I was currently on holiday in Northern California. My brother has lived there for over 20 years and my sister in law, Simon’s sister, moved there late last year.
I also lived there for about 10 years and was living there when I met Simon and moved to Belfast.
When I emigrated, the hard part wasn’t leaving my country, it was leaving my family. My oldest niece was three, her sister just a baby, and I had been a part of their lives since they were born. I more or less saw them everyday. In fact, it was the elder who named me Tee!
And then I was 5,000 miles away.
And now the three year old is 15 and taller than me and the baby is 12 and my height.
And every two years or so I get to experience the road not taken as I come to visit with my family and my mom hires us a house (with her and my step dad) and for a week or two I’m a local.
This year the house is right around the corner from theirs and so there has been a lot of tooing and froing and friends of nieces’ to be fed and engaged with.
And things like this text conversation between the eldest, her mom, her dad and me, as she was coming to our house for dinner after Ballet:
Do I have regrets? A few.
I would love to be part of more text messages like that. Having my nieces, either, both, I don’t care, over for dinner because Mom and Dad are out. Have them over after school because they don’t feel like going home and have a key. Have them babysit Adam occasionally, pick him up from school, maybe, on their way to mine.
Have monthly or so R and Tee days and S and Tee days rather than every two years.
And have, as my brother said, our kids know each other rather than know of each other.
As I was hugging her good-bye, our typical so long, don’t want to let go hug, my niece said ‘Are you sure you don’t want to move back?’
She knows the answer, really. It’s not a want. It’s a fact. We can’t afford the Bay Area. And our lives are here in Belfast.
For the first time I was missing my Belfast friends almost as much as I miss my family when I was there. Adam’s mates mum’s were putting all sorts of things up on Facebook and I was sad he missed A’s birthday and the Superhero day at the park and all that.
Even though I ache to see more of this:
usually okay with it.