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Saturday, 2 August 2014

My long distance relationship... with my family!

coping with relatives overseas

Like pretty much every other young adult on the planet, I have a complex relationship with ‘home’. Increasing numbers of children are growing up in composite families, and I’ve always been able to joke about being ‘the child of a broken home’. Even my friends whose parents are still together find themselves in a strange between-space as they leave their families and find their way in the world. ‘Home’ doesn’t necessarily feel like ‘home anymore’… But that’s another post for another day. Today I’m going to talk about my long distance relationship with my family.

90s family photo
riverside nostalgia

My mum is Australian, so I’ve always been stretched across the hemispheres of the planet. One of my earliest memories is wishing that there was such a thing as a video phone so that I could see all of these strange family members who wanted to speak to me down the phone once a week. (Obviously this was pre-skype, pre-facetime, and pre-internet in homes!) We went to visit them when I was three – god knows how my mum managed to keep three-year-old Candy occupied on a 24 hour flight… And I was bombarded with affection and love by this army of fast-talking, loud-laughing Australians. I’ve been back to visit them five times since, sometimes for months at a time, and every time I leave, it hurts more.

family reunion sydney
tiny fashionista coffeeshop
port douglas grandparents

When my parents split up, I split my time more-or-less evenly between the two of them. I lived out of my school rucksack from the age of ten, and soon became accustomed to the feeling of always missing someone. When I was at my Dad’s house, I missed my mum and my silly Stepdad, I missed the big sofa, and I missed the endless snacks available for my delectation. When I was at my mum’s house, I missed my Dad’s music, I missed my baby brother and sister, and I missed having someone to chat to, the moment I got back from school. I was always at home, but I was also never at home.

My long distance family story doesn’t stop there. When I was eighteen, my Dad moved to France with my stepmum and my little brother and sister. I had just finished my A-Levels, and I was tentatively preparing to move to Cambridge in the Autumn. Around that time, my Mum decided to spend some time with her family in Australia, and suddenly a natural ‘baby-bird-flies-the-nest’ scenario was out of the question. It was more of a ‘shit-the-nest-blew-away-in-a-storm’ kinda deal. I was essentially an international student, in terms of my living scenario, but I didn’t have any of the special storage allowances afforded to students from overseas. I remember getting a couple of comments in my first term at university about why I had SO MUCH STUFF in my room – in truth, I had ALL my stuff in my room…

These days, my Dad is still in France, and my baby brother and sister are old enough to chat using Skype and FaceTime. My mum lives back in Australia, and battles with the same ‘where is home?’ struggle that I do. My story is far from unique. One of my friends’ parents recently moved back to China after raising her in the UK. Many other friends moved to the UK to go to university, leaving their families behind in Poland, Italy, Spain and all sorts of other places. And whilst Skype and FaceTime make keeping in touch easier than when I was a child, they don’t take away that feeling of displacement that you get from being part of a long-distance family. And don’t get me wrong, when I say family, I don’t just mean those who are related to you by blood. Half of my family isn’t. Blood has nothing to do with the hollow feeling of missing someone you love.

I’m a firm believer in re-imagining the idea of home and making it resonate with you personally. We’re fed this idea of home being a physical space, occupied by blood relatives and where hearty, nostalgic food is readily available. Home is advertised to us as a place that we can always snap back to like an elastic band, even if we stray far away…

Balls to that. What about all of us whose family homes now house other families? What about those whose childhood houses have been bulldozed or redeveloped?

Home doesn’t need to be a physical space at all, and even if we have to keep re-teaching that to ourselves for the rest of our lives, I think it’ll be worth it in the long run.

very young siblings

The photos above are a selection of old photos and newer photos of my family. I don't have photos of everyone, as a lot of my photos are packed away, but I love them all so, so much (in case you didn't notice), and I miss every single one of them more than I could hope to express in words.

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17 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos, I like your point about Home not needing to be a physical space at all :) I've had a completely different experience, as I've lived in the same home the whole of my life - so it was interesting to see the differences.

    vvnightingale.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Lots of my friends have lived in the same house for their whole lives. I kind of liked visiting their houses the most because nothing changed too much! :) Thanks for stopping by! :)

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  2. Just come across your blog and I must say it is beautiful, I love the design you have here :) looks amazing

    keep up the good work :)

    would mean a lot if you was to come say hi over on my blog http://myroutinesjade.blogspot.co.uk/

    keep in touch

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    1. Checking out your blog right now! Will add it to my bookmarks later :)

      Thanks for your lovely words about my blog! :)

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  3. Lovely post. Although my situation isn't the same as yours my parents split up when I was fourteen/fifteen so I can relate to always missing someone. I also feel like my definition of "home" has changed. I spent half a year abroad and I'm going to be studying abroad again, so now when I'm in Sweden, I feel like neither my dad's place nor my mum's place is 100% home. It's more like they, as persons, are home.

    xx Mimmi, Muted Mornings

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    1. Life is strange isn't it? The way that something can just turn everything upside down and change the way you view the world around you! Thank you for sharing your story with me! :)

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  4. I've just come across your blog after I seen you comment on Rosie's. This is such an amazing post. Although my parents are still together, and living in the same country, they moved from my family home and I moved away to university 3 hours away. I know it's nothing compared to yours, but I know how it feels to miss someone and I know the feeling of home not feeling like home anymore, especially as I don't even have my own room.

    I love your idea of home being something which your store inside, i gues when you think about it and you take all physical things away, all you have are the feelings inside, they will always be there that way.

    Kellie x
    www.justlikehoney.co

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    1. I'm so glad you liked this post and I hope you stick around for more! I'm sorry you feel so displaced at the moment, and I promise things do get better as you find your footing in the adult world. I hope that doesn't sound patronising - I don't mean it to be that way at all, and I know exactly how you feel!

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  5. Lovely post! I'm the same, my parents live in Australia, all my friends in NZ and America and it's only me and my sister in London! But it makes me appreciate it more when I do see them - skype and viber are a god send x

    Jasmin Charlotte

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    1. Viber?! I must be really behind the times. Off to google this slightly-rude-sounding magical thing that might help me stay in touch with my family! My mum has downloaded an app that lets us track each other's every move. A little sinister, but it's cool to see the little maps of Aus when I'm going about my business in London!

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  6. An emotional subject for me too, I understand how you feel xx My parents split up when I was 5.

    I'm 31 (almost 32) and I moved so many times so far, more than 10 in total. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, we'll move again :D
    For me home has a different meaning too, it's the place where I live with my husband&dog. Also, I feel like UK is my home, even if we moved here only a few years ago. I wrote here about this.

    Anca @ ancaslifestyle

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    1. Good luck with your move! We're moving in September (if everything goes to plan) and I already feel like I am living in a world of boxes. Hopefully I won't have to move again for a little while after this!

      I'm glad you feel like the UK is your home! I'll check out your blog post now! :)

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  7. Wow, that sounds complicated! My parents split when I was 4 and both got married again. My mum divorced and married again. I have often gone between them although we've only ever visited my Dad's- it was never home. It's weird now I am married as when choosing where to spend Christmas,we have three choices. My husband's parents are seperated but thankfully they've always spent Christmas with each other.x

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    1. These days, I usually just spend Christmas with my husband's parents too, which takes out a lot of the confusion, I have to say. When both my parents lived in the UK, sometimes I'd have Christmas morning with one and Christmas evening with the other... :S

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  8. I can relate to this so much though my situation I guess is easier because my family is still in Europe.

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    1. It's hard isn't it?! And Europe is big!

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