On the worst of days, I thought this day would never come. On the best of days, I hoped it wouldn’t. Tonight, we get on a plane and leave New Zealand. I am, uncharacteristically, emotional about this transfer of location. Simply, we have had the time of our lives. Before this visit, I was admittedly out of touch with everyday life in New Zealand. How could I not be? With the exception of the 7 months I spent preparing for my wedding, I have not lived here as an adult. Ever. I left at 18 with all the confidence of an adult and none of the life experience to back that confidence up.
America became my new batch of firsts. First serious boyfriend which predictably resulted in my first (and thankfully only) broken heart. I left a trail of opportunities both seized upon and missed. And I had fun. Just as I was set to return home to New Zealand, I met my future husband and decided to stay. Months folded in to years and life flew by at lightning speed. Time is a thief that steals from all of us and I am no different.
During the many visits home over the years, I spent time with my family and the friends that remained. But I have learned is that touch and shared experiences are required to strengthen ties. FaceTime and Skype can maintain a relationship but they can not deepen it. I wanted my children to know their family on this side of the world and I wanted my family to know them. A fortnight at Christmas would reinforce that there is love there, but maybe not the individual reasons why. So I decided that we would come and live here for 6 months. We would experience the joys and the challenges of living near family. Thankfully, the challenges were neglible and the joys were numerous. One of the things that I am missing out on the most is being a full time daughter. Early on, Mum and I decided that Thursday’s would be our day. We could lunch or see a movie or just sit at her kitchen table and laugh until our sides hurt. While I know that weekend visits from the grandchildren were the big draw, the moments when it was just us, laughing like school girls, when time stood still for both of us, as if I had never left or maybe because I did, these memories are worth the world to me. And I suspect for her too.
Under the guise of ‘for the children’, I could rationalise coming home. I wanted to see if I could hack it. Although I can fake an American accent like a professional actor (especially when I need to order b u t t e r r r r) I have never identified as American. I was, and have always been, a kiwi living in the States.
A few months ago, during a lovely lunch with my dear girlfriend, she casually mentioned that I must be looking forward to going home. Never one to swallow my feelings or not share my thoughts immediately (I know-lucky husband…) I immediately launched in to a long winded yet surely concise argument about how New Zealand will always be home. This has seemed a tough concept for many friends to swallow. 20 plus years living away? And New Zealand still feels like home? Yes yes yes. One hundred times YES!!!
Leaving at 18 was, in retrospect, easy. Ignorance truly is bliss. I have watched my children not only develop strong ties to their New Zealand family (just ask them to describe their Nana and all the things they love about her) but also to this land. Our land. They have grown in ways that are both obvious now, and will reveal themselves in the years to come.
From the very first mention of this adventure, my kids were on board. Knowing that they would have to leave their friends and their home and most importantly, their Dad behind. Maybe all kids would have been. I don’t know. What I do know is that I will be forever grateful to Emma, Tate and Poppy for giving me the gift of coming home. Without their enthusiasm and open mindedness, this idea would have remained just that.
And to my husband who not only supported the idea of me taking our kids to live in New Zealand without him, who encouraged me to do it and not look back, who never wavered in his support of me, I am forever thankful.
Not too long ago as I was tucking my 8 year old son in to bed, he said to me, “Thanks for giving me this experience Mum. But I am sad because now that I have friends in New Zealand and the States, I am always going to miss someone.” My reply confused him. “You’re welcome” I said. I then explained to him that he now has two countries to call home and what a gift that truly was.
As painful as it will be to leave, it will be wonderful to see my American friends again. I am looking forward to wine soaked catch ups and the services of an over qualified babysitter that works for free(thanks J…).
I just hope that when we see each other again, they welcome me back and not home.