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Showing posts with label thinky post. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thinky post. Show all posts

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.