One more sleep and we are off: on vacation as what often is referred to as ‘going back home’.
This makes sense: we are from the Netherlands and that will be our vacation destination this year.
Does that make it home?
Or our home-country?
Recently, while listening to the song ‘Vaderland’ (‘Fatherland’, home country) by the Dutch singer/songwriter Frank Boeijen, I was thinking about this.
The Netherlands is the place where I was born, where I grew up and went to school. At the age of 28 I moved to the USA for the first time. This was supposed to be a three-year- period in which my husband would work as a Post Doctorate Fellow. We sold our house, our car, but stored our belongings.
We stayed in the US for almost three and a half years, had two little boys here, and moved back to the Netherlands, our ‘home country’.
We bought a new house and a new car and got a new baby, a girl this time. Yet, our ‘home country’ didn’t feel as much as home as it should. The Fatherland felt a bit distant, a bit alienated. The currency had changed. Before we left, we paid with guilders, and when we got back, we had to pay with Euros. I felt a stranger in my ‘own’ country. I felt silly counting out the coins at the bakery, staring at these coins and very unsure which ones to use to pay for my bread.
Things had obviously changed in me too: when I left the Netherlands, I was a married, young woman. When I came back, I was the mother of two little boys. Friends had moved or moved on, we moved to a new town, we had to make new friends. Siblings were getting married, had children.
Don’t get me wrong: I was happy to see my family again, to show my boys to the family, to re-connect with friends. Yet, it didn’t feel ‘home’. It felt fine, just not ‘home’.
And the more we thought about it, the more we knew that ‘home’ was now on the other side of the ocean. So, when we have saved enough money, we bought tickets and took the long plane ride over the Atlantic for a vacation with a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 1.5-year-old. A trip I normally would not make with children this young.
But we had to know: where was home?
We flew into Boston, spent the night at a motel and the next day we drove the scenic route up into Maine.
I swallowed, felt a tear in my eye. My husband had this weird cough.
But it really hit us when we passed Ellsworth, Trenton and saw the island in the distance. The mountains, the ocean! I think we were both teary eyed at this point. We drove over the bridge and instantly the heavy feeling in my chest lifted: I was home!
The smells, the sounds, the looks: it was all there! Not much had changed in three years. Even the people we once knew, still remembered us and invited us back for play group (“Join us, we are still meeting every Friday!”). Oh, how we had missed this!
The boys, who were only 2 years old and 10 weeks old at the time of the move, somehow immediately felt right at ease here. And our daughter, who at 17 months, just started to talk in Dutch, pointed to the mountains in the distance and the ocean behind her and proudly stated, in English: ‘Mountains!’ ‘Ocean!’.
Sometimes you just have to listen to your heart, and every word my heart was whispering indicated that this was home.
Despite all the obstacles, we knew that we wanted to go for it and when my husband visited the lab and got three different job offers, the choice was made: we would move back to Maine.
This was nine years ago and although I miss my family, or wish that I could have a coffee with my friend, I really do feel at home in Maine.
So, tomorrow, when we board the plane, we are going to the Netherlands, the country where I was born, for a fun vacation and to visit our family. I am very excited and very much looking forward to it.
And in about three weeks, I am sure that I am equally excited to fly back ‘home’!