Summer’s over, and I’m back in England after four weeks of touring the old countries. We returned to glorious sunshine, well-rested and happy kids, but still…
It’s not home.
This simple sentence seems strong enough to just stand there in its own. It carries a lot of meaning for me because I’ve spent the last few years considering all the implications of the little four-letter word at the end. I’m nowhere nearer to explaining it than I was five years ago, but I’ll keep trying.
England is my children’s home. They were born here, they have friends and neighbours they love here, and they get mightily confused when I call Germany “home.” They missed their house and their toys, and after a few weeks of holiday fun, this is where they wanted to return. We approached this holiday from completely different angles: While the kids experienced something new and unfamiliar for a month, I went straight back to my childhood. The architecture is familiar, as is the countryside. I am a familiar sight around there. Even Poland, a place I had never been to until I met my husband, felt like a safe, warm home, thanks to my new family. England just felt… incredibly far away.
And now I’m back, and it feels wrong and right at the same time. Because England is the right place for us. It makes sense. We meet in the middle, where we speak the same language and do things our own way, without interfering parents or in-laws. It’s the most logical place for us to be — all we have to do is let go of the sentimental, warm, fuzzy feeling of rightfully belonging in a place. So, fresh off the ferry and chatting about the long list of things to do upon returning, we both gave a little sigh, and we both knew exactly what it meant.
It’s easier said than done. On paper, Britain is the perfect logical place for people like us. We arrive out of need, love or curiosity, and we make the best of it. We might even fall in love with the place, or feel loved here. It’s the perfect home we make for ourselves, and we’re all in it together because we all have a faraway past that we had to leave behind. While I understand those who do belong here by right of heritage, and barely recognize “their” country anymore, I have always loved the idea of such a made-up place, more settlement for new arrivals than a real country. Poor Britain. We should have all just found an empty island and created our own little utopia from scratch. But of course it would never work. It can’t work. Within just one generation, there would be natives here, with a past and a feeling of familiarity, and we’d all not be same again.
Mine is not a special story by any means; people have been moving about for a long time. My grandmother turned 90 last week, and when I asked her if she’d heard from the mayor or had got a mention in the paper, she replied: “No, nothing. Well, it’s never really been my home, has it?”
She’s been living in my hometown for more than 60 years.