true, but they are not inhuman and their emotions are raw and real.

Seeing her sad, I had to remind myself why we did this, which wasn’t hard to do, because I could see that this experience has already added value.  She loves with her whole heart and does not take thing – or especially people – for granted.  It has also strengthened our family’s bond.  Our little family of four provided her with the love and support she needed to feel safe and secure.  (Good sleep, a trip to Tivoli and a birthday celebration at school, full of lots of love and attention helped too.)

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for her to settled back in to life in Copenhagen – she is currently counting-down the days until her cousins arrive.  She can’t wait to show them her “home away from home”.

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One response to “No Place Like Home

  1. Pingback: Birthdays and Besøgende |·

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