We are back. Back in Blighty on home soil. Back where we know where family have been eagerly waiting, where our friends are, where the food is familiar and our accents no longer stand out.
So it was a surprise to me that on our return I felt a culture shock and an unease that had no place in the euphoria I had expected to feel. I felt a grief I had not anticipated because despite our happiness at being home, when you have lived somewhere for a long period of time that too becomes familiar, and slowly feels like a place you belong. Knowing you are not going back or seeing the people you have grown close to, leaves a dull ache in the pit of your stomach.
It’s been just over a month since we packed up our Brooklyn apartment and dragged our kids on yet another transatlantic flight back home. This month has been spent living back in Leeds at my mum’s house where the kids have had their own room and by and large we have had our own space to settle back. My husband isn’t working yet so we have had a lovely time as a four where he has spent real quality time with the boys not just snatched morning hours or exhausted weekends.
We have had time to see people and the boys are getting to know the family beyond FaceTime calls which frankly they had tired of anyway. Usually we have about two weeks to cram in visits before going back to NY but now there is less urgency and the boys, who both have shy tendencies, are coming out of their shells around family as familiarity sets in and I feel like everyone is getting to know them properly which makes me so happy.
But the transition has not been smooth and our three-year-old who has only known New York as home has struggled and I have felt intense guilt that I tipped his little world on its axis. He started acting up over things he never used to and keeps telling us he is “sad about New York”. He has refused meals as a way to maintain control over a new world he doesn’t quite understand. I know he will adjust fast and may barely remember our life in New York, but he is a sensitive soul and has not quite the understanding about what is going on. He just knows he isn’t home or in his normal routine.
Not having routines of work and nursery runs, while good at times, also stops you feeling quite settled and sometimes it feels like we are on holiday here and going back in a few weeks.
There have been other things to adjust to. The Yorkshire weather has been particularly cold, grey and damp since we returned so plans of days in the park or exploring the Yorkshire countryside have been fairly limited. We had been wearing shorts and T-Shirts permanently since June and our winter wardrobes are currently somewhere in a container over the Atlantic Ocean.
The other shift is has been that we are coming down from what was a big adventure. Life in NY even two years on still felt new and we were exploring new places all the time. There is no big adventure now and as hard as the time away sometimes was it was also exciting and eye opening and things now feel, well, just, ordinary.
But believe me there have been some amazing aspects about being home.
We finally have a car! No longer do I have to drag the kids out in the double beast of a buggy or carry them up and down on the Subway or rely on a taxi. Just popping them in their car seats and going wherever, whenever makes life a whole lot easier. The supermarkets here are so much better than the ones where we lived. I can go to a café and order a Jacket potato with beans and cheese. Yes that sounds insignificant but it’s those easy home comfort foods that you can’t get there that feel so great. I also had a packet of hula hoops the other day and it was a joy.
For the first time in two and a half years I have free childcare on tap. The other day the kids went to sleep and my mum said why don’t we just “pop out” for a meal. Just “popping out” has not been a luxury we had in New York. It involved a pre-planned babysitter and normally a $20 an hour charge. We went to the cinema too. And it was lovely.
This is very much the first step of our journey back. Next week we will be back in London and will be moving to a new house in a new area. My husband will be going back to work and the kids will be starting in new nurseries.
I think the heartache will stay for a little while but will be replaced with the business of life and our new life will become the norm. I will stop saying dollars, or asking for the check instead of the bill. I will stop saying super and awesome and our three-year-old’s accent which remains a mesh of English, American and Kiwi lilts will soften to English and we may forget at times we ever lived somewhere else.
But I will always remember our adventure. Stay in touch with the friends we made there and feel proud we had the courage to say yes to this opportunity and experience what we did with very young children.
Coming home may not be straight forward but it was the right time to come back and we will take so much from this adventure. We even came back with a little American of our own! And how great to take them back one day and tell our youngest where he was born and show them where we once made our home.