It started with a trip to the post office. In my purse were two small gifts to send to the States for a friend’s upcoming birthday. I was excited to surprise her because I knew she wouldn’t be expecting anything due to the distance. But my hopes were quickly shattered. To ship a package no more than 3x3x1 in dimension, it would cost me the equivalent of $50. More than the price of the actual gifts themselves. I was so disappointed that I left without even thinking to mail the birthday card and had to return the next morning to send it.
Walking home slowly, I felt the packages bumping against my leg, cruelly reminding me of the mission I failed to accomplish. Their *perfectly reasonable* weight seemed to have doubled and with it, a wave of homesickness that dragged my spirits down. This was the realization that I can’t be in my friends’ lives in the same way as before. Suddenly I felt very far away from home.
As I moped about for the next 24 hours, the smallest things started to irritate me. Missing home has a way of twisting your perspective so that you only see the negative. And of course, everything about your country is perfect! Here is a brief list of thoughts that crossed my mind:
1) I miss driving. And by that, I mean driving on open roads that are wider than a double bed and where I don’t feel like I’m going to be killed every time I turn yet another blind corner.
2) Two words: dog poop. In nearly five months of living in France, I have been conducting an observational study in which I have concluded that the French are the least likely of any population in the world to pick up after their dogs. Never have I stepped in so much dog s%*# in my life. Whenever I have mentioned this to someone, they concede that it is indeed a problem but they also dismiss it by telling me it is good luck to have animal feces smeared all over your shoe … wouldn’t it be even better luck if we didn’t have to step in it at all?!
3) A stereotypical complaint about the French, but nonetheless, it applies: SMOKING KILLS, MESDAMES AND MESSIEURS! Stop blowing your smoke in my face!
4) Why is wearing all black every day a thing? Can we not add a little bit of color into our lives over here?!
As so often happens, however, I received a little message from Mom. Whenever I am feeling disheartened, I experience a moment of clarity that calms my anger and transforms my outlook in a way that always seems to lead back to her. In the bitterness of missing home, it dawned on me that there were probably many times when she felt this same longing for home. It never occurred to me growing up that the place I call home may not have always felt like home to her. She never said as much but now that I know what it’s like to be thousands of miles away from where you come from, I doubt there weren’t times when she dreamed of packing up a suitcase and buying a one-way ticket back to France. But she chose to stay because once you start to lay down roots somewhere, it’s harder to just pick up and leave. I understand that better now.
Finding this parallel between my life and her’s didn’t make me miss home any less but it offered insight into her life in a way that I hadn’t considered before. As we transition into adulthood, our parents become more human and we begin to see them in many different lights, for the better or for the worst. Sometimes I feel like that opportunity was stolen from me and that I am missing out on getting to know my mom as the complete person that she was. But moments like these have convinced me that I, too, will continue to learn about who she was as I go through life. Death does not change that. Knowing her has changed me. Being her daughter will continue to change me.