Monday, 31 May 2010

The Return

We ran away this weekend.

We piled the children into the car, and drove 650 miles for the pleasure of two and a half days in our old haunts.  Admittedly, if you're American, you probably do that for lunch, but believe me, it's not normal here.

We spent a day and a night in London with L's best friend and her family.  The girls were so delighted to see each other, and so exhausted the next day having bounced off the ceiling for three hours after they were supposed to be in bed.  But that joy, even allowing for the fall out, was worth the journey.  They're at that wonderful stage where time is totally elastic, so the fact that they haven't seen each other for a month means nothing.  A month, a week, ten minutes while one of them goes to the loo, it's all time apart, and immeasurable.  And when they are back together it's as if it has never been.

It wasn't unalloyed joy though.  In fact at times it was downright odd.  I turned off the A40, down the road my brother used to live on, and thought "nearly home".  And then had to gulp down the knowledge that it isn't home any more.   I bumped into six people I know at the swings, including the lovely I'm a Mommy Get me out of Here.  The dentist's receptionist ran out to give me a hug.  The guy who helps in the playgroup we used to go to grabbed the girls out of their pushchair and got ice cream all over himself for his pains.  And each time I had to remind myself again that this wasn't home, and that we had done a good thing in moving away from these people who love me and love my children.

But then I snuck back into our house (they're having building work done, and weren't there, so I blagged my way in (seduced the builders, you know how it is), and was actually really pleasantly surprised - they're doing everything I'd have done if we'd been staying there long term and had the money. It's going to look lovely.  I tried to sneak some photos, but that was a step too far for the builder...) and you know what, that didn't feel like home.  Maybe it was because the carpets were ripped up, and all the paint colours we had thought so long and hard over (yellow for L, because we didn't know what she was; green for S and A, because we did, and there's only so much pink you can take) had been replaced with natural calico, but it didn't feel like my house.

I've just finished reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon.  I was underwhelmed, and I don't think, ordinarily, that it is a book that would have stayed with me.  Except that he says this:

I was filled with a frail and sad exhilaration, which I really ought to have recognised for what it was [...] it was nostalgia, and what inspires nostalgia has been dead a long time.

And, although I rarely remember phrases I have read in books,  indeed, I quite often forget I have read a book entirely, that sentence echoed in me, like a slightly irritating itch, from the moment I turned into our old haunts, until I was safely back outside the M25 on the way to my parents.  So much that the first thing I did, on getting back here at midnight last night, was to go and look it up.  To examine it.  To see if what I had been feeling was a frail and sad exhilaration or just self-pity.  Or exhaustion.

Whatever it was, we are back now.  And I am glad to be back.  If that sometimes felt like home, we are now at the stage where this always does.  But the gloss has come off it somehow.  I am suddenly conscious that if I wander into town here, the only person I am likely to meet who knows my name is the postman, and he's not going to care whether he sees me or not.  And although I hope, and believe, that both L and I will find new friends here, and that I will become part of this community, it is going to take time and work.  And the longer it takes, the worse the nostalgia will get.

Image from  As usual.


  1. What a beautiful post. I remember that feeling all too well. I never used to know which way was coming home. Now I do, my home is here with my boys

  2. :( that's so sad. I hope you can settle into the community sooner rather than later.

  3. Glad you got a trip back. Believe me you will feel 'at home' and part of the takes time and the fact that you have such little ones will make it so much easier. Fingers crossed it is a quick transition. XXX

  4. It will take a while. It's rewarding, though. As with so many things in life, the more you put in, the more you get out, and as a newcomer in a community, you have no choice but to put a lot of effort in.

  5. I totaly know what you're writing about. And the putting down roots, and making friends, whilst exciting and fun, can also be exhausting. Always having to smile. Always having to be 'on' in public. Always - oh, looks like I'm starting to write the post I can't put up on my own blog because some of my new neighbours might read it... (Let me know if you ever need a guest blogger, won't you?!). Anyway, it will get better, I promise.

  6. I know that feeling all too well. Just sitting with you and sympathising just now.

  7. It is always hard, it always takes time but in the end it is always worth it. One day you'll wake up and realise that were you to go back to your old home, you'd be a stranger and you are more at home in your new home. But it is hard work there for a while.

    PS - glad Mr. Plan B enjoyed the poo jokes...

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Look who's commented! Pretty much everyone's a mover... and pretty much all of you put my measley 350 miles to shame....

    Mad Mummy - you're so right, and I'm sure that the ease with which the girls have settled in is part of what's making the whole transition so comparatively easy.

    Livi - sorry, wasn't meant to be sad as such, but it is a big change and I think I'm only just realising.

    Chic Mama - that's what my mum keeps saying: with the girls around I'll make friends before I know it. And in the meantime, I have you lot!

    Iota - as ever, wise words. Effort, here I come (even if, as PM says, it's exhausting!). Those future Scottish friends don't know what's coming...

    PM - I'm looking forward to that post. Seriously. Would be lovely to get someone else's take on the whole moving thing, even if yours is rather bigger than mine.

    Mwa - I know you do. In fact I've been thinking about your making friends posts a lot recently. How's it going? Any tips?

    Pants with Names - I couldn't get to sleep in the end because he kept sniggering... Your boys have a lot to answer for!

    That aside, thank you. I know it will get easier, and to be honest, it's not even that hard, but it means alot, coming from someone who's moved a really long way!

  10. Moving is so very very hard. Even when it is a good thing overall, leaving the people and places you love is so painful. Going back must have felt really great, except for the fact that you had to leave again. That quote is amazing. And I love what you wrote about it echoing inside you. Such a beautiful and poignant image. I hope that your new home feels more and more homey every single day. And always remember, all your internet friends are always here, just a keystroke away. XOXOXOX


I know. I'm sorry. I hate these word recognition, are you a robot, guff things too, but having just got rid of a large number of ungrammatical and poorly spelt adverts for all sorts of things I don't want, and especially don't want on my blog, I'm hoping that this will mean that only lovely people, of the actually a person variety, will comment.

So please do. Comments are great...