We’re back! Troy, E and I spent the last two weeks wandering the US on Home Leave. What is “Home Leave” you might ask? Well, easy. According to the Collins Dictionary, it’s “holiday time for a person who works abroad, during which they can go home.” Like I said, easy! Right? Certainly something every expat spends their year carefully planning and eagerly awaiting.
Well, for me, defining “home leave” has always been much easier than actually defining “home.” It’s something that any child who moved a lot growing up or has parents who didn’t stop moving once they left the house can relate to. The thought may even resonate with adults who have taken to a life of constant moving.
Here we are, with a (to some degree) work sponsored vacation to the US – which the company, rightfully so, considers the definition of “home” – and I find myself more than just a little irked at the narrow definition of the event.
Growing up, “home” would officially always be wherever my mom, dad, brother and I were together. No location listed (aside from our little village in Germany – our 3 year stint there and the fact that we owned that house for many years created a much needed feeling of a physical home for me at times…in spite of the fight I put up, it has since been sold, of course…). And home leave actually seemed to work out rather well, too – my family was always split between the US and Germany, and we would simply visit whichever continent and family we were not currently living near.
Today, I find myself feeling far more frayed. Childhood homes have come and gone. My family has continued to grow and spread, now spanning the US, Europe and the Middle East (…and then add a husband and his family!). To make matters more confusing, my mom, dad and brother now live in the same city again. In the UAE. Can it be that Dubai, a place I’ve never actually lived, feels more like home than so many of these other places I’ve devoted years of my life to right now? More than ever, there is no single place I can look back to as “home” in the traditional sense. (And just to be clear, I’m OK with that!)
I have my “new home” – husband, baby girl (and the cat, I suppose!) – and we, too, have made it a reality in our lives that “home” will forever be where we are together. I’ll admit that before this trip, I’d forgotten that even that can be more complicated than it sounds, however. Today, despite the frameworks I set up in my mind, “home” still very much screams Boston for Troy and me…it’s going to be a hard one to beat. The strangest sensation for me on this trip though, was landing in Atlanta and suddenly getting this strong urge to head to Charleston, a very transitional place in our lives. We spent roughly eight months there. Only long enough to decorate a nursery, have a baby, see Troy travel to London every other week for seven months and meet a very, very small handful of dear friends. It was my sudden desire to get back to E’s doctors in Charleston that caught me off guard. I had to recognize that my daughter now also dictates much about what constitutes “home.” Even without deep ties to the city, Charleston is the place that will always have the doctors who first monitored her and provided observations, concerns and good reports. I feel like they know her like no doctor has since we left. I can’t say I was mentally or emotionally prepared for that new dimension to “home” and “home leave.”
I’m not sure we’ll ever find a good, all-encompassing definition for “home,” but Troy and I had a great time creating our own hybrid definition, managing to visit friends, family and “homes” and refuel our tanks with familiar faces, places and things all across the Midwest and eastern US. Can’t wait to share more about what our adventure was made of!