There are times in every expats term abroad when they feel unsure about where they belong.
For many it’s Christmas, they dream about sharing a traditional Christmas with their family and loved ones. They think about the Christmas Markets, scrumptious food all to the backdrop of the melodic lilt of seasoned carol singers. Thoughts of offering your children the opportunity to experience the Christmases you had as a child are tempting, but you can’t afford five return flights home mid-year, you have no winter boots and the kids wouldn’t be able to bring back their presents due to that nasty term, baggage allowance.
For others it’s birthdays and anniversaries, or engagements, christenings, marriages ( in that order), all great celebratory occasions that you would love to be part of, love to cash in that single token for a justified trip home, but you decide not to. You decide the wedding will continue, the celebrations can continue without you, birthdays & marriages come and go, so you decide to stay put and send an e-card instead.
Ask almost any person, any Irish person, any Irish woman, any Irish woman living abroad, any Irish woman living abroad with a mammy and daddy living in Ireland that she skypes every day, ask her about her plans to go home. She will say that she’ll go home when her parents need her. She’s subconsciously holding out for a justifiable visit. There’s an almost constant nagging feeling that someday, at some time, you will receive the call that will see you drop everything and book a flight home, regardless of unpacking your new home, school runs, paid term fees, maxed out credit cards and no winter boots. It’s the sense of obligation that cripples the Irish woman’s psyche when she thinks of emigrating, how to leave her aging parents and content herself playing tennis when she should be at home, flat out between the Outpatients Department and the GP’s waiting room.
The flip side also reports guilt, the parents who always worshipped that one son and imagined that he would always be there to support them, find themselves home alone in a country full of con-artists and money grabbers. Declan upped and left leaving them with nothing more than the promise of a hit a miss five minute call on a Saturday evening. Their precious daughter skypes every day from the sunny Middle East, urging Mammy and Daddy to visit, but talks less and less about the coming home and more and more about her holiday plans to Phuket.
The parents feel guilty as they know they should be happy their children are seeking out better lives for themselves but that is little consolation when you’re being talking through how to tune the TV in to Saorview over a staccato skype call from the Middle East.
Either way, life continues at home and abroad and someday the parents at home may find themselves making the call they never wanted to make to their children, also parents, living abroad. The expat children receive the call they never wanted to receive and they drop everything (including the cup they were holding), book a flight home, regardless of unpacking their new home, school runs, paid term fees, maxed out credit cards and no winter boots.
Passing through the departure gates at Doha Airport, they think of all the visits they couldn’t make, Weddings, Funerals, Christenings, Birthdays and Anniversaries. They think of all the times they couldn’t come home and all the times they could but decided it was too much hassle.
But the hassle, baggage allowance, credit card issues, moving houses, countries or continents all dissipate when you get the call and at that time it’s certain exactly where you should be. In time for the Christmas Markets, melodic carol singers, scrumptious food. In time for a birthday or two, an anniversary and a christening. In time for the new range of gorgeous winter boots. Everything is there but none of it matters because the reason they came home isn’t a joyous occasion, it’s a necessary one. And for once it’s clear, there is no indecision and you know exactly where you are supposed to be. Home.