When my sister has yet another row with her boyfriend—relationship subtitled “it’s complicated”—, she takes the TGV and spends a few days at my parents’ place, drinking tea and reading books. When my brother is tired of Paris and his shoebox-size apartment, he comes over as well to walk the streets of the city he grew up in.
Meanwhile, you can find me 6,000 kilometres away, standing on our driveway, tears running down my cheeks, frantically tapping on the Skype icon on my phone, calculating the time difference. Fuck. It’s inconveniently late over there. My life emergency probably doesn’t warrant a middle-of-the-night phone call.
When I first came to Canada, plenty of strangers asked me if I missed my family. It was definitely in the top-three get-to-know-the-immigrant questions, along with how far from Paris I grew up and whether I missed French food. I found it was a weird question to ask, but maybe I looked young and innocent back then, barely out of my teens.
I could never think of a good answer. Saying that no, I didn’t miss them, would have made me sound callous. It was somewhat true, though. Life was busy and exciting and I hadn’t been expecting my parents to hold my hands for my first steps into adulthood. Whether they move next door or on another continent, kids leave home at one point. I wasn’t running away from an awful childhood and a sinister past, I was just focusing on making a life for myself. But again, I wasn’t going to admit that I did miss my family once in a while. It would have made me feel vulnerable and crying on the shoulder of a perfect stranger probably wasn’t the expected answer either.
Nowadays, I’m rarely asked me if I miss my family because I have my own family. I am a Mother with a capital M, a Wife with a capital W. Instead, I’m asked whether I miss my snowflake when he is at daycare, if I’m planning to have a bigger family, a bigger home and ah-ah, don’t they grow up so fast?
I wish I would be asked again if I miss my parents. I may be a mother but I am still a daughter, a grand-daughter, a sister. I know I have been promoted, I know that I am, along with Feng, at the head of a three-person household. I’m no longer a young adult and I’m expected to master this life thing.
Some days, it’s just too much stress, too many responsibilities. I feel lonely. I don’t know if the decisions I have to make on a daily basis are right, I don’t know who to trust and I wish I could step down from my position.
Stress and tiredness are the perfect ingredient for that awful recipe: arguments. Pointless fights in that claustrophobic environment.
I’m convinced that one of the reasons why people buy giant houses with finished basements is so that family members can avoid each other after a fight. During this uncomfortable cold-war stage after shouting at each other and before declaring truce, you need space. Oh, there is plenty of space in Canada, but if the weather is cold, there is nowhere to go.
And I have nowhere to go when I need space. I just walk around, aimlessly. Many times I dreamed of crashing somewhere in an hotel and catching on much-needed sleep, but rooms are expensive around here—damn government city. If I were in France, I’d go to my parents. Here, in Canada, I have great friends, but they all have demanding jobs, pets to feed, kids to care for, houses to clean or whatever mix of these assets. Life is busy. Once in a while, we catch up and vent but we rarely comment on drama in real time. We are no longer teens, we are adults with a sense of “well, this is silly, I’ll deal with it myself.”
Leaving home, your roots and your old life behind can be tremendously positive experience. It’s very freeing in a way because you start from scratch again and this time, you get to pick what your character will be. You can be different—bold and confident, ambitious and flexible, success-driven and innovative, for instance. Why not? If you are reinventing your life may as well do it right!
But occasionally, it’s hard to be that pawn out of the board. No one to back you up, new cultural bearings, new acquaintances and friends you don’t want to burden.
Sometime, I need the unconditional love of people who saw me growing up, who saw me at my best and at my worst.
It’s been a tough cold spring. First of all, I’m sorry but it ain’t spring if you need a winter jacket. We’ve been constantly sick since we came back at the end of February, and while Feng and I can deal with a virus, it’s tough when Mark catches it. Pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong. Life is stressful. I know you know. You’re probably in the same boat.
I’m being over-dramatic again. I need sleep. There. That’s where I should go. My bed.