Friday, March 13, 2015

Third Culture Story: Going Home?

"Home is where the heart is."
"Home is where you hang your hat."
But "home" is not a cliché. Home is what you see as soon as you wake up in the morning. 

Home is where you drink your tea before driving the children to school. Where you wake up in the middle of the night because someone has a fever or a nightmare or both. Where I, personally, make an extra-special meal the night before my husband flies off for another business trip. And, where we toast his safe arrival back home. Which has been almost every week since living in Belgium for the past 11 years.

This village is home. Where we've celebrated births, baptisms and, unfortunately, deaths. Where when we turn down the cobblestone lane, we know we're just about home.

In a few months, we'll drive back down those cobblestones on a brand new journey...
Career and family choices brought us here and will return us in a few months to the US. Acquaintances ask me, “Aren't you happy to be going home?” And that last word always throws me off.

We're not moving to Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, California, or New Jersey where I have lived at some point since knowing my husband. As for him, a Frenchman/Englishman/American, he was only born in Georgia because his parents were expats for a few years.

My twelve-year-old doesn't remember her YMCA daycare that she left at 11 months old. My ten-year-old was born in Belgium – the best by far souvenir anyone could wish for. So, “home” is a confusing assumption. I have concentrated so much on the fact that my children are Third Culture Kids, but I now feel just how much I am a Third Culture Grown-Up. All because of one word. Home.

When we get to Texas, rich with its own history, values, customs, cuisine and, yes, languages, I expect to experience a certain learning curve. I majored in French and studied abroad during college. I traveled. I was a nanny near Geneva. I came back to France for graduate school. So, moving to Belgium felt quite comfortable. The biggest hiccups here have been remembering that I have to go by my maiden name (Every time I call for an appointment, they think I'm schizophrenic: “This is Madame Nott, I mean I'm Madame Ralph.”) and saying “nonante” for “quatre-vignt-dix”.

For Texas, we have a new school system to understand, new immunizations required (which reminds me I need to call for that appointment), and I'll have to take my driver's license test again (in surely a much bigger vehicle than I am used to). Plus, although we all speak English fluently, how long will it take us to stop saying Bonjour to the neighbors? And I must remind the children not to kiss their friends and teachers on the cheek every morning!

When the big yellow school bus screeches to a stop, and that door folds in, yes, I'll remember climbing those steps and hoping there's a seat open next to the nice kids. But, I have never had to watch my children do that. No more rabbit, duck, or fish served in the cafeteria, but hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza. We've never cheered at a football game. They've never even said The Pledge of Allegiance!

Our coffee table books of Belgium, Africa, Magritte, Peoples of the World (Usborne), find themselves now under Lonely Planet and Insider's Guide books to America and Texas. We started watching History Detectives on PBS, thanks to Apple TV.

So, technically, will my children still qualify as Third Culture Kids? Belgium has been their home for the first decade of their lives. Whether we stay in Texas for 2 or 10 years, this European soil has seeped into their blood and will circulate no matter where we are. More likely than not, a new adventure awaits us after Texas, and after that...

Now my original challenge flips: instead of assuring ways for my children to keep up their English, I'll need to find ways for them to keep up their French. Despite what the children will speak between school, church, and extra-curricular activities, we'll be sure to have plenty of French-language books, magazines, and music at home.

There's that word again. Home.

At the end of the day, inside each of us and wrapped up around us as a family, is the energy and space called home. When I go pick up the kids this afternoon, and someone else says, “Oh hey, I hearing your moving home,” I'll just smile, knowing that I'm not going, nor leaving, home... but carrying it with me.
Always up for a new adventure... together.

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