Home sweet home?

“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position … blah blah … seat belt … blah blah … turn the damn ipads off! …  Thank you.” … or something like that, meant the captain on my flight back to London.

I am on my way back home … home?.

I have spent part of the holidays at my parents’ home, the house where I grew up. I like my old room, with my creaky old bed, that belonged to my mum during her teenage years. I like the greenness that pours in through the windows, and I love the warmth that I feel anywhere in that house.

Outside that house though, things feel foreign every time I go back.

I moved abroad many years ago, and selfishly, the whole country decided to move on and continue with life … They did not care about my little need of keeping some things the same. New restaurants replaced my old “burger joints”, new developments popped up out of nowhere, people dress different and have worries and concerns different to what I remembered.

How could they do this to me?

Looking through the windows I can see a clear, bright, beautiful day, glowing on what looks like a thick blanket of cotton wool. 10 minutes before landing, the plane goes through that blanket, revealing a dark grey, very damp landscape.

I love the dark green fields surrounding London, the soil is so wet it looks black, you can almost feel the smell of clear rain. It is going to be cold, windy and grim; part of my body cringes … and the other part relaxes and feels at home.

Where is home? where is MY home?

I know the whole “home is where your heart is” concept … but I am wondering about it in a more mundane way.

Where will I grow old? well, older?, Is this it, am I going to be a London pensioner? Is this the land where I will be laid to rest?

The thought causes a bit of anxiety.

I came to London to study and give myself a chance of trusting my heart. Because of work, I got used to moving places quite often, for years I moved towns, and countries, with little trouble. My study coursework would last 2 yrs, so I guessed that was my time frame before being ready to jump to a new adventure.

To, once again, confirm that planning too ahead is futile in my case, I stayed and planted my roots here.

One of hubby’s friend, also an expat, is having problems with his little son at school. They have been very keen on keeping him on an all-Russian environment at home, so he does not lose his heritage. But the little boy has not been able to connect with the rest of the class, his teacher defined it as “a total lack of awareness on all things British”.

I guess it is a trial and error thing, trying to raise children as part of the community while keeping foreign heritage present.  I am raising a little Londoner, and I am committed to make him feel the British citizen he is without losing some of my traditions. I’ll learn to make sausage and mash and to deal with rhubarb, although I must say I already make a killer shepherd’s pie.

I think for now, I have those bases covered. But what about me? Is it here where I’ll stay to miss him when he decides to move abroad to chase his dreams?

My old country is not there anymore; London feels temporary, but I have been here for ages, so how really temporary is it? All of my friends are expats, in fact I am surrounded by expats: co-workers, neighbors, they are everywhere.

When I take Llollo to the common to play, I see how almost every family is bilingual, the least you hear from parents and children is English. French, Spanish, Italian and the odd Japanese, every time we go. Where are all the British families?

I have tried to join the community and become more involved with British people without success. I am likable really, very funny, but maybe I have been trying too hard.

I have no plan of action, I am feeling without roots and don’t know what to do about it.

Maybe I am going through an early mid-life crisis … should I get a Porsche? a motorcycle? a new haircut?

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On regret and being too late

My sister’s dearest friend is gay, or more precise, was gay.

They met ages ago right at the start of college through his then girlfriend; he was your typical small town, shy and dorky young man, passionate about arts and my sister was… well… my sister…

My sister and I were raised under the same roof. We ate the same food, drank the same water and got equal shares of love and attention from mum and dad. But if you give me a ruler and a pen and ask me to draw a straight line … well, I wouldn’t know where to start.

My sister, on the other hand, is amazing: she is creative, full of beautiful ideas and incredibly skilled with her hands. My sister is awesome, just like my mum.

Back to my story: my sister was, even at that young age, awesomeness in a petite package.

In each other they found somebody with intense passion for design, arts and all things creative. They became each other’s confidant and the toughest judge on the other one’s suitors. They were there for each other not only through the day-to-day drama that only college can be for the very young, but on deeply emotional matters; they were there when hearts were broken, parents were lost and when there were pregnancy scares.

They spent most of their awake time together; it was common for me to come back home in the evening from uni, to find him going through the fridge’s content, crashing on our couch or with his head on my mum’s shoulder pouting about something or someone.

It didn’t matter he had a girlfriend, or that he liked this or that girl. My sister knew, well before he admitted it to himself, that he was gay, and just waited until he was ready to come out.

She was there for him when he needed her, she helped him deal with many of his emotions and thoughts and tried to hold him together when he tried to face a tough and unsympathetic father. I am being unfair to his father, I guess he didn’t know what to do and didn’t really understand how to handle his doubts and assumptions and sadly acted the wrong way. He loved his son very much, he just didn’t know how to just accept and love, he put prejudice and “what others would think” first.

This post is and is not about that.

My sister’s friend lost the sense of home when he came out, he had nowhere or no one to “go back” to. He just turned around and jumped into the world with a new sense of freedom and unfair sense guilt and shame. He didn’t have “home” to talk about relationships, or what was right or wrong. By shunning him off, his family lost, if not the ability to help him stay balanced, the ability to guide and protect him when he needed it, just like we all need once in a while.

