Look at that sunset. I am so in love with the place I live in. It is beautiful and peaceful and feels like home. I grew up moving countries every couple of years. Staying somewhere for a few years was almost unheard of. By the time we settled in Scotland when I was 11 I had lived in 6 different countries. I left England when I was only a couple of months old, and we left Country #2 when I was about 2 or 3 so, although most people wouldn´t believe I remember anything, I do, but the memories are like wisps of smoke that float away the second I reach out to try and grab them. The strongest memory I have from then is watching fish in a fountain in a walled garden, with my big sister next to me. It is just a fleeting moment, a snapshot, and to be honest by now it is more a memory of a memory that was stronger when I was a child. How on earth is THAT one of my first memories? Was it my first moment of real consciousness? was I happy? It doesn´t feel like a memory associated with emotion at all, except maybe contentment?
My childhood memories properly start in Country #3 where we lived from about the ages of 3 to 7. Although we then left it is the only place we subsequently returned to as a family, on various occasions. It became this touchstone for me. I loved moving countries and schools. I remember sometimes being briefly upset at the news of an impending change but on the whole I enjoyed the excitement and discovery of such radically different places. I became used to being the odd one out, the stranger, the new girl. It was part of my identity. But I was also a child and as I got older I recognised the comfort and stability my friends had, living in the same house, the same room even! (imagine!) their whole lives. I didn´t miss extended family, not then, it was an alien concept to me. When our lives were occasionally punctuated with visits to Aunts or Uncles I saw them, for the most part, as people with only the vaguest connection to me. Oftentimes an inconvenience; adults who seemed to feel a familiarity with me I did not reciprocate. To me, my parents were the only adults that had dominion over me, who were these other grownups telling me what to do? Who did they think they were? We were 5 and it was all we needed. Us against the world. It really felt like that.
We settled in Scotland when I was 11 and I stayed there until I was 25. It is the longest I had ever lived anywhere and if people here ask where I am from I say Scotland because what else should I say? I am unarguably British but I have lived in England for less than a year my entire life. My mother is also English but born there as a matter of circumstance. Her family lived in Africa, her sisters all born there. Only she was born in England due to medical circumstance. My father is American. Scotland is the only place I have spent so much time, where I finally put down roots, where I became a teenager and then an independent adult. Yet I could never say I am Scottish to anyone from Scotland. My accent is as English as the Queen. They dismantle my arguments immediately and declare me English, without a doubt. So I never really, truly, felt I was from there either, not deep down in my soul. It is just the best I have, the closest I have felt to being from somewhere. I love the country. We try to visit every couple of years and I still dream of maybe moving back one day. When I visit it feels familiar and comfortable and good and I feel a deep sense of home.
But this place I live now. My touchstone. During all these years of mad experiences and cultural exploration it has been a constant. I never felt I was from here, I still don´t and I never will. But I do feel like I belong. I live in a village I spent a lot of time in as a child and for the first time in my life I walk streets that I remember as a kid. Pass schools that I went to and places I visited. If you have lived in the same place all of your life I doubt you can truly appreciate the significance of that feeling. You probably don´t even think about it. Think it boring or unremarkable even. For me it gives me a feeling of security, a feeling of having roots and history. Not the roots that held my family tight together, almost like Groot encircling the Guardians of the Galaxy as they plummet towards the earth. But roots that go strong and deep into the ground, securing me there and keeping me steady.
I still have to resist the urge to move frequently, changing houses even as we stay in the same place. In 13 years with my husband we have lived in about 7 houses. We have experimented with moving abroad and it was a moment of epiphany. I finally realised I, no, WE needed to be HERE. We needed to stop moving, give our roots a rest and a chance to dig deeper. Give our kids that security that one day they will take for granted, even complain about. Maybe they will wish we had travelled more, or seen more countries. Maybe they will feel like small village mice and wish they had been city mice. But even if they don´t realise it they will have strong, deep, roots and a knowledge of where they come from that will serve them forever, no matter where they eventually decide to go. They may never realise what a gift it is but it doesn´t matter. That is the way parenting goes.