Before we knew it, the school half-term hit us.
It still feels like we’ve only just moved into a new house; we’ve certainly not arrived emotionally in the UK yet. The kids are still finding their feet as British citizens again, yet they’ve completed several weeks at school and seem to be finding their place social order with ease. While I still don’t really know ‘who I am’ in this strange culture, my kids – who are struggling with the foreignness of tying up shoelaces or eating with cutlery – are managing the complexity of school politics and pecking orders.
I’m struggling just to cope even with my ever-changing eyesight. In the mornings and evenings, to read, I’m now taking my specs off so the writing is no longer a blur. Having been so short-sighted I was damn-near blind since childhood, my eyes are finally doing what the experts tell us tends to happen as we get older: they are heading towards long-sightedness. Long-sighted people apparently go the other way. It’s odd that, isn’t it? Even our bodies are in a continuous state of change. Trying to ‘keep things as they are‘ is a modern-day myth really.
So anyway, the half-term came and went and we had a week of holiday. In typical Ford-Powell style, we packed up the car and set off to see as many members of our ‘family’ as we could. Of course, we came back the night before school began again, knackered and in need of a break. We never learn.
‘Family’ for me, is a fluid term. Some members of my birth family are strangers to me. I had almost no contact with them while we were in Bangladesh and I have no great desire to contact them now. Water and bridges and all that stuff, you know?
Yet many friends – those from Bangladesh and LAMB especially – count as ‘family’ to me because we share a bond that is even greater than friendship. Those who have been at LAMB understand just what that means and even if, all other things being equal, you would never have particularly been friendly with them otherwise, you share an immutable bond which is not easily severed and less easily put into words.
Our first ‘family’ members down in Leicestershire, however, were neither family nor Bangladesh-related but old, old friends who have been in my life as far back as I care to remember these days. An entire family now, growing up with alarming speed, who have been loyal to me and then my family seemingly forever. They are people who are a safe haven for me.
My best friend arranged something rather special while I was there: she made an ‘event’ on Facebook and between us invited people I haven’t seen since I left the area to do my degree over twenty years ago – and some I haven’t seen since school days before that. These weren’t strangers though. I’d already found them through Facebook long ago but this was the first time to see them face to face again in all that time. Apart from the odd wrinkle here and there, no one had changed. It was a wonderful time and we all left the pub that evening determined it would not be another twenty years before we meet again.
Then, up the road, I got to have lunch with my mother. I am going to stay with her pretty soon and get better quality time with her then but this trip was still emotional to me. She reminds me every time I see her that time is precious and slipping away with panic day by day.
Then we moved on to near Cambridge again to spend time with my sister whose family, just as it seemed all grown-up and ready to leave the nest properly, has rapidly increased instead. I know we all see ourselves as ‘still eighteen’ but I still see my sister this way too and the reality that she is now a grandmother is one that just doesn’t add up in my mind. She’s no ‘grand old lady’, that’s for certain, and gives me hope that I’m not mistaken to think my own life has ‘barely begun’.
After that, we moved on over to Oxford to see our friends who married last year. If you follow the blog, you’ll remember the cross-cultural wedding between a LAMB doctor and British one where I was blessed to be Best Man. These two wonderful, wonderful people now have their own newborn son who shares the same name as my own son!
Finally, we moved on from Oxford and over to Gloucester to spend a night with the family who inspired us to come out to Bangladesh and work for LAMB in the first place. They did seventeen years at LAMB and now a good six years I think here in the UK. Just as they were a mirror for us to know what life would be like in Bangladesh, so they are one for us now facing an uncertain life in the UK. We were joined for dinner by many other ex-LAMB people and had a terrific evening (which bordered, at times, on raucous) celebrating life, blessings and family.
We did sneak in just a tiny bit of ‘business’ into all of this. We had a ‘re-entry’ meeting with a very nice chap at the local college who took us through a whirlwind tour of the mental and emotional chaos which surrounds coming ‘home’. It appears that we can expect about a year of ‘re-entry’ before we finally feel settled and ‘involved’ in our new home country. That seems fair. More concerning is that we’re still supposedly in the ‘honeymoon’ period where we feel detached but the experience is positive. Then a ‘dip’ will come and we will, to some extent or another, feel despair, disillusionment and depression.
We’ll see what happens with that I guess.
What did surprise me though, and worries me just a tad, is that I felt really knackered, emotionally, after visiting so many people. Yes, I knew it would be physically tiring – it always is, nothing new there – but I’m an extrovert by nature; I feed off other people and re-charge my batteries through them. But this time, for possibly the first time, I felt the need to withdraw (happily, just as we were going home anyway). I had my first inkling of what Wifey feels like, along with other introverts I know, who enjoy the company of others but feel drained by the experience and re-charge by being alone.
This is a new experience for me and I’ve yet to work out just what it means. I enjoyed being with all these people so much. More than ever, they are my life and I needed to see them. But maybe, like my eyes going from short-sighted to long-sighted in ‘old’ age, there’s a bit of the introvert in me trying to make a break for it now after years of remaining hidden behind the big kid?
Whatever the case, today, the kids are back to school and I’ve enjoyed my first morning for a week in the study writing away. I feel rejuvenated and refreshed here. This is certainly the place I need to be right now. For now, at least.