The only way he found to ease the pain was to put physical distance between him and his family. He dropped out of college, moved countries, and followed different careers. He wanted to explore, to learn and to love, and I guess, to find something or someone that would fill that huge hole that he carried in his heart.

He acted crazy and irresponsible, I am not justifying his actions, he was a young man and he knew what was right and what was stupid, but I do believe that when we are hurt or lost we tend to put more faith on acting on impulse.

On a silly night, my sister’s friend became HIV +

It took him quite some time to find this out, and when he did, he went and stayed in denial. My sister found out when he was hospitalized due to pneumonia and realized that days went by without him recovering, and that he was transferred to the “tropical and other infectious diseases” wing at the hospital. He wouldn’t talk about it and pretended not to listen.

She was there during his whole stay; she sneaked in the cigarettes and the cookies, she brought books and magazines and she helped him feel better.

She forced him to look at what being HIV + meant, and forced him to make changes on his lifestyle to take better care of himself and others.

Life got in the way and they drifted apart again.

Today my sister is at home heart broken. She is been crying for hours inconsolably. She got a phone call to let her new that her dear friend passed away last night, away from his family and most of his friends.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure to meet my husband’s old pediatrician … yes, the woman that healed him from when he was a little premmie baby, gave his baby a check up. On our way back to her home, she went on “full advising mode”, the type mums get into when time is running out and they need you to absorb the maximum amount of pearls of wisdom: you know like: this to eat, that to wear, careful with blah blah …

And at the end she said, “remember, this baby is not yours to keep, is yours to prepare for the world. Who he decides to go to bed with, is his problem, and his problem alone. Just love who he loves”.

Is it worth for a parent to lose a child because we don’t agree with our child’s choice of life companion? Really?

A workmate argued that is not just a life companion choice but more of a life style choice … how is that a life style choice? we all eat, drink and sleep the same. Work the same hours and do the same things for fun. How does life style change if you are gay?

How can I, as a parent, justify pushing my kid away?

For me it is just the same as pushing him away because he doesn’t like broccoli. In my view, that is how absurd it sounds.

My sister’s friend didn’t have to leave this world alone. He needed his family and his family needed him. I know it is very hard to realize that one’s child doesn’t get that “parents know best”; but as a parent love is infinite, we need to let or children “make mistakes” and learn from them, make decisions and live with the consequences, without removing the anchor that home represents if we don’t agree with their decisions.

I am not perfect, I have made mistakes and I will make mistakes with my child in the future, but I hope he always knows that I love him more than anyone in the world and that I will always be there for him.

This post is to remind myself to leave a light on for my child, so he will always remember where he can come back to.

Darling in heaven, I hope you get the peace and love your soul deserves, You will be missed.

from a dark place

I am in a dark place.

I finished the book I was reading over the weekend and I have been bitter and sad ever since.

When I got it, I thought it was going to be some sort of mystery/thriller type of book; I just wanted a silly book to read on my journey to /from work.

The story was unimpressive, not particularly well written. In it, the author was trying to bring awareness on the struggles and dangers children and teenagers, from a variety of social backgrounds, face and how society deals with it, by shocking.

Somewhere after 2/3rds of the dull story, something happened and it felt like a blow to the stomach. I meant to just read a chapter before going to bed and ended up going to the living room to finish it. I couldn’t read whole paragraphs, I did not want to read the details of what she was describing. I skimmed through the pages, trying to retain the plot without going into the details; I found myself desperately looking for a glimpse of hope or resolution, a happy ending that never came.

Why did I continue reading? Because I needed her to save those children. I did not want to have that image that shocked me, lingering in my head. I wanted her to make it better.

I know that terrible things happen to children every day, and the thought of it causes a vertigo feeling and this feeling has multiplied since I have a child of my own.

Now,  every child real or invented, in a movie, in a story, in the news feels like my own child. My heart aches, I literally feel a pang of pain, when I hear or read anything that relates to mistreatment or abandonment of a child.

When I was in college I tried to do something about this feeling. I volunteered in a safe house for children, who were victim of mistreatment and/or were waiting for their parents to come out of jail. I was young and didn’t know what to do, all I could do for them was give attention and care.

I am a “hugger”, I have always been, it makes me feel safe and protected, it makes me feel loved. I spent most of my time back then hugging and caring for infants, with a huge knot in my throat. Knowing that I was not doing anything to help, that what i was giving was only temporary, was extremely painful. I spent all of that period submerged in guilt and sadness.

I couldn’t find a way to overcome this and cowardly I stopped going.

The book, stirred all that was buried inside me.  I still don’t know what to do.

I have spent this weekend’s nights crying and the days weepy, how can I explain it? It doesn’t make much sense. But I am hurting.

What can I do? I don’t seem to find an answer.

How can I help? how can i make a difference? I want to but I don’t know how. And the inability to find a way is burning.

I am not hurting for the characters of a book that don’t exist, I am hurting for all those children I can not protect.