Because it was so much fun the first time round, we decided to do our Swiss move all over again. Seriously. What. Were. We. Thinking? This basically involved:
- Flying back to the UK with ridiculous toddler and now ten-week-old baby
- In the continuing ‘customs officer v toddler’ saga, said toddler telling customs man that her name was not, in fact, her name. Awkward.
- Repacking half of all the stuff we’d only unpacked four weeks previously when we moved to our new pad in the UK. (This had to be achieved in one day while the two small humans previously mentioned overdosed on Peppa Pig)
- Removals day rain
- Swiss customs forms. Enough said.
- Swiss insurance forms. There are not words.
- An up-the-back, soak-through-everything poonami from the baby on the return flight
- A cumulative delay of 4 hours over the course of the two 1.5 hour flights from our favourite orange airline. (Who are, I believe, solely responsible for the angry face emoji being orange).
But on the massive upside, we’ve now been in Switzerland for a lifetime (/ all of eight weeks), we’ve settled into our permanent pad which has the kind of views over Lac Léman that feed my soul and this place already feels like home which is bonkers really. We barely know it.
And all this got me thinking about home and where that is.
It’s the most familiar of concepts but also a slippery one to pin down when you’ve moved three times within a month or you’re expatting (a new verb I made up). The conundrum is a bit like the time my brilliant/mad university professor asked us to write an essay entitled ‘Who or what is Shakespeare?’ Erm…well he was this dude who wrote great plays obviously? Questioning his existence is like admitting you don’t know where home is. But contrary to popular opinion there’s a load of evidence to suggest the he (or she?!) was a number of playwriters. And then there’s the whole question of what he/she/they have come to represent (how long have you got…?) This may all be getting a bit heavy but my point is that home isn’t as simple a concept as the word feels. If you’re a bit of a geek, just check out the etymology. When it comes to origins we know very little about the word ‘home’. In terms of meaning, it can signify a house and it can encompass an entire country. It is the most elastic of places.
For me, home used to be where I grew up. Cornwall. Where my mum is. Quite literally The Motherland. But then I became a mum and my sense of the motherland stretched. Cornwall is still home but so are all the places (three so far) where I’ve begun to raise my own kids. As the toddler exclaimed when we arrived at our latest pad in Switzerland ‘Another home mummy!’
Home is both where I grew up and where (plural) my girls are growing up. Where I was mothered and where I am doing the mothering thing (whilst looking around wondering where the actual grown up is).
My mum and dad don’t live in the same place we grew up. They’ve just built a new pad with a fridge that has Wi-Fi (that no one knows how to use) and a Japanese loo that does all manner of things to your bottom. It is completely foreign and yet still a massive piece of home and was from the minute I walked in the door a few weeks ago.
Equally, why did Switzerland feel like home so quickly? It might have something to do with being surrounded by vineyards. But wine aside, we feel ourselves here. Maybe even a slightly better version of us. Living our best lives and all that. We’re surrounded by people who have taken a similar leap of faith, uprooted their lives and gone for it. And I’ve met some brilliant women, who are also forging motherlands away from their Motherland. We’ve bonded over mothering inevitably (that’s how we met, because our toddlers shared some snot in a park/nursery/playgroup etc) but there have been connections beyond the snot that act as fast-bonding agents – miscarriage, mothers suffering from the same debilitating disease, stints in the same countries in past lives. Some of them speak four languages and so do their kids. I am in awe. And I want a little piece of it too. I want to be part of this place. And so to an extent, it is home because we want it to be.
So here’s where I’ve got to…
Home isn’t bricks and mortar. It is a feeling. It’s the people you love most in the world, even after they’ve gone. My gorgeous mum is really sick and I am facing the reality of a world that is without her. But she is so etched into my sense of home that she will always, always be there.
Home is portable. It isn’t fixed. It’s fluid and it is many.
Pictures on the wall, the tangible stuff that’s rich in memories act as signposts but they are not ‘it’.
I stumbled across a quote recently that said this;
‘You’ll never be completely at home again because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place’.
I totally get the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place. And it’s because, not in spite of that, that I feel completely at home in so many places.