Return of the Homesick Blues

Return of the Homesick Blues

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"Homesickness has been visiting in my house for a week or two now. It hadn't paid a visit since early November, and I wasn't sure when it would once again darken my door," Expatica's blogger writes.

Homesickness has been visiting in my house for a week or two now. It hadn't paid a visit since early November, and I wasn't sure when it would once again darken my door. I think it slipped in the night E-Man carried in a big birthday care package from my Grrrl friends.

About ten of them gathered in the US to celebrate my birthday a week ahead of time. They filmed the party, put together the package and mailed it. In a miracle of international shipping, it arrived in time for me to enjoy at my birthday celebration at my home here in Belgium. Opening the box unleashed their love and good wishes — and called Homesickness back to the table.

Watching the video of Heather, Michelle, Joanna, Jan, Janis, Lisa, Stephanie, Beth and Eileen made me long for my old neighborhood and the Grrrls' Nights Out that we held in each others' homes.

After seeing the Grrrls, I had to re-visit the Christmas card photos of the children that brought us all together. They are growing up, their round cheeks replaced by sculpted cheekbones, the neat white lines of baby teeth have been replaced by gap-toothed smiles. Some have filled out, some have trimmed down, hairstyles have changed, glasses appeared and braces are on the horizon.

These are the babies we used to push in strollers through the shady streets of our neighborhood, the ones who needed help on the swings and someone to wait at the bottom of the slide, the ones who first entered the pool with swimmies on each arm and a reluctance to get their faces wet.

Now the playground swings and slides hold far less appeal and in summer they spend their time in the pool treading water in the deep end, going off the diving board and waiting for the life guard's whistle. Even as we see our kids grow together and grow apart, the Grrrls have remained a unit.

In other parts of America, I have great-nieces and nephews that I have never seen (Madeline, Eric, Molly, Anthony, Kathryn) and others I haven't seen in far too long (John, Meghan, Matthew, Stephen and Alex). I hate that I'm missing the chance to connect to the next generation in my family, though admittedly, even when I lived in the States, we were separated by hundreds and hundreds of miles and rarely had a chance to visit.

Next month my niece Anne, a junior in high school and a talented musician, will be playing with an orchestra at New York City's famous Carnegie Hall. She has an English horn solo during the William Tell Overture. How I wish I could be there to hear her play. Last summer, she toured Europe playing oboe with another orchestra, but never got close enough to Belgium for me to attend a performance.

Down in Florida, my mother-in-law lives with my sister-in-law's family. Each year, she spent a few weeks in our home, and it's been more than a year since we saw her last. That's such a long time. My children miss her and we all are sad because though she is Belgian, she hasn't visited Belgium in decades — and her health doesn't allow her to visit us now.

E-Man is traveling to Virginia next month to pick up financial documents that are presently in storage, but that we recently discovered we need to file our US tax forms.  He'll be staying in our old home with the friends who are renting it now. While there he'll tend to his beloved flower beds and prune the shrubs and trees, something our tenant, who has severe allergies, can't do. And I'm sure he'll crawl around in the attic to check the roof, slide under the house to make sure all's well there, and attend to any maintenance issues before he flies down to Florida to see his mother. In a twist of fate, he'll be flying back to Belgium on the first anniversary of the day we arrived here.

I so wish I could join him on this trip. I long to go home and retrace my steps, see our friends and family, bask in the sun shining through the windows of our house, get a bagel at my favorite coffee shop, go to the mall.

But my yearning to visit home is tinged with anxiety. How will it feel when I visit America? Will it make returning to Belgium difficult? Will the thought of resuming our old life there seem less appealing?

We're committed to staying here for three years, but have the option of staying for five. The tug of war in our minds and hearts on when to leave is unrelenting. We discuss it nearly every day. We're planted on two continents now with friends and family in both places, and somewhat complex career, financial and educational issues to consider in whatever decision we make.

As I sit in Belgium this February entertaining Homesickness, I know we're in the middle of a long-term relationship.

One gray day I'll lean over my kitchen sink and gaze out the window in Virginia and let out a long sigh. "This reminds me of Belgium," I'll say. And then I'll put on the kettle, join Homesickness at the table and revisit the places and people I love.

 

V-Grrrl / Expatica

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