My son just finished his Freshman year in college. My how time flies. It seems like just yesterday we dropped him off at his dorm room and then boarded a plane for Amsterdam to settle into our new home over 3,000 miles away. As I was preparing for him to arrive here for the summer, I started telling my friends how excited I was that he was coming home. It felt kind of funny saying “home.” Home, after all, is where your mother is, right?
It got me thinking. Expats living outside their home country have to set up house and assimilate into a new life in a new country, sometimes over and over again. Some of us have kids on one continent while we, their parents and even siblings, are living on another. This transition requires a great effort to make that new house feel like home. One of the best compliments I can receive is to be told my house is homey.
In between long weekends, holidays and FaceTime chats, I miss my son terribly. I would be missing him no matter where I was living because he wouldn’t be with me. Recently, my son and I have been going back and forth discussing exactly where home is. He insists home is back in the US where he grew up, where our house is, rented out to others. I just keep saying your family is in Amsterdam and this is home for now. My strategy is the more I say it, the more he will believe it. Or maybe, the more I will believe it.
At book club just yesterday I asked my new expat friends their thoughts on the word “home.” I wasn’t surprised to hear their answers, all different. “Home is back in the US where our house is.” “My daughter says home is where your suitcases are.” “I have a hometown where I grew up, and then there’s home where we started to raise the kids and now here is home.” Expats have a unique understanding of where home is.
Extending on that old saying “Home is where the heart is,” I truly believe home is where family is, no matter where that location happens to be. That place where someone is waiting for you, preparing for you, missing you and embracing you when you arrive. For now, my home is in Massachusetts. My home away from home is here in Amsterdam. My hometown is in NY and my dream home is in the south of France. Who knew I could have so many homes? With my son sleeping off his jet lag downstairs, I can whole heartedly say, right now, this is home sweet home.