London beckons to me like that flirty guy who never makes a move: I enjoy it, but I can’t take it too seriously. And yet going back reminds me that I miss living in Europe, and that I have more family living there than I do on the entire North American continent. Why do we live so far away from those we love?
Like my cousins - 2 of whom I had never met before: Nikita on left, and his father Magnus, on the right. And my cousin Joseph in the middle holding Lois, his little girl. They’re interesting, fun, irreverent, good people who I would like even if we weren’t (sort of) related. And yes Magnus, we will be visiting you in Portugal, once you’ve installed the septic system.
The last time I was in London was for my 36th birthday, with my boyfriend at the time. Two years later and the (ex) boyfriend lives in South America, my best friend is pregnant with her first child, my dad and my not-so-wicked stepmother have moved back to England after 5 years in Dubai, my brother Stefan has moved to Beirut, and my sister Daisy is in law school and wields her knowledge of EU law like a weapons-grade sedative.
And I have matured.
This trip was the first time since 2007 that I stayed at my parent’s house in Letchworth - the house they shared before moving to Dubai, but don’t share any longer. It feels like a lifetime ago: I was still married, living in Joisey, and my little one was small and round, still a baby.
I have so many good memories of that house.
I didn’t grow up in a peaceful home, so this one meant a lot to me. I left home when I was 17, and never returned. Even now when I drive by the house I grew up in, I think the woman who bought it from us should have had an exorcism thrown in as a bonus, or at least a Feng Shui for Dummies consultation to rid her of the many bad memories it contains. Because just as I love Letchworth’s pile of bricks, I still hate that other home’s every brick.
The Letchworth house was a home, and knowing that it existed - even across the Atlantic - was important. My stepmother filled it with aromas of Lebanese food, and artifacts from the places she and my father had been, while my dad filled it with booming classical music and books. And along with my brother and sister, they filled it with love. Nobody chased anybody with a hammer or threw bowls of oranges at each other. We all have such happy memories of sitting at the kitchen table laughing, arguing, together (hammer-less and orange-less).
And perhaps there were less happy things going on under the surface, but it wasn’t for me to notice: there I could regress and be a child, a daughter, a sister, and possibly a pain the ass.
Now the house is inhabited again, and it’s turned into a home again. It’s beautiful and comfortable. But only one of my parents lives there now, so at first it was a sadder visit than I’d expected. And even though I’m an unwilling expert in divorce, I realized that I hadn’t understood the importance of what has happened to the people I love, and how difficult this has been for them all.
Rather than olfactory memory, I had an architectural memory - all the emotion associated with that building and the people who lived there and the people we all were when we were there together - came back, as I stood outside the front door with my little girl.
I’m so proud of the way my family has handled all this. I’m so happy that we came, we saw, we began to understand. And hopefully, we contributed to new and happy memories to fill the house anew.
PS: This brings me one step closer to falling for you, London. After all, I’ve just sold my own home